Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mindfulness Against Debt

He who is not contented with what he has will not be contended
with what he doesn't have.  

Welcome back again to the series on Mindfulness...... As A Weapon Against Debt.
We are in the middle of a debt crisis of unprecedented proportions.  Variable-rate housing and credit card loans, as well as the severe economic downturn that saw millions of jobs vanish  overnight, have made this debt crisis not only a national issue but a personal one. Consumer debt, bankruptcy and default are at an all time high in Westernized countries including  the U.S., Canada, Europe, and  Latin America.  The percentages of debt to income is staggering.  In the U.S. the number of foreclosures on mortgages is still climbing.  Canada hit a record high in the first quarter of 2012.  Generally, unemployment rates are climbing and daily living costs- food, hydro, gas, education etc are all climbing.  On the flip side, wages and benefits are not increasing, and, all  benefits are being trimmed every where possible. 
People have adopted a mindset not unlike their governments- using debt to finance their lifestyles. More and more families suffering from personal debt crises are taking to heart the lessons of the national and international debt crisis; maintaining large amounts of high interest debt loads, and leveraging them only by taking on more and move individual debt.   We are signing up for 3 month deals for phone and cable that promise ridiculously low rates initially, only to rise substantially after the introductory period.  Set up one credit card and you will instantly begin receiving applications for more.  Can't make your car payment this month?  Well,  put it on a card and apply for a new card to cover the debt of the old one.  There is a false belief that tomorrow will take care of today, because of an incorrect assumption of endless future upward growth- in our house prices, our employment .  How many people have remortgaged  their house because they believe, next year, it will gain in value.  How many people have anticipated promotions at work, the company product to gain in value, the stock to rise, only to find out that there are cutbacks. layoffs , store closures and bankrupcancy

This false assumption of endless upward growth has trapped consumers and governments alike.  On an individual level, our  insatiable greed, demand for instant gratification and the lure of easy credit has bankrupted us,  almost wiped out the middle class and destroyed the dream of home ownership, carefree retirement, great healthcare and education for everyone.

As nations worldwide try to address this financial crisis through spending cuts, job creation,  and tighter lending laws, there are also actions that can be taken on an individual level.  Often, the first course of actions are bankruptcy and debt consolidation.  But, aside from these extreme measures many people can benefit from an awareness of "Mindful spending" or conversely,  "Mindless spending"   Following these Mindful suggestions won't  get your job  back, your home out of foreclosure or recover your nest egg but they will help you to deal with your anxiety, create a spending awareness and empower you to deal with your financial crisis.  These suggestions can guide you to make more thoughtful, and deliberate decisions thereby allowing you to keep in line with your budget program taking back control of your spending and creating a sense of  power.


a.  The past is what it is and cannot be changed.  Re-visiting it only creates sorrow, anxiety and regret.  None of which is a positive or helpful feeling.  You can not change the past!

b.  The future is yet unknown.  It cannot be determined by wishful or magical  thinking. Quit buying lottery tickets!

c.  You are here, NOW.   Take a realistic snapshot and get a pen and paper and begin to make a plan.

Step 2    AWARENESS (of when you are being manipulated)

a.  Price Threshold, is a marketing ploy aimed at the consumer whereby items are priced at a seemingly insignificant amount  Visit a Dollar Store and the item falls below your price concern, but add them up at the till and suddenly you are dropping $ 20.00 at a dollar store. At quick snack at McDonald's all items are below $5.00 so they seem cheap, below your price alarm but the bill is more than you anticipated.  The daily coffees, the weekly luncheons, kids snacks at the mall, they all add up. 

b.  Spending money is contagious.  You can get caught up in the excitement of spending or you can get chastise for being cheap. Shopping in groups makes you subject to consumer contagion where you will buy more than you can afford.

c. Spending Money is Emotional.   Make an  Emotional  list. 
  • Was I trying to prove something?  Do I feel pressure?
  • Was there a real need?
  • Is it "fashion"
  • Did I already own something similar?
Step 3   ACTION:
a.  Evaluate purchases with these questions:
    1.  Do I need this or do I want this?
    2.  How will this benefit me in my daily life?
    3.  Am I entering into this financial arrangement to keep up with the "Joneses?"

b.   Look for cheaper alternative or take along a frugal friend to help you resist  impulsive purchases.   In fact, following the lead of penny-pinching friends or family can help you evaluate your own lifestyle and change the way you view money

c.   Make a list of all regular weekly expenses under $5.00.  Check your habits.  Then multiply them for the month and then the year  and see if that money is justified.  Look at those "insignificant" spending items and cut them back.

d.  Make a list of what you find entertaining, engaging and is free:
    1.  Time with nature
    2.  Following a hobby
    3.  New experiences
    4.  Volunteering

e.   Engage in Mindful Breathing throughout the day whenever stress is being felt  Take a "time out" to think about the situation and practice breathing and come back to the problem when you are calmer.  Never make decisions in time of stress.  Use mindful activities such as walks after dinner or a walk in early dawn to pull solace from nature and create a serene and safe spot in your self.  Use supportive self talk( I want this but do I really need this, Right now this makes me happy but do I need this)   throughout the day the help you when you feel tension rising and always remember to breathe

How did I go broke?
Slowly, then all at once. 

Please submit comments on this article.  I would find them very useful for future writing topics on this blog.  Thanks, Jennifer
And, tomorrow I will have Part 4, Mindfulness and Gambling Addictions...Stay tuned!

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