Money on your mind? How mindful spending maximizes each dollar
Written by Rita Silvan

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Mindfulness can come with physical and emotional benefits. Not surprisingly, it makes us better at handling our money too — whether it's saving, investing or spending.

What is mindfulness?

"Mindfulness is paying attention to what's happening, as it's happening, without judgement," says Dr. Judy Turner, psychologist and co-founder of Mindfulness Meditation Toronto. "In our society we often spend mindlessly and our spending can contradict our values.

"Money is such a loaded subject," says Dr. Turner. "How we spend is not dissimilar to how we eat: We buy something that makes us feel better in the moment. When we get emotionally triggered, say we've had a bad meeting at work, the nervous system spikes into reactivity. For some people there's a reactive pattern of spending."

Her advice is to take three deep breaths to give ourselves a sober second thought. "Slowing things down allows us to act from greater autonomy," she says.

Setting priorities

For Ellen Roseman, a financial journalist/author/educator, mindful spending boils down to avoiding impulse spending, as well as identifying priorities and values. Roseman says books are her weakness: “I won't step into a bookstore until I've gone to the library first. It's the same as not grocery shopping on an empty stomach."

She recommends figuring out your likes and naming your five top priorities. “Most people find this difficult, especially when they have different interests than their partner. This is where it pays to work with a life coach or someone who can facilitate the conversation."

For some couples, having separate bank accounts allows each of them to spend a portion of their money on themselves without feeling guilty. “A small amount of indulgence is a good thing," says Roseman. “It's like rationing calories — if you're too strict, you break the diet."

Spending on what matters

For Susan Catto, deputy editor, Hello! Canada®, the death of her mother forced her to confront her own spending habits. “My mom had trouble spending on herself. I was a lot like her, a bargain hunter." Catto's mother insisted that some of her inheritance be used on personal expenditures. “She said, 'You need to upgrade your wardrobe. The time is now, there is no later.'"

Catto started a blog,, where she chronicles her “anti-austerity plan" of spending $1,000 every month for a year. “Once I stepped away from the sale racks, I started to buy things that made me happy, not just because they were on sale." She has also signed up for dance lessons, goes on theatre outings, and is going on a trip with friends to Venice. “I'm creating lasting memories with my lessons and upcoming trip," she said.

A mindful spending plan has provided the unexpected benefit of making her family more financially responsible. “It's opened us up to talk about money and not be knee-jerk about it," Catto explains. "My husband always says, 'Life is to be lived now'. We've evolved as a family."

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