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Mindfulness, Not Doing, and Money

After reading Sky Abelar’s post about breaking routines at Pick the Brain, I found myself thinking about it from a personal finance perspective. Are there things that we do on autopilot in regards to our personal finance? You bet there are.

Money permeates all levels of our lives, so it’s necessary that we approach it from a holistic standpoint. It is a factor in what we eat, who our friends are, where we live, what vehicles take us from here to there, and nearly every other aspect in between. There are life events which are triggers for our spending patterns.

I know that there are several routines that I perform on autopilot:

  • When I’m depressed, I buy wavy chips and french onion dip
  • When I’m angry, I need to be kept away from bookstores
  • When I’m happy, I want PENS. Lots and lots of pens.
  • When I’m out early, I want Bojangles Bo-rounds
  • If I’m hungry while out of the house, I eat out

All of these things lead to a gradual depletion of my budget. Most of the time, I’m able to control the urge to fall into the pattern of buying, but there are some times which I am weak. The crazy thing is that I recognize the pattern, acknowledge it, and still embrace it with open arms. The personal budgeting and savings tips tend to go out the window when I’m not having a content, neutral day.

What can I do about it?

From the article at Pick the Brain:
Examine your life, and look for routines, then find other things you can do to replace them, or simply do them differently. Do you always watch TV after dinner? Read a good novel instead. Do you always eat breakfast before you take a shower in the morning? Swap them around, and remember to pay attention to the showering and eating. Don’t get lost in your mind. You’ll save on hot water too!

Do you tend to eat the same things? Try something new. Make healthier choices.

Instead of Facebooking, go for a walk, or do some yoga. Look carefully for all the ways in which you can practice not doing. Or, as the Toltecs say, “stalk yourself”. Stalk yourself like a jaguar stalking it’s prey. Pay attention to what you are doing.

Taking those routines and breaking them is not necessarily easy, but Ms. Abelar has the right idea. Replace the routine with something else, because the body and brain abhor a vacuum. When you’re doing something that’s essentially ‘bleeding’ money, taking the objective view of it can help you change those routines and restore mindfulness.

Image courtesy of Leandro’s World Tour on Flickr

Are there spending patterns in your life that can be changed? Do you notice what happens when you’re angry, sad, happy, or something else in regards to mood? I’d love to know!