Financial Mindfulness: find your pulse, stop impulse buying

Who hasn’t indulged in a little retail therapy from time to time, especially after a shocking day at work, or an argument with your partner? It often seems like a good time to buy a pair of new shoes perhaps, go to a movie or buy an album, a bottle of wine, a therapeutic massage to de-stress or even sign up to a gym membership.

So it can feel a little impulsive to spend money we haven’t budgeted on, so what? On the surface it seems like we are taking care of ourselves: doing something to comfort ourselves to deal with the anger or frustration of having our feelings trampled, or not living up to our own or someone else’s expectations.

According to a poll of 1003 consumers by US website creditcards.com, five out of six American admit to impulse buying. One in five people had spent more than US$1000 on impulse, which rose to one in three for people earning over US$75,000.

Spending money impulsively can make you ‘feel better’ and ‘more alive’. It can certainly seem exciting, and it’s hardly as reckless as taking drugs or gambling, right?

But it can be a serious problem if this is something we begin to regularly, or with expensive items, as a way of coping. And let’s face it, jobs and relationships – and life in general – can be stressful for extended periods.

Fortunately there are plenty of strategies to manage your impulse buying urges –according to BetaBait.com (a website helping start-ups connect with early adopters) you are much less likely to buy on impulse if you plan your shopping trip or walk to the shops rather than drive. It found that sales are a trigger for impulse spenders (a staggering 88 per cent of impulse buys are items “on sale” – even if you didn’t need that item). It also said impulse spending often happens when you feel “angry, stressed, guilty or bored”.

Let’s consider that last point: when you feel “angry, stressed, guilty of bored”. Anyone would admit the issues making us angry, stressed, guilty and bored – or sad, or ashamed, or lonely – are not solved by a bottle (or a case) of wine, or upgrading computer or bike or car, or booking a holiday or seeing a movie. Chances are we are just escaping feelings which will overwhelm us again in a few hours or days.

Working through complex and difficult problems is of course not easy. But we also forget what a hugely painful thing financial stress is. Ask yourself honestly, is your impulse buying adding to your financial stress?

Financial worries are now accepted as a leading cause of stress in people’s lives throughout the western world.

An Australian start-up company, Financial Mindfulness, is set to launch a world-first comprehensive personal tool harnessing the proven benefits of mindfulness to address the way we spend and invest money. Mindfulness is not, as some people believe an attitude, but is better described as the regular practice of moment-by-moment awareness.

“Member financial wellness, engagement and measurable behaviour change is what we are aiming for. Members learn through awareness and education to build sustainable healthy habits.” says Financial Mindfulness Founder & CEO, Andrew Fleming.

Watch this space for more details on when Financial Mindfulness will be available to help you.

In a sea of couple conflict, find stability with Financial Mindfulness

David and Lisa were filled with love and optimism when they wed amid colour and song in Hawaii in 1994 but like many couples, they recently separated.

With the holiday season over and the New Year sending them back to work and to their new solo routines, 2017 looks like a tough year ahead for the whole family. David, 51 and Lisa, 46 are parents to Joshua (8), Jake (13) and Bella (11).

Josh misses his dad while Bella is angry at her dad and hasn’t seen him for 4 months. She quit her after-school job at a retail chain because she has exams this year. Jake’s behaviour problems at school have worsened since the break-up.

David works as an executive in a chartered accountancy firm and has strong earning capacity but as a divorce seems likely he may have to give the house to Lisa as it’s simpler for the children to spend the school week with her.

Both David and Lisa have been emotionally and physically affected by the separation and are worried about the future. Although each have big financial worries they have become less careful with money, sometimes spending to numb emotions like anger, grief, loneliness and sadness.

Both David and Lisa would see improvements to their mood, energy and sense of security if they introduced proven mindfulness practices into their lives, especially around how they use money – in other words, Financial Mindfulness. Mindfulness is not, as some people believe an attitude, but is better described as the regular practice of moment-by-moment awareness.

A ‘financial wellness’ study of PwC employees found 52 per cent stressed about their finances with 45 per cent reporting more financial stress in the last 12 months. More than half of Australians say personal finance issues are the leading cause of stress in their life, according to the Australian Psychological Society.

Reconciliation after 23 years of marriage seems unlikely for David and Lisa. The couple argued loudly at home for six years before they agreed he would move out.

Lisa is angry and feels disrespected and that David has been a poor husband, although she accepts he has mostly been a good provider and done his best as a father. She accepts some contact with their father is good for the children but struggles with any interaction with David.

“How can I trust anything he does now?” she often hears herself saying to friends and family.

Lisa feels resentful with three children to look after, and tries to make herself feel better by socialising with friends over dinner, at concerts and art galleries, pampering herself (at health retreats when David has the kids). She has taken a few short holidays and one extended one to Britain where her sister and her husband live and then through Europe. She also re-joined the gym because she is drinking and eating more and has started smoking again. She is still working in human resources as a consultant but has a rising credit card debt.

David now lives alone in a two-bedroom apartment 30 minutes from the family but still does maintenance on the house he owns with Lisa, though he isn’t welcome to let himself in. He also maintains their investment property. Since the separation (7 months ago), David drifted into depression and is finding seeing the children for only 3 days each fortnight difficult. He is working longer hours, going out for late dinners, is drinking more and goes on fishing and golfing trips with old friends.

He has also increased his spending on his two collecting hobbies: wine and sports memorabilia but is also gambling too often. He recently lost his driver’s licence for drink-driving.

“I sometimes wonder what the point is to any of this,” David often thinks. “Without the kids there wouldn’t be much to life for me.”

Both David and Lisa are doing individual therapy and meet for family counselling once a month. But growing financial pressure and stress is not helping their coping skills and both find themselves unhappy and snapping at their children sometimes.

In the coming months, separated couples like David and Lisa, going through these very normal life changes, can find some respite by empowering themselves with the comprehensive one-of-a-kind personal program to be delivered by Australian start-up company Financial Mindfulness.

Financial Mindfulness will bring a completely new element to the world of personal financial behaviour by giving people medically and scientifically-proven tools to make spending decisions that they will be proud of later (instead of regretting).

“Everybody has a need to manage their financial affairs in a complex world. We understand people would like to improve their financial wellness.”

“We can actually help, for the first time people can choose a comprehensive, medically tested personal pathway of actions, to take responsibility in dealing with their financial stresses. A personal program as an app, also transferrable to your computer.”

“Financial Mindfulness creates a pathway for users from the experience and impact of ‘financial stress’ to one of financial health, wellness and fulfilment.” says Financial Mindfulness Founder & CEO, Andrew Fleming.

“As a result people like David and Lisa will become more self aware and take responsibility of their unhealthy financial habits and use the tools of our program to form new healthier behaviours over time.  This improves their self-esteem, their productivity at work and by extension, improve the lives of their children.”

Our vision, for sufferers of financial stress to experience financial wellness.

Watch this space to see how Financial Mindfulness will help you!

Secret Santa turning in to a cash killer: Get Mindful

Who doesn’t love a good scary movie? Trailers for a bunch of freaky but fun films are all over social media right now, but one particularly nasty personal horror show has probably just dropped into your inbox, or is about to: your credit card bill from Christmas and the so-called holiday ‘sales’.

Chances are you’ve been avoiding those gory details because when the bills land, the debts are in the thousands so few of us experience, what the gurus call, Financial Wellness.

It’s likely most of us got a bit impulsive in the past month and bought a few extra gifts, food and alcohol in the mad rush to try and guarantee a happy holiday for family and friends.

That pressure can flick a switch in our brains where we go into a kind of ‘trance’, handing over our credit cards on auto-pilot to supress that creeping feeling we really shouldn’t be spending so much. But it’s the holidays and we are supposed to relax…

The Australian Retailers Association expected Australians to spend $48.1 billion between mid-November and Christmas Eve (nearly A$2000 each) 2016. In December, CARE Australia claimed we spend $179 million on unwanted ‘Secret Santa’ gifts – dud presents the receiver will probably give away or never use. Aussie shoppers were tipped to spend a further $17.2 billion nationwide between Boxing Day and January 15.

A consumer survey by US company Statista found shoppers expected to spend an average of US$752 on Christmas gifts alone in 2016, not counting other holiday costs and sales spending. Americans were expecting 14 gifts each last Christmas and total US retail spending for the 2016 holiday season was estimated at $3.1 trillion.

The end result? The emotional burden of guilt and fear that comes with big debts. More than half of Australians identify personal finance issues as the leading cause of stress, according to the Australian Psychological Society.

So maybe, just to deal with the stress of it all, we buy ourselves a few treats. Who hasn’t tried to make life a bit more bearable with some ‘retail therapy’? In trying to make situation get better we can just make it worse. Ultimately it all seems like relatively normal human fallibility, but few would argue we abandon earlier good intentions to only buy what we need to. It almost feels Grinch-like to penny pinch at Christmas, so we blow our budget – and it’s probably not the first time.

The unsettling feelings we get from living beyond our means spill over to our work lives too. AMP, a financial services company, released a study last October which said financial stress costs Australian employers A$47.2 billion a year.

But what if we could get through the holidays not regretting our spending, not dreading the bloated repayments to come? What if at the same time we could still make ourselves and our loved ones happy, maybe even happier than usual?

Then we could show up at work without that nagging sense of fear that comes from surviving with financial stress. Sound like a fairy story? It doesn’t have to be.

The answer lies in applying the principles of mindfulness – the proven practice of moment-by-moment awareness – to our finances. It means training our minds to slow down and make decisions that we won’t regret later.

An Australian start-up – Financial Mindfulness – is set to launch a comprehensive personal program designed to revolutionise the way we think and behave with our money.

In the process we can stay within our means and feel better about ourselves by saying goodbye to the annual horror movie of unwanted debt.

Watch this space for a world-first solution.