Yesterday my son Dylan and I went to Target.
Goal: to buy candy decorations for gingerbread houses we’re making.
Because my son is 5 years old, and I want to shop in peace, I made two allowances:
- I told him he could get one small toy
- I let him watch videos on my phone while we were shopping
So we go shopping. It’s early in the day, the store is quiet. The Philly shoplifters haven’t yet risen. (They are for real—they just pick what they like, and brazenly walk past the security guard & right out the front door with it.) Birds are chirping in the trees.
Well, not in the fall.
But it’s a nice bright sunny morning, and we’ve got gingerbread houses to decorate for the fucking holidays. So it should be a happy time.
* * *
We get in there, and I’m immediately drawn to my favorite section of the store: the notebooks. Since my kid is anesthetized with the iPhone, I have a moment to really soak it all in. There are so many beautiful notebooks! And I love them!
I allow myself two notebooks. No, wait, three notebooks. One is entitled “My Beautiful Life” and it has gratitude prompts throughout, plus it’s gorgeous. The next says “Note to Self” on the front, and is covered in pretty pale cranberry fabric. I like this one because it has small lined, gold-edged pages. The third is completely irresistible because it has 3 sections: To Do, Blank and Grid Dots, and they’re all separated by super snazzy colorful floral papers and the whole book is covered in playful flamingos. Do I have a thing for pink birds? No, but I do love whimsical, floral and colorful, and this is speaking to me.
I put them in the cart with a quick, sharp inhale.
Then I spot a beautiful soft throw blanket and I have to have it. The throws we have on our couch have seen better days, and are better suited as play forts at this point in their life cycle.
I move on to the home decor area. There are cute things galore.
I start talking to myself—“What am I doing!? How did I end up in this section? Get out of here!
Also Me: Oh but the candles are so pretty and look, they’ve got such cool lamps!
Me: You don’t need a lamp! Go!”
We skedaddle to the candy section.
Now Dylan puts down the phone without a fight, so he can pick out candy. Not feeling like the best mom in the world writing that sentence: yep, my kid took a break from his YouTube marathon so he could pick out several bags of candy. Mmm-hhmm.
So we get the candy for the gingerbread houses.
Now, one does not simply decorate gingerbread houses with a limited selection of candy. You need Mike & Ike window trim, gummy bear yard ornaments, holiday sprinkles, marshmallow snow men, Twizzlers door frames, and a few other inspiring trinkets, so you can decorate properly, as the mood strikes.
So we end up with 9 bags of candy and a 3-pack of sprinkles.
To get to the checkout, we have to pass the kids clothing section, and Dylan does need a few shirts and new PJs, and they are all so cute and only $5 each.
Finally, we’re at the toy section. Dylan once again willingly puts down the iPhone videos so he can select a toy. He hops out of the cart, and thoughtfully inspects each toy aisle, wondering aloud what to choose. He picks a PJ Masks Headquarters toy.
We proceed to checkout, but not before I get a few new pairs of underwear, (TMI).
As we wait in line, I’m already dreading the checkout total. I know it’s going to be a lot. I only came in here for gingerbread house candy decorations, but I know I’m not leaving here without at least a $100 investment.
The total is $198.79…before tax. The real total is $207.54.
As we leave the store and I load the bags into the car, I notice that I don’t feel so good.
This happens to me all the time after shopping, but I never stop to think about it.
Yesterday, I did.
What was bothering me? I was feeling all knotted up inside about spending so much money. My stomach was tight, my mood was plummeting. What was it? What was I feeling?
I thought it was really important to stop and process this, because this was a money mindset thing that was happening, I knew, and it’s only when our shit gets kicked up and we start having The Feels that we can really learn about our mindset and our beliefs, and get some insight as to what’s going on in there.
What was going on for me was: Guilt.
I felt guilty for:
-spending too much
-for buying Dylan a toy so I could shop in peace
-for being weak and not resisting the notebooks
-for buying too much candy, being excessive
-for wasting money on gingerbread houses—what’s the point of making these?
When I got home, I took out one of my cool new notebooks and I listed all of my thoughts. It was easy to see how these thoughts led to feelings of guilt and those led to a bad mood in general.
It was time to re-frame these thoughts into ones that serve me.
This is what I teach Money Med School students to do, and it’s part of building that mindset muscle—you’re always working towards a positive experience with money, and this is how you get there.
Also, it’s important to sort out fact from fiction, before you let fiction become your truth. For example, a lot of the thoughts I was having were a bunch of bullshit, which is why I took the time to examine them.
Because I don’t want to go around feeling like shit every time I spend a dollar. I want to feel good in life.
So it’s important to sort out What’s True from What’s the Story We’re Telling Ourselves.
Here’s the reframe:
|Original Thought –>
|The Re-Frame —>
|New Thought –>
|You spent too much money. You’re wasteful. You’ve gone too far.
|Are we never to spend money? What is “too much”? I’m not on a budget. Should I be? Would this be more comfortable for me, or would I find it restrictive? Something to consider. Am I criticizing myself for not being on a budget, telling myself the story that I’m lazy, not organized & un-disciplined? Some of the things I bought were necessities. Am I allowed to have underwear? I think, yes. Is $5 for a shirt for Dylan reasonable? Yes.
|Money is a tool we use to create the life we want for ourselves. I am creating a life with joyful experiences, nice things and necessities as needed. This is a good thing. It is good for me to use money in a way that aligns with my values. Cool experiences are important to me, and I’m using my money to create them. Therefore, this is in alignment with my values. Also, I am tremendously grateful that I have the money I need to create the experiences I want. The real issue here isn’t budgets, but if I want to explore this further, it’s food for thought.
|Buying Dylan a toy so I could shop in peace is bad. Letting him watch videos is bad. You’re a bad mom.
|I feel joy and pleasure when I buy him a toy and it makes him happy. This is one way we share joy together. Just because I bought him a toy doesn’t mean that this is the only way we share joy as a family. It’s one part of our overall experience. It’s a nice thing I can do that we both enjoy. It’s a small monetary expense. It’s not an “every trip to the store” thing. It’s not a bribe. I told him from the get-go that he could pick out a small toy at the end of the trip, so he would have something to look forward to. It was not dependent on his behavior. He didn’t have to be good to get it. It was not a reward. And frankly, it was a practical move. I wanted to get shit done and this allowed me to do it in a calm way without losing my mind being nagged the whole time.
|Honestly, I love buying toys for Dylan. As a child, this makes him truly joyful, and that is a pleasure to see. We need more joy in our lives, and a $20 toy is worth it.
Also, it’s good to give him something that’s not reward-based.
|You’re weak for not resisting the notebooks.
|Life is short. Pleasure is important. We should always seek pleasure when we can. The notebooks bring me pleasure. Is that worth $31.48? I deserve beautiful things that I enjoy. One of these things was literally a gratitude journal.
|I fucking love notebooks. They are objects that give me pleasure and pleasure is good.
|You bought too much candy. You’re excessive.
|Hey, if you’re gonna build a gingerbread house, you gotta do it right. Variety is key to decorating it. If the candy came in smaller bags, I’d buy those, but it doesn’t. I bought the smallest amounts I could, while still meeting my goal. We can freeze what’s leftover and use it for next year’s houses.
|In order to create the desired outcome of Project Gingerbread House, I need a certain amount of supplies. I bought what I needed. There will be enough to use again next year as well.
|You’re wasting money on gingerbread houses. What’s the point? Your actions are pointless. Life is meaningless.
|The point is, I enjoy making gingerbread houses. And I really enjoy making them with Dylan. It’s a fun little tradition we have, and traditions are important to me. I deserve joy. I deserve to have fun with my child, and to reflect on that with happy memories. Dylan deserves to have fun and to have happy Christmas traditions and memories.
|This is about having fun. Building gingerbread houses is fun, and using money to create that experience is in line with my values, so we’re all good here.
The original thoughts all led to feelings of guilt, shame & fear. The new thoughts all lead to feelings of pleasure, joy and fun. Reframing changed my thoughts, which changed my feelings.
After working through this process, I realized that I don’t have to feel guilty for using my money to create pleasurable experiences for me and my family.
I’m actually spending money in alignment with my values.
The bigger question is, why do I feel guilty for creating pleasure? That’s more at the core of what’s happening here. Why not just feel pleasure? Why the guilt?
That one’s probably worth a lifetime of therapy. So for now, we’ll just stick to the reframes.
The next step is to remind myself of these reframed thoughts, when I’m confronted with guilt. I’ll keep practicing, over and over, until the new thoughts become positive beliefs that replace old negative beliefs.
The ultimate irony: I bought Joy. It was $15.99.