As my eyes crack open to begin my day, I’m aware that the wind blows and the temperatures continue to drop. These cooler weather adjustments infuse my age-old morning ritual with increased delight and invitation: a hot cup of coffee welcomes the morning and blankets the cold, windy conditions.
I love rituals – small, consistent acts that set the tone for my days, weeks and years; repetitive motions that invite me to pause amidst life’s busyness. (Wikipedia defines a ritual as any sequence of activities involving gestures, words and objects, performed in a sequestered place, according to a set sequence.)
Because my days are filled with more than just coffee, I also think of rhythmic financial activities when I ponder the practice of ritual. Most of what I witness is forced upon people from a third party: IRS tax notices, credit card payments and paychecks all enter daily life according to the set sequences and repetitive consistency. In many ways, these activities are the rituals of peoples’ financial picture.
I yearn for people to create their own money rituals – ones that combat the strategic, savvy and unrelenting consumerism and commercialism that abounds, particularly as the holiday season approaches. The consumer persona sets the ritualistic tone for us (in holiday shopping language, marketing, etc.) and all too often, we are led toward purchases instead of conscious thoughts and choices.
Instead of making instant purchases and giving into unconscious influence, what sequences of activities – rituals – can you create to intentionally and consciously set your financial flow? Here are three ideas.
1. Stay in the present.
Consider the fact that credit card purchases instantly split a moment into three parts: past, present and future. A person who purchases a $50 shirt on credit is saying, in effect, “I will enjoy this shirt now, but I will pay for it from future wages. My future self will pay for my past life activities, while I enjoy the shirt in the present.”
This default sequence (and ritual) of splitting time into three parts is advantageous for banks and creditors because anytime a credit purchase occurs, so do interest charges. The $50 shirt in the present becomes $55 in the future because 10% interest is added to the cost.
The good news? You have the power to change your default debt ritual.
Cash and debit card transactions align the purchase and payment simultaneously. Choosing these options instead of credit represents a strategic way to ritualistically live in the present moment. And, if debt destruction is a desire and goal, a present moment payment process is helpful and meaningful.
2. Engage in conversation.
According to If Money Talks, Why Don’t We Talk About It, “a recent survey by Wells Fargo [states] nearly half of Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal finance (44%).”
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"Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable."
Challenging, yes. Impossible? No. Conversation is a powerful opportunity for ritual creation.
Money stories told in a safe place unearth hidden truths. Conversely, silence about money problems, concerns and dreams trap people in darkness and isolation, which is a breeding ground for the larger system of consumerism to flourish.
If you and I are not the storytellers of our existence, then the commercial industry and big banks tell the story that serves their bottom line. Without conscious knowledge and awareness gained through connective conversations, we fall in line with them, too.
So, make a ritual of talking about the elements and intricacies of money with your children, your partner and your friends. Pick the advocates and cheerleaders of your life to support and bolster your confidence (not those who would potentially shame you).
And know this: marketed stories rely on us to remain isolated and unconscious. The sooner and more candidly we tell our money stories, the more the commercialized stories lose their power over you and me both!
3. Envision your future self.
Did you know that marketers have already envisioned your future life for you? Every time you launch a Google search or Amazon purchase, the data trackers are on your heels, waiting to sell you something.
To combat what is being sold to you versus what you actually want, create your own imagination for your future self.
According to How to Use Your Imagination to Make Better Financial Decisions, it is incredibly hard for people to envision how they will feel in the future regarding their own happiness: “Our tendency to expect greater happiness from consumption today versus consumption in the future can be detrimental when making decisions about finances. One way to improve these intertemporal choices is [to dream about yourself] in the future.”
Here are helpful questions to guide you into an imaginative dream space. Sit – or, if you are kinesthetic, walk, talk or bike – and for five minutes, envision your future self one year from now.
What are you wearing? What are you doing? Are you alone or with others? What does your financial picture look like? What feelings bubble up as you envision your future finances?
Pull yourself into the future moment to access new sequences and new rituals of possibilities and perspectives. Chances are your future self has a lot to say to you!