My fear of spending is a form of imposter syndrome

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It feels like I’ve been running non-stop for about 2 months now. Not only have I been traveling for work, but we closed on our new house the same week we returned from FinCon.  Since I had already taken off work to attend the conference, I didn’t request additional time for the move.

If time is money, I’m feeling stretched right now.  If money is money, I’m feeling spread thin there too.  Between the down payment, new furniture and moving expenses – we’ve spent over $80,000 over the last 3 weeks. It took almost a year to save that money and only like, two phone calls, a couple clicks and a pound of paperwork to spend it.

Add that to a missed opportunity to invest at a discount because we’re cash-strapped, and you have one angsty lady…

Oh, hey. Hello, I’m her!

Calling it angst feels like an understatement though.  Fear is more appropriate.

Lately my nights and weekends have been filled with packing and unpacking. My 19-month old son is clingy as he’s adjusting to his new daycare, our new home, and his 7 new teeth. He doesn’t have the words to express how he feels, so we just agree to come to grips with change his way.

Meanwhile, I’m scared that my mom instinct got left on the truck or maybe just lost in the shuffle of boxes. Or maybe I just unpacked my mom instinct where my wife instinct should be and I just need to reconcile the two [once I find them].

I also don’t know if Baby r&R is old enough to have a Love Language, but if he did, it would be snacks.  In the midst of all this flux, and in the absence of a routine, I find myself conceding to his crafty toddler antics with extra snacks here and extra cuddles there.

The other day I carried his lil azz up 3 whole flights of stairs, while dragging a plastic lawnmower behind me and balancing a bowl of Cheerios between my neck and chin. I’m scared I might be feeding him too much. But then I remember that he’s not a fish…not that it matters!  My body aches, my willpower is weakened and my credit card company upped my limit out of nowhere.  I’m scared I’ll use it as a permission slip to buy more, instead of seeing it for what it is— another form of marketing.

Spending has always been a slippery slope for me because it triggers a dopamine rush.  While I wouldn’t categorize it as an addiction, I am using a lot of energy just to look high-functioning while cuttin’ these 5 figure checks left and right.

This is why I don’t talk about money strictly from an academic point of view. The math is the easiest part, but the psychology? The psychology is a mutha**** because even if you do exactly what I did and pay off all your debt and learn to “live on half” and enjoy eating at home, you STILL gotta make room for the fear.

I don’t think it’s something that retirement can fix either—just ask Suze Orman. She has gazillions of dollars, recently came OUT of retirement from a private island and is STILL worried about not having enough money.  How, Sway??

Every day, I stare into space and wonder if I would feel like this if I wasn’t working. But then I look over at my husband and realize he fell asleep sitting up with a beer in his hand. That brotha ain’t doin’ too hot either!

There's no escaping it, no one is exempt. You have to keep chipping away at your harmful Belief Systems (BS), otherwise having money will just amplify them. Click To Tweet

Go ahead, ask me how I know. I am the proud owner of “I don’t have to take this $hit” money, and yet, here I am emoting on the internet about TAKING ALL OF LIFE’S $HIT.

 I won’t lie to myself and say that money couldn’t solve 95% of my problems. It very easily could. Instead, I will imagine that when rich people lament about how “it’s not about the money“, this is what they mean.

Because FINALLY, I’ve reached a point in my life where it’s not about the money. It’s about my BS. And my journey to Financial Independence requires learning how to navigate this terrain. Just throwing money at it would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Wisdom without action is a waste.

One perk of getting older is that I get better at describing how I feel. I’m also better at recognizing key themes in my life. After 34 years, I realized that ‘velocity’ is one of them.  Sometimes it just feels like the months on the calendar are just a series of concentrated weeks crammed with demanding tasks that leave me waiting for an exhale.  In these moments

when the pace of my life is frantic, I've been conditioned to consume. Click To Tweet

These are the times where I tend to distract myself via mindless scrolling and social media rabbit hole’ing. These are the times where I make unhealthy choices. I become less present. I use my money to self-medicate. I buy a bunch of crap on “sale” just to get a feeling of accomplishment.

It’s a familiar cycle and after 5 years with a front row seat, Mr. r&R can spot it a mile away.  I am the frog in a pot enjoying my jacuzzi, and he is intensely observing the stove to make sure I don’t cook myself.  So what I am doing about it?

1. Choosing to sit in it and learn. I’m being vulnerable in my marriage and trusting that my partner won’t let the pot boil over because I need to sit here and soak for a while to mull over my money until my skin prunes. I need to be reminded that if my coins are going to be a tool for positive change in my life and my family’s life, then I can’t be afraid to use them. People who build houses don’t have emotional issues with hammers! Instead of letting my fear of spending beaucoup money take me down a path of scarcity, I am choosing to reframe my circumstances. I am affirming that I gained this level of discernment as a result of my efforts. I am affirming that it will stay with me no matter how rich I get and I am affirming that we gon’ be aight! I know that in hindsight, periods like this will be a reminder of why we got married in the first place. Either that or I’ve been watching too much Love Is.

2. Allowing for tiny indulgences. Ok, so look, I probably shouldn’t be trusted in a Homegoods, Container Store or IKEA for a while but… it was a hard YES for the grocery store flowers, the scented trashbags from Target and the mid-day nap. I know “tiny” is subjective, but it’s intentional, and that’s half the battle.

3. Calendarizing my joy. It’s easier to ignore short term impulses when you know there’s something greater later. I’ve physically put events on my calendar as a way to upweight my patience. Seeing the moments that make me happy punctuated in my calendar engages another part of my brain. It’s a small but powerful checks and balances method to ensure my fear doesn’t distract me from being future-focused.

Bottom line: The fear that I feel is a choice. My goal is to create an environment that makes it easier for me to choose something else.

Photo Credit: Phyllis Iller

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6 comments

  1. whew! This sermon here… I’m feeling exactly the same way. I’m still very early in my journey to FI, but I have some money saved and I’m not doing terribly (at least that’s what I tell myself). My fiancé and I are buying a new construction that is set to close early next year. So far, we’ve only had to put down some earnest money and some option money for the interior décor selections. We saved for that. It was available and neither of us had to put in any of our extra personal money to do it. So why do I feel so much anxiety about writing those two checks?? And it wasn’t nearly as much as you mentioned you guys shelled out. It was $5500.00 and my stomach is legit in knots about it. How do you get over the fear of spending the money? Even when it was money ear-marked for a specific purpose.. will I always feel scared ? le sigh….

    • Don’t take this the wrong way but…it’s probably your scarcity mindset coming out. The more you begin to normalize having money and truly believing that you deserve what you’ve earned (and more) the easier it will become to spend it. Secondly, the more aligned your spending is with your values, the easier it becomes because it won’t feel wasteful or like splurging. It’ll feel like an investment in yourself and your well-being.

      🙂

  2. THIS! Right now, the hubby and I are swimming our way out of student loan debt, but the fear of the future, and of the unknown is still rather frightening. We have a very decent sized emergency fund, and as far as young20s, we’re doing really well financially, but the fear that we’re not gonna do well forever can be crippling, even though we’re set up really well right now. It’s so refreshing to hear people who are further along in their financial journeys struggle with that same intense fear. Thank you for your honesty!

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