Rachel’s Rhinestone Earrings: The Secret to Spending Money On What Matters

October 16, 2014

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Co-founders of MoneyMinderOnline — software to help people develop a healthy relationship to money.

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In her book, Financial Recovery, Karen McCall writes: “Chronic overspending comes from a deep internal state of longing. The overspender keeps trying to fill an emotional void by buying things.”

Have you ever bought something you didn’t really need or even want as a way to lift your spirits, feel a little better or fill a deeper need you couldn’t readily name or immediately satisfy?

We all do.

And when we do, we have the perfect opportunity to stop, reflect, discover what our deeper need really is, and make conscious choices about how to spend our money.

Like my friend, Rachel, who went shopping for a new dress for an upcoming office party. After trying on a few different things, she selected a pretty jewel-toned dress. On her way out of the store, she wandered over to the jewelry department, just to see if there was something there that might catch her eye. Sure enough, there was pair of expensive rhinestone earrings that went perfectly with her newly purchased dress.

She bought them.

While the dress were a part of Rachel’s monthly spending plan, the earrings were not. So by the time Rachel got home, she was perplexed. Why had she bought those earrings? She certainly didn’t need them, and buying something that expensive had fouled up her spending plan.

“I bought them to look good for the party,” she thought.

But she knew it was more than that.

“What’s so important about looking good for the party? Why am I so concerned about looking attractive?”

Then it came to her.

Before she’d left the office that evening, she’d had a conversation with her brother. He’d told her of his plans to buy a diamond necklace for his wife for her birthday. She realized, in hindsight, that this had made her so much more aware of being alone, of not having a partner, and her deep desire to have a relationship like her brother had with his wife.

As she processed how she felt, she realized she’d bought the earrings not to complete her party outfit, but rather as a way to feel more attractive, more datable, more desirable.

And less lonely.

This happens to all of us. We spend money on something we think we want (like Rachel’s rhinestone earrings) when what we truly desire is something else entirely.

As you begin to explore your own experiences of overspending, ask yourself the question, “What was so important about buying that?” And as the answer emerges, ask yourself, “And why is that so important?” Continue to dig down until you uncover the deeper emotional need you were trying to meet by buying something you didn’t need. And you’ll discover what your true needs and wants really are.

This is one of the first steps to learning how to identify your true needs first, before your wants, so you can spend your money in a more fulfilling way. Once Rachel got clear on the need she was trying to fulfill by buying those earrings, she decided to invest in one of the nicer on-line dating sites.

“Who knows if it will work,” she told me, “but I do know that buying those earrings wasn’t going to bring me any closer to what I truly want. And now I can choose to spend my money on something that might!”

Mikelann Valterra and Karen McCall is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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