As you know if you follow this blog, some time ago I learnt to develop my self-love by frequently asking myself, “Am I being kind to myself?”. I’ve recently been discovering interesting things when I apply this question to the realm of money, which until now in my life seems to have been strongly influenced by my lack of self-compassion.
A bit more than a year ago (A year ago? It seems so much longer than that…) I decided to try a particularly intense lifestyle experiment where I ate almost nothing but cheap rice and food bank vegetables, skipped the fare on the public transport, and drank tap water when meeting friends in bars. My plan was to live on 50€ a month (excluding rent).
As you might imagine, this was before I learnt to ask myself “Am I being kind to myself right now?”. I hope that now I have learnt this, I will never do something so unnecessarily harsh to myself again.
The experiment was a horrible failure. I became so saturated by stress that, combined with my previous accumulated emotional wounds, it pushed me over the edge into my first panic attack. You could say that my mental health has been worse ever since, because even if I’ve gotten a fair bit better, I still have panic attacks when excessively stressed, which I had never had before that moment.
Now, maybe you think it’s admirable that I tried to live on such a small amount of money. It is perhaps an interesting experiment, but I no longer see any romance in such things. I don’t believe money is evil (see my previous post for more); money is many things, but in particular and relevant to this case, it’s a means to self care. I wonder if there is any connection in that a society that makes money a “dirty” thing is also a society that discourages people from openly practicing self love.
After my harsh experiment I started to think about spending money in realistic ways. Though it’s only since I’ve developed my self-compassion that I’ve made much of what I call real progress.
Nowadays, I’ve started to change the way I budget things. In the past, I think that budgeting was a matter of one side of myself trying to deny myself everything, and another side of myself trying to make that side give in. If you think about it, it’s clear that that’s a pretty dysfunctional formula.
Instead, I’ve started asking myself what the kind thing to do for myself would be when I buy something. I’ve noticed I’ve started buying a few more “luxuries”, ignoring the desire to whip myself into austerity and instead doing nice things for myself within reason.
Today I bought myself two video games to play for self care after a long day of bureaucracy related chores; for me this represented some kind of self development as it would have been a struggle for me to make myself buy anything so “unnecessary” before. Thinking about how much I spend on food per month, though, 17€ for video games once in a blue moon can hardly be called extravagant. It’s a strange sort of logic that could allow me to spend 20€ on vegan cheese and simultaneously shy away from ever shelling out for a video game.
Just as I’ve learnt to be more free with buying things for myself, I’ve also found a comfortable way of denying myself something; when I’m approaching this from a place of kindness, then I’m thinking about my own financial security and the ability to buy other, better things, and not self-punishment. It feels somehow nice to say “no” to buying something now. I make a few less restaurant visits now, for instance, though only when I can get home to cook before I get dizzy from hunger.
I noticed that sometimes impulsive purchases can be just as much a means of self punishment as austerity can be. It’s almost an attitude of “fuck your security“, buying something even though it’s a damaging or at least sub-optimal choice.
I’m no master at all this; it’s still something I have to do consciously, and if I’m not paying attention then I all too easily fall back into the old routines. But it really feels like I’m making progress and discovering something new.