There’s plenty of advice out there on how to make more money, be financially savvy, and aim for promotion at work (hint: become an invaluable and flexible employee). And I’ve written plenty on how to be financially smart . But as we reflect on financial wellness this month, perhaps it’s worth considering being happy…even when we’re broke.
It’s a conundrum, right? When the bankroll is small and the bills are headliners, we often want to hide under the covers and beg for it all to go away. But as it turns out, more money doesn’t necessarily equal happiness, particularly when we reach the end of life. Social media maven Mona Nomura offers the sad tale of her mother: "After she attained what she thought was success, [my mother] was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. She spent the days up until her death regretting almost all the choices she made and beat herself up day after day. One of her last journal entries included reflections on how unappreciative she was with the things in front of her, and finally realizing happiness does not lie within superficial matters a little too late."
So how do you avoid having these savage regrets, in the face of mounting financial obligations and a still shaky economy? Can we be financially well and still live on a tight budget?
Practice gratitude. This can be a tough one, especially if you are feeling the squeeze in your wallet. But as author and speaker Britt Reints suggests, life is about more than just problems. Think about the things that matter – truly matter – in your world. Your loved ones, friends, family, co-workers. What about your mindset? What do you love best about yourself? Sure, there’s plenty we can come up with to complain about, but there are elements that make us unique. What are those? Make a list of the things that you can be grateful for, and put it by your desk, or tape it to your mirror. I keep mine on my calendar. Whenever I get down about anything, including my budget, I can pull it out and remind myself why this life is so worth the struggle.
This is now, not forever. You don’t have to stay here. If counting every cent by the end of the month doesn’t make you happy, start planning for change! Anna Manalastas left a career in the film industry and discovered yoga as her passion, but it swallowed up her savings. She describes being broke as just a moment in life. “So embrace this phase and squeeze it for all it’s worth so you won’t have to go through it again in the future.”
Live in the moment. While you are setting goals for future affluence, don’t get so ahead of yourself that you don’t enjoy what is right now. Despite the frustrations, there is so much for you to indulge in right now. Lisa Earle McLeod recommends living in the moment. Remember that this is the only time in your life that your children will be this age. That your friends will be at this place in their lives. That your parents will be who they are, right now. It goes by quickly, and soon, we will face other trials. There is no rewind in life. So despite the financial struggles that you may be enduring, don’t miss these opportunities for treasured moments.
Being broke isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be the worst time of your life, either. Part of financial wellness is not just having a certain dollar amount in the bank, but also having the right mindset about money. Having been on both sides of the experience, I can tell you I’m much happier with less in my bank account because I chose to put people and experiences into my life that money can’t buy. What are the parts of your life that can’t be bought? What ways can you work on embracing them even more?