episode 10

Disclaimer:  This post is not for people struggling with poverty.  I think Bonnie Engstrom did a beautiful job describing what life is like when money is super tight in this series.  I wouldn’t sit down with Bonnie and say, “You just don’t understand delayed gratification, otherwise you’d save more money.”  That is NOT what this post is about.  This post is about people like me who were never taught how to manage money and who have the urge to buy $4.50 lattes instead of putting money in a 401k.

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast:

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Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

Oh the marshmallow test… This was a test done 50+ years ago where psychologists took a bunch of preschoolers and put a marshmallow on their desk.  They told the kids they could eat the marshmallow now or wait until the adult comes back and they’d get two marshmallows.  The adults leave without telling the kids how long they’ll be gone.

Naturally some kids stuffed that white sugary goodness in their face right away, some made it a certain amount of time but still ate it before the adults came back and some waited until the adults returned and got two marshmallows.  The choice of the kids ended up being strongly correlated with their SAT scores, their BMI index at 30 years old and their overall happiness in the future.

In his book The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success, Walter Mischel he explains all is not lost!  If you too would stuff that “marshmallow” in your mouth for instant gratification of less, you can learn to change your behavior.  Okay ladies, are you still with me?  I think this can apply to a lot of areas of our life but today I wanted to apply it to money.

Money is something that we don’t often talk about Catholic moms.  This isn’t about storing up as much money as possible.  This isn’t about have fear about the future or your money.  This is for those of you who didn’t learn how to manage your money and you’re blowing money on little things like coffee and not realizing that you need SOME plan for your money in the future.  It’s important for us to manage our money well so we can care for the people that God puts in our way.

The bible tells us that the poor will always be among us.  We need to manage our money so we can help out families who have no jackets this winter or who can’t afford food for Thanksgiving.  We need to manage our money so we can take care of ourselves in the future.  I know I will have to financially support my parents in the future so I know it’s important that I save money to be able to do that for them.

Mischel says that when we see something we really really want, right now, it’s like our brain has a HOT reaction to this.  Maybe it’s that $4.50 latte, maybe it’s a beautiful sweater at Anne Taylor Loft, maybe it’s five more children’s book to add to your collection.  None of these things are bad choices intrinsically but if you’re always choosing to spend now instead of saving, then collectively, these choices aren’t helping your future self.  He says we can learn to COOL our desires for these things.

To understand how to cool your desire for instant gratification, you have to first understand how you see yourself.  We use a different part of our brain when we think about our present selves than when we think about a stranger.  But many of us, when thinking about our future self, light up the part of our brains as if we’re thinking about a stranger.  We feel so disconnected from our future self that we don’t actually see that person as ourselves.

I know this is true for me.  I’m a stress-eater, I don’t like saving money and I want everything RIGHT NOW.  I can’t seem to grab on to the idea that my choices are ruining my future self. But I have three kids now and I know I need to work on this.  I need to model good behavior for them and I actually need to change my behavior for myself so I’m not an unhealthy, broke mess in 30 years.

Also, God gave me these amazing gifts: my children, the money I do have, this body my soul lives in.  He wants me to be a good steward of these things.  So how can we really make a change in our spending habits?

First, sit down and really picture your future self.  You need to get connected with that lady.  What do you want to look like?    Imagine yourself living a peaceful life.  Imagine yourself having financial stability.  Just sit with those thoughts for a moment.  Don’t let this future you feel like a stranger.

Second, get out some paper and write down situations where the HOT part of your brain has you making impulsive decisions that are bad for you.  I’m pretty good at not spending money on myself but it’s hard for me to reign in spending for my kids sometimes, especially for books! And when I’m stressed, a peppermint mocha goes a long way to calming me down… but my bathroom scales robs me of that peace when I weigh 20 pounds more than I should.

Write down those triggers and come up with a plan of what you’re going to do INSTEAD.  Here’s what I wrote:

I see a great book list on someone’s blog.  INSTEAD of buying the books, I will immediately login and put them on my reserved list at the library or I will add ONE of them to my amazon wishlist and wait for a child’s birthday to buy it.

I’m having  stressful day and I want a mocha to soothe my feelings.  INSTEAD of shelling out $4.50, I’m going to go home, make some delicious Good Earth tea and look at my budget where I am faithfully giving money to charity and putting money in savings.

Visualize what you’re going to do in these situations.  Practice it in your mind. Rehearse it.  Make a promise to yourself that you’re going to do better.

I think we, as Catholic moms, have a great power to change the world in just one generation.  If we can make good choices for ourselves and model good behavior for our children, we can create a generation that has self-control.  And having self-control allows us to be good stewards of what God has given us and allows us to take care of more people with the resources and energy that we have.

If you don’t know where to start, I would highly recommend checking out www.daveramsey.com.

I’m praying for your mamas!  I’m praying that God give us all the desire to manage our money well so we can more perfectly do His will!