The Way We Think About Money Is Broken

The Way We Think About Money Is Broken

Plenty of times with money, the way we invest or the way we save is part of the problem. Other times, the way we think about money is broken and that might be the bigger issue.
Today’s guest post comes from Mrs. Picky Pincher who is, “the blogger and resident klutz at www.pickypinchers.com.” She and her husband are on a journey to live well while paying off $225,000 of debt.

The Way We Think About Money Is Broken 

There I was, staring at my bank account on my computer screen. All I could think was, “Damn, that’s a lot of red.”
I was 21 years old and had just started my first post-college gig. I had a whopping red number on my credit card balance and a generous 23 cents in my checking account. I knew nothing about money except that I needed more of it. I fantasized about earning a fat salary and having a comma in my bank account instead of a lowly period.
The way I, and countless other people living paycheck to paycheck, thought about money was broken. I assumed that I needed to make more—and that was the problem.
Money was always the goal to me. Money meant success and happiness—and that’s what society, friends, family, and the media wanted me to think.
But what if this line of thinking is broken and dangerous?

What Is ‘Money,’ Anyway?

Money is a construct that we’ve created. In reality, money only has the meaning that we give to it.
A great and weird example of this happened in November 2016. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi invalidated 86 percent of all bills in circulation in India. The result? Absolute freakin’ chaos.  
This is an example that you can hoard all the money you want, but it doesn’t have any actual worth. It’s just a paper symbol we created for convenience.
Once I realized that I idolized the artificial image of success and wealth, I knew something had to change.

Money Is A Tool

I changed my thinking from “Hot damn, I just got paid! Time to buy some Coach flats!” to “I will be responsible with my money.”
Money is a tool. That’s all it is, plain and simple. Money isn’t inherently good or evil, but it can be put to good or evil use. Do you use your money for good or evil? I used my money for evil for a long time: I had an expensive car, stayed up to date with the latest fashions, and threw everything on a credit card to worry about later.
But after seeing 23 cents in my checking account, I changed my tune. Money didn’t mean anything, after all, but being worry-free meant the world to me. It was time to stop living it up and be responsible with my money, even though there wasn’t a lot of it. I slowly built an emergency fund on my meager hourly rate. I managed to save $20 a week in my emergency fund, and I was so proud.
Money went from being an evil necessity to a mischievous best friend. Money could either be my prison or my paradise, and I had the key all along.

The Bottom Line

Money isn’t an end; it’s a means to an end. And it definitely doesn’t equal success and happiness. Money is a tool that can build you or ruin you, and only you have the power to use it. We need to repair the broken line of thinking that convinces us to buy a Corvette, get a million-dollar mortgage, and wear Gucci shoes. Instead, we should focus on the transformative power of money.
We should let our money grow for the future without going to the consumer-happy Dark Side. Invest, donate, or pay off debt with your moolah to use it as a force for good.
We want to know: How did you repair any broken thoughts about money?
8 comments… add one
  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Jan 20, 2017, 8:50 am

    Thanks for the feature! 🙂

  • Financial Panther Jan 20, 2017, 9:53 am

    I think the main thing money provides is freedom and choices. A lot of what we do is motivated by money because we need it in order to live. Being able to accumulate money gives us so much more power to do what we really want.

  • Dan Palmer Jan 20, 2017, 1:03 pm

    You’re definitely right on the money (pun?) with this post. We could blame our culture, marketing, wealth, or whatever, but I think it boils down to greed and short term thinking.

  • FIscovery Jan 20, 2017, 4:08 pm

    Money itself does not make one happy, what it does, or what it can do, if not misused or abused, is make life easier – not living paycheck to paycheck, better healthcare, more opportunities for the kids, etc… give me more, wont make me happier, what it affords me, will.

  • Liz@ChiefMomOfficer Jan 21, 2017, 5:59 am

    Money is an excellent tool to achieve your dreams, financial freedom, and security – and the lack of money can mean not achieving your dreams, being trapped, and being one unexpected expense away from disaster. Great post!

  • Brian Jan 21, 2017, 12:07 pm

    Unfortunately, we all need money to start living the life we believe will make us happy. It is different for everyone. For me that is freedom to do what I want and not be forced to do the daily 9-to-5. Who knows, maybe someday I will get there and realize that something different that doesn’t require large amounts of cash will make me happy. It is all part of the journey. For now, I am stuck with money as the tool until I find something different. Thats the great thing about life, you need to experience it to figure it out. Here’s to hoping I am on the right track 🙂

    -Brian

  • Steven Goodwin @ MyFamilyOnABudget Feb 15, 2017, 4:05 pm

    Repairing broken thoughts about money, I love it! It seems so many have to reach the low that you encountered to find a way back out. We were at a point once where we had more going out then coming in and it was freakin’ scary too! Since then, we were able to turn things around by learning that debt is not a way to get ahead, it’s a way to kick the can down the road, but that can gets bigger much quicker if not dealt with in a proper manner. We decided that instead of kicking the can of debt interest down the road, we would use that same principal (compound savings interest) to work for us! When I got this concept, it was a huge wake up call! After that, we were fortunate enough to tune into Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and get on the baby steps! We are proud to have eliminated all of our debt (besides our mortgage), build up and emergency fund, start investing and even go down to one income so that I can be home with our two girls and become a bigger influence to them! It’s amazing how money is a tool, but when used right, it can really give you more options in life!

    • Distilled Dollar Feb 15, 2017, 6:24 pm

      Ya! This was a great guest post and happy that a lot of people read it! 🙂

      I love that old quote about the love of money being evil. Many people forget the “love of” part and think that money is evil, but it is simply a tool. Thanks for the comment!

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