Being mindful, or practicing mindfulness, is one of this year’s hottest topics – just behind our new president.
However, there seems to be a number of different definitions for mindfulness. One of the best is that of Leah Weiss, who teaches Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. She says it can be viewed as “the intentional use of attention.”
Mindfulness, according to Weiss, has been used to treat anxiety, chronic pain, depression, and even OCD. But in this case, it’s important use is in debt settlement. This is because if you want to save as much money as possible for debt settlement, being mindful means making choices that will help you achieve your goals.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz says the best place to start is with what she calls a “financial cleansing.” This is where you focus on determining where your money goes. To do this, you will need to use money to cover all your everyday expenses for 30 days. You’ll undoubtedly find it harder and more painful to do this, instead of just pulling out the plastic. This should help you build mindfulness of your spending.
A second thing you need to do is delay purchases. No matter how badly you might want to buy that 50-inch HDTV, wait a few days, or even better, a week. You might then find it easier to resist the temptation. Or you might at least decide to put it off until you have the cash to pay for it.
Another way to be mindful is to make sure you purchase that HDTV from a company where you know it has a liberal return policy. Then, if you decide you made a mistake, you can fix it.
Finally, make a resolution to stay away from jewelry, electronics, and clothing stores where you might be tempted to make an impulse purchase.
Learn to pay attention
If you just pay attention to things, this can help you stop before buying something. You might try meditating for as little as five to ten minutes a day, which will mean focused breathing. This will actually affect those areas of your mind that control motion, attention, and habit. If you’re truly committed to the idea of eliminating money-wasting or mindless choices, this will build that area of your brain that helps you be more mindful.
Determine what you want
Another financial planner plasters the wall next to her refrigerator with photos that represent her goals. If your goal is a wonderful, one-week cruise, you might put snapshots of the boat and your destinations in your kitchen where you see them every day. This becomes a daily reminder of what brings you joy.
If you make your goals specific, you’re more likely to act on them. Be conscious of your spending. Try to imagine what your finances will look like 12 months from now. What changes could you make that you’d feel good about? For example, you could decide to turn a spending habit into a once-a-year treat, and then put the money you saved towards settling a debt.
Make your spending meaningful
Start tracking your spending to figure out what you value, and what you’re likely to regret. Write down what you buy then, 24 hours later, note how you now feel about it. Do the same thing three days and a week later. Did that purchase give you the satisfaction you had imagined? Are you really enjoying TV more because you now have an HDTV with a bigger screen? You should be able to see patterns emerge after a bit that will help you make better choices in the future — to save even more money for debt settlement.
Don’t get discouraged
It may take time for you to see real progress towards your goal of debt settlement. Remember that it takes a supertanker one day to turn just one degree. It takes 24 hours before it actually alters course. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate progress. Hang in there, and you’ll soon have enough money saved to begin settling your debts. It just takes time and mindfulness.