You only lose what you cling to.
Money is emotional currency.
During an economic crisis, the first instinct is to reclaim our resources and pull them close to us: reduce spending, reduce giving and cut back. While all these measures make sense, on one level they can create an even greater difficulty. When we hoard our money we create a poverty of spirit, a deprivation mindset that dictates our behavior based on scarcity and informs our view of the world. We believe we won’t have enough, that others don’t either, and that the key to survival is to protect our assets. While all this is true, it is only half-true.
The other truth is that giving and a sense of abundance are necessary to our well-being. Consider the most essential function we have as a living being. If we were only to breathe in and hold our breath it wouldn’t be long before our body shut down. Exhaling and giving out is as essential as taking in and holding. When we exhale we are preparing for our next intake. Our heartbeat happens in the same way. If it only constricted we would die; it is the pulsation that gives us life. Our economy is no different. For us to stay alive, we must breathe out and our heart must have the rhythm of a pulse.
Last year for the holidays, I gave my friend a gift worth about $75 and he gave me one of similar value. We thanked each other and that was that. But this year we wantedneededto do something different, and we were very much aware that the same type of gift wasn’t the right thing to receive or give. There was an unspoken agreement that this year the gifts would somehow reflect the shift in the world economy yet reflect the value of our friendship.
I found inexpensive drink coasters that could be personalized with photo inserts and trimmed pictures from previous visits with my friend to fit. I also had a greeting card made up from one of those photographs and wrapped the box of coasters in a funky image from an old magazine advertisement. He bought me a CD I had commented on previously and baked banana bread for me from his (famous chef) grandfather’s recipe. We haven’t stopped thanking each other for the thoughtful, personalized gifts. The cost of better, more meaningful gifts? Less than twenty bucks eachnearly 75 percent less.
Having to spend less got us thinking in a new direction. While I highlighted this gift exchange, the shift was true with nearly everyone on my list. Holding on to my money didn’t mean stopping my breath or my heart. But it did mean finding a way to give from a state of abundance. I had to offer something that didn’t make me feel depleted, and yet something exciting and enjoyable to create and present. When I received something that reciprocated the thoughtfulness, it was pure joy for both the giver and me.
These principles do not have to be limited to gift giving. You can weave this way of being into your everyday encounters. Here are 10 things you can do to maintain a sense of abundance during the recession:
- When tipping, round up. Let’s face it. Counting out the change and saving 35 or 65 cents probably isn’t going to change your lifestyle, and it likely will make you feel good to give a slightly more generous tip. It should also have a positive impact on the person you give it to. Sure, we’re all going to eat out less for a while, but you can still offer your waitperson a symbol of your generous spirit when you do.
- When you pay a bill, have gratitude for possessing the resources to pay it, and don’t pay it grudgingly. How we give influences how we get.
- When you receive payment, be conscious of the gratitude for those who were able to pay it to you. How we get influences how we give.
- Give in creative ways that cost less. Wrap presents with old magazines, email electronic greeting cards or send a text rather than make a costly phone call. The idea is to give something that demonstrates you’re thinking of a person, rather than not giving anything at all.
- Be generous with your spirit. A smile costs nothing. Kindness and compassion are always possible to give. To again quote Buddha, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
- Consider sharing magazine subscriptions with someone. This saves you both money, broadens your reading and deepens your connection with them as you discuss articles in the publication together.
- Cultivate a meditation practice. Don’t feel like you have to be doing something active all the time. Rest and contemplation are money in the emotional piggy bank.
- As soon as you receive some unexpected windfall, think about passing some of it on, or do something generous.
- Reframe a financial loss as a tuition payment, and be sure you learned the lesson.
- Whenever possible, let someone who owes you a debt lend it to a third person instead of paying you back. In psychology we call this “generalized reciprocity.” But Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the novel Pay it Forward (which became a movie) says it is simply a way of changing the world one favor at a time.