Keeping track of money movement is difficult, especially if you’ve never applied yourself to tracking your spending. It’s not a skill that you suddenly develop, or wake up with and it’s definitely not inborn. It’s really easy to spend, especially when the money is expressly yours. This is why it can be hard to keep track your spending…which eventually leads you to start feeling as if your salary or income is not enough!
Your salary almost always feels as if it’s not adequate no matter how much you’re earning, unless maybe you’re in the multimillionaire stratosphere and above (I don’t know, I’ll tell you when I get there). The problem, however, is that your wishlist expands in accordance to the income you have. The more your earn, the more needs you suddenly develop; and the more things you acquire, the more expenses you have.
It’s tempting to think that if you could just get a better paying job, or a raise, you’ll afford your life, but unless you can manage your “needs list” first, you won’t be able to manage your spending, it’ll just skid out of control. It should be noted though that this applies only on the condition that you earn enough to live comfortably above the poverty datum line. Whilst earning more money will make a significant difference to someone poor, it won’t make the same kind of difference to someone leading a comfortable lifestyle. The difference wouldn’t be comparable. That being said, I realized first hand that earning more money won’t necessarily mean being more satisfied.
See, at first I thought if I got a raise, if my boss could just pay me a little more, I’d be able to get whatever I needed. The problem though was, whenever I imagined what I’d do with the added income, my wishlist would double. Even without the prospect of added income, I reconstructed my budget every 2 minutes. I added new things, scrapped off others, postponed a few things to the future, re-arranged my priority list…all sorts of endless adjustments to make it all fit. I then realized that living beneath your means is not as easy as it sounds!
How to make it feel adequate
Well for starters, you could increase the number of income streams you have. Earn more money, simple. The danger with this being your only solution, is that you run the risk of falling into a vicious cycle. You could earn more, then spend more, want more, then try to earn even more. You could spend years, or perhaps your whole life chasing more money.
Alternatively you could learn to manage your “needs list.” The first step would be to distinguish between actual needs, and wants. Needs are want you must have for a healthy, safe and functional life. Wants are things you desire even though you don’t really need them, especially not on a basic level. Wants are not bad, (not at all!) but they definitely should be managed otherwise they’ll drive you crazy.
When you separate the two successfully and then focus on what you need, and what you need above all else, that monster inside you that always wants more can be leashed and tamed. Learning to be grateful for what you have will also help in managing that want list.
At the end of the day, your income may never really feel sufficient at certain times, but becoming more self aware and developing better money habits will take you a long way towards achieving a healthier relationship with your money, but most importantly good mental well-being.