It might surprise you to learn that:

  • Americans spend, on average, $1.10 for every $1.00 they earn in wages, according to a Congressional committee report.

  • A $3,500 credit card balance, paid in minimum monthly installments at an annual interest rate of 18%, will take 40 years to pay off and cost an additional $9,431 in interest, for a grand total of $12,931!
  • The average consumer owes 17 percent of after-tax income to creditors. Since 80 percent of family income is typically spent on housing, food, transportation, and insurance, 97 percent of income is already spent before tacking on clothing, gifts, out-of-pocket health expenses, and dozens of everyday expenditures that many people don’t plan for ahead of time.

These three points convey a very clear message: many people are living beyond their means, and the sad fact is that, because they’re not tracking their expenses, they may not even realize what they are doing until it is much too late.

The Meaning of Money

Money is not simply money. Money represents power, love, joy, and much more. If it was just money, our “money problems” would be easily solved. We could just stop spending more than we make and live happily ever after!

To understand the problems we experience with money in adulthood, we must go back to our early years; we must explore the meaning of money in our own lives and the lives of our parents, since the attitudes each of our parents had about money more than likely shaped those attitudes we hold today. If we are in a relationship, our partner’s attitudes (not to mention those of his or her parents) must be added to the mix.

What did money represent in your family when you were growing up, and what were you taught about its uses?

  • Do thoughts of money bring up feelings of worry, guilt, anger, sadness, power, love, or joy?

  • Did your parents fight about money? Use money to control you or one another? Use money to show love?
  • Do you feel grateful for the money you have earned or acquired?
  • How do you decide how or when to spend it?
  • Do you give a portion of your earnings back to your church or your community?

The answers to these questions can set you on the path to understanding how your emotions influence your spending patterns.