Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series of sponsored posts for the Barclays Savings Challenge. Missed the first? Catch up here.
What do you value?
A simple question, and yet it threw me off.
October 2014. I was seated in an auditorium with my cousins and aunt listening to Dr. John Demartini speak about wealth and financial independence. The room was packed to capacity with at least 60 other people, and yet, I felt like the spotlight was on me. Like I had been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
Only hours earlier, I’d strolled into at least six of London’s well-known fashion stores and walked out with bags of new clothes and accessories. It’s been a tough year, I’ve worked so hard, it’s my first real (self-paid) vacation, I deserve this, I rationalized. When I felt the guilt flush across my body, I opted for my favorite justification: It’s an investment. I’m investing in my appearance and professional career. Can a girl live a little?
Excuses, all of them.
“You spend your money according to the hierarchy of your values… Your life demonstrates your values – you fantasize about it [money] but you don’t value it.”
Dr. Demartini was right. I didn’t value money. I used money because, well, it’s what we use, but I had not defined what my relationship with money would be.
As I mentioned in my first article, I felt there would never be enough money. Partly because that seemed to be the chorus everywhere, but perhaps more due to the fact that, over time, the majority of my money-related interactions were associated with negative emotions: guilt (for spending what little money I had) and/or shame (for not having enough). The fact that I was also reluctant to talk about money – except when I had to – meant that the opportunity to change the disempowering tone of those discussions never really appeared. If the ensuing conversation is anything to go by, I’m not alone in this.
In the past few weeks many of you have shared your own beliefs, struggles and experiences related to money, financial planning, saving and investment:
Elizabeth Damoah, via Facebook:
“Until I was able to identify my problem, I would blame it on spiritual stuff. Because for me, I didn’t see why a person who earns well could go with as low as GHS 50 (about US $14) on certain days. So I made a frantic effort to know what my problem with savings was…
It was quite tough living on half income but by and by, I was successful in trimming my extravagant lifestyle. It takes a conscious effort though.”
– Chris, commenting on our website:
“Just like you, I realized one day that I had no money anywhere – not even to buy water. I started to remember all the times I had so much money and bought something completely useless or went shopping. Since that experience, I have always tried to save money for a rainy day. I don’t do impulse buying anymore. I make a strict budget for the week and stick to it. If anything falls outside the budget, I don’t buy it. I might not be where I want to be financially, but I guess I’m making a headway.”
– Mawusi, commenting on our website:
“I’ve grown to understand the culture of saving and how relevant it is…I try my best but out of nowhere something comes up and I’d have to use the money. I badly want to inculcate myself into the habit of savings in my daily / weekly affairs. How would I pull this off?”
Elizabeth, Chris and Mawusi might be at different points in their savings journey, but they all talk about the same thing: habits.
My aversion to keeping money actually stemmed from a deep-rooted belief that I either wasn’t deserving of money or wealth, or would never actually have either. And so, I acted accordingly. While I knew what was important on an intellectual level – education, family, health, learning and my dreams – my spending (actions) told a different story altogether. Quite simply, I wasn’t putting my money where my mouth was.
Beliefs are habit-forming.
Money. Definition: Something generally accepted as a medium of exchange, a measure of value, or a means of payment (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary).
In order to really change my attitude and relationship towards money, I had to go beyond telling myself that I will no longer be poor or impoverished and take steps to address my debt. I have to form new beliefs about money, financial planning and wealth creation. More importantly, I have to change my habits to reflect what I consider my hierarchy of values to be, particularly when it comes to expense tracking and investment.
So, dear friends, I turn the question over to you: What do you really value? Ergo, what are you putting your money towards – either in expenditure or savings? And more importantly, just how much of a change are you willing to make?.
“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
– Joe Biden
Follow the Barclays Savings Challenge and discussion on Twitter and Facebook. Share your own experience by using the hashtag #AfricaSaves. Visit the Barclays website for more information about their savings account.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.