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  • “It’s Not A Priority”, OR “That Pesky Law Of Attraction”

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    Yes. The title is my best attempt at a tribute to Rocky and Bullwinkle. As a kid, I didn’t get the puns in the titles, but I loved that they would give next week’s episode 2 titles. (So let’s pretend it’s clever and move on.)

    Over the years, I’ve noticed that there’s something to this law of attraction that everyone  keeps talking about. No, I haven’t noticed the promised wealth pouring in yet, but I have noticed that when I dwell on the negative it has a tendency to stick around. The same is true of the positive stuff, it’s just not as noticeable because we don’t resist the ‘good’ things that happen in our lives.

    One example stands out so clearly in my mind, that it has actually changed my vocabulary. Several years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to receive affordable financial planning advice, from a certified financial planner, as part of our membership in an organization. Well, we jumped at the chance.

    We were feeling like we were better off financially than we had ever been and hoped we could tweak a few things to do even better. So we eagerly filled out all the paperwork the planner, Andrew, gave us detailing how much money was coming into the household and how much we spent on bills – loans, utilities, etc. So far, so good. But then, he needed to know how much we spent on groceries each month, how much on clothes, personal care items, pet care, and a lot of other things that didn’t have fixed amounts or even monthly amounts (like clothes). We did our best guesstimate in the short time we had to pull all the figures together. We walked into his office for our appointment and gave him all our paperwork. Whew, the hard part was over and we were feeling pretty good. He looked it all over and promptly told us how poorly we managed our finances.

    *Screeeeech!* What??!!??

    How were we so out of tune with that, we’d been feeling pretty good. We knew we weren’t any kind of saving gurus, but we generally didn’t spend more than we made – well… anymore. He told us he would come up with a plan for us based on the information we gave him and call us to schedule another appointment when he was finished and ready to discuss it with us. We told ourselves that maybe he just had really high standards.

    A couple weeks went by before we got a call from Andrew. We were anxious to talk to him again, especially since we were starting to have some money issues. We were both bringing in roughly the same amount of money, but we didn’t have as much left over as before. When we brought this up to Andrew, he told us that (paraphrasing here) we were such bad money managers that  it was just finally catching up to us.

    He gave us a plan, and even though it was really hard, we followed it. Well, we tried to. Maybe you know this plan: get a whole bunch of envelopes, label them, and put a set amount into each one every payday. All those envelopes, all those trips to the credit union for withdrawals (my husband has direct deposit) and deposits (so we could pay our bills online the way we were set up). We felt poorer than we had in college – when we really had been poor. The downward spiral continued until it occurred to me maybe Andrew only had one way to approach money management and since we didn’t fit that mold we were, to him, bad money managers.

    *Angel choir sings here*

    That was all it took. Well, that and getting rid of all those silly envelopes. And going back to doing things the way we used to. And changing our language. While in our ‘poor phase’ we noticed that we often said “we can’t afford it”. I proposed that we stop saying that and replace it with “that’s not a priority right now.” It worked wonders.

    Oh, I really want a Starbucks chai… No, it’s not a priority. Oooo… look our favorite brand of [food] is on clearance, 50% off, let’s stock up… No, it’s not a priority. Hey, my favorite work shirts are on sale… No, you already have enough to get by, it’s not a priority. Not always fun, but it didn’t take long before we were back to our prosperous selves. We even started building our saving accounts (very slowly) using this technique. We’re still not rich, but we’ve certainly learned when to say (and mean) “It’s not a priority.”

    As a positive side benefit, we started realizing how many of the possessions that were taking up space in our small home hadn’t been priorities when we bought them and we started ‘decluttering.’ We got rid of close to 12 carloads of stuff in one year (true, there were a few loads that only had a few items, but they were BIG items.) and felt not only prosperous, but lighter as well. The biggest lesson we learned was that how we felt about our lives was up to us. And we decided that being miserable… “It’s not a priority.”