I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gratitude. As someone who always thinks about money, I can’t help but wonder about money when I think of all the heavy thoughts, such as gratitude. The more I learn about gratitude and the daily practice of it, the more I’m convinced that practicing gratitude can save you money.
It all started with a self help book
These thoughts about money and gratitude all started with a self help book, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.
Did you know that I have a thing for self help books? I really do. It all started with Chicken Soup for the Soul.
I was 7 years old when my mom got sober and started spending what felt like all day, every day, at AA meetings. I don’t remember who gave me my first Chicken Soup for the Soul book, but I do have vivid memories of reading every single edition during my mom’s AA meetings. I’d devourer story after story in the large conference room adjacent to the AA meeting at Common Ground in Daphne, AL.
At the time I didn’t realize I was reading self help books. It wasn’t until a few years later that I went to purchase a new one that I realized the books were sold in the self help section. I must have been in middle school at that time because I promptly felt embarrassed by my presence in the self help section of the book store. I immediately beelined my way to fiction section where I probably picked up a psychological thriller. I spent the next 20 years avoiding self help books and reading all the thrillers, which made utter sense to me at the time. I did, after all, read all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books written before 1998. I think I had enough self help to last me 20 years.
Brené Brown’s explanation of gratitude changed my life
After 20 years of avoiding self help, my mind began to crave it. Shortly after realizing I was suffering from postpartum depression after my third son, I started reading and listening to Brené Brown. I have these two friends who have ranted and raved about her for years. These two friends also do a lot of therapy. As someone who “didn’t need therapy”, I figured Brené Brown wasn’t for me. I had this idea stuck in my head that Brené Brown was only for people who needed therapy about shame. Oh my simple mind.
For the record, my ideas on therapy have completely changed. I sorta kinda think everyone needs it, but that is another blog post for another day.
For those of you who don’t know who Brené Brown is, she is the world’s most renowned shame researcher. But she is so much more than that. I fell in love with her when I listened to her talk about her 10 guideposts for wholehearted living. I listened to one of her talks for free on the Hoopla app, but have since read all her books. You can read about them in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, but today I’m only going to touch on gratitude.
She talks and writes a lot about how an attitude of gratitude isn’t enough. You must actually practice gratitude in order to feel joy. She describes it like yoga. You can have a yoga attitude by wearing yoga pants and feeling calm, but you can’t actually get good at yoga unless you practice it regularly. Same goes with gratitude.
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Okay, so what does gratitude have to do with money?
I know, I’m a personal finance blogger. Not some self help guru. But hear me out. The more we understand ourselves, the more we can understand our relationship with money (and our relationship with everything else).
I’ve long known that happy people tend to make better financial decisions. Think about it. It makes sense.
Impulse spending and buying “things” to fill a void isn’t much different than binge eating or other addiction problems. We make bad decisions like this because we aren’t truly happy with ourselves.
We’ve all been there. None of us are perfect. Some of us drink too much, others binge watch tv shows, while others have shopping problems or avoid the reality of paying bills. I’ll be the first to admit that I numb too much with alcohol and binge watching tv when life gets tough. It’s an easy out. Spending too much money has never been a problem for me, but I see it in other people. I see how easy it is to numb pain by spending too much money.
While there is no quick fix to any of these problems, I believe that when we work on ourselves first, many of our “problems” fade away. As those problems fade away, we are less likely to make bad financial decisions like splurging on things we don’t need to fill a void in our lives.
It actually makes me sad how many self help books talk about binge eating and other addictions, but don’t talk much about money. I think we need to do a better job of paying attention to how negative feelings in our lives make us spend too much money.
Gratitude is one small way to make a positive impact on your life that can help you numb less- whether your numbing is spending too much money or other bad decisions.
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How gratitude has saved me money
For me, practicing gratitude daily has made me more content. Therefor making me less likely to take long, aimless walks around Target with a glorious Starbucks peppermint mocha in hand. I’ve been drinking less alcohol (thank you, Lent), and feeling happier all around.
When I’m grateful for the things I have, I find that I’m less likely to want for the things I don’t have.
I can be grateful for the ability to cook an amazing meal instead of feeling the need to go out and spend money at a restaurant.
I can’t simply say that gratitude alone has made spend less money. I can, however, tell you that practicing gratitude has allowed for a paradigm shift in my life. Allowing my mind to be thankful for the situation I’m in instead of yearning for something different has had a profound effect on my happiness which also has had an effect on my spending.
The truth is that a happier Hannah spends less money, drinks less, eats less crap food, and makes better life decisions in general. My gut tells me that you are probably the same.
When I feel good, I don’t feel the need to spend money on a pick me up. Which I know we all do even when we know better.
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How to practice gratitude
If you know me at all, you know that I like things simple. And cheap. This girl ain’t ever gonna spend money on a gratitude journal. No m’am.
Yes, I could buy a gratitude journal, but that seems like a waste of money. Or I could write down three things I’m thankful for each day in the notes app of my phone, but that seems time consuming.
Instead, I simply talk to myself about the silly and mundane things that make me happy. When I feel even the slightest bit of joy in my life, I stop to think about it, and then I form a grateful thought about it.
For example, when I’m getting a hug from one of my kids, I simply think to myself, I’m so grateful for snuggles.
When my husband unloads the dishwasher, I stop to tell myself how grateful I am for him.
When I get three green lights in a row, I say a little grateful mantra in my head.
Friend, I even go so far as to say a little prayer of gratitude when folding laundry. I’m thankful to have a happy and healthy family that makes dirty clothes for me to fold. And I loathe folding laundry. So this is a big paradigm shift in my own mind.
The process of finding something to be grateful for really is so simple.
Sure, you can buy a gratitude journal. You can start your day by writing down your gratitude or even end your day with it. But I choose to be grateful all day, every day. I’ve been doing this for about 6 months and have noticed a huge change in my life. It’s become a part of my daily devotions and prayers as well.
The simple act of practicing gratitude can save you money. It may sound crazy and far fetched, but I dare you to try it. Why not? What do you have to lose?
So tell me. Do you practice gratitude? Do you think it can help you save money?
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