Scarcity & Finances

When I reviewed the Energy of Money book last week, I forgot to mention an important topic that really resonated with me: personal perception of scarcity.

Scarcity is all about your outlook and often has little to do with your actual situation. Over time your sense of scarcity becomes so ingrained that it almost becomes part of your personality, like being perpetually optimistic or pessimistic. This personal view of life tints your entire financial scenario and reflects your perceived scarcity or abundance

One of the first book exercises asks you to reflect on is your family’s financial circumstances at the time of your birth and when you first remember learning about your family’s financial standing. Personally, I grew up quite poor , but always felt like we had enough and knew others who had less, so I felt well taken care of even though we often lived paycheck to paycheck. Hubby grew up in a pretty affluent family, but he didn’t think about it much either way and mostly took his family’s financial status for granted.  Some people in the book remember thinking their family was really poor until they found out they were actually well off, but their parents simply feigned scarcity constantly.  It made me wonder what early lessons our kids are learning about scarcity.

I realized after our last “money honey” talk, where Hubby was exclaiming about how “we’re hemorrhaging money“, that we simply have two different perspectives on scarcity. Based on my family background, I don’t panic unless we don’t have enough to pay the bills. Hubby’s family finance experience says that if we’re not saving/investing quite a bit more than we are making, then something is wrong. Obviously there is a big difference. It’s not that I wouldn’t prefer for us to be getting ahead rather than treading water, but we clearly are coming from different places on the scarcity spectrum.

Upon more reflection, I realized that food is an area where I often “feel” scarcity. My family never was hungry growing up, but we did live a forty-five minutes from a big shopping center, so we only did a big shopping trip once a month. So even though I can walk to a supermarket in 10 minutes, I still shop as though I need to have enough to feed our family for two weeks. It’s partly because I have the habit of shopping at several different specialty stores, where I buy certain things at each one – so I know if I go to TJs that I’m going to buy cereal for the month! The verdict is out as to whether this actually saves us any money or time, but I do love my weekly organic delivery. And even though he had plenty growing up, Hubby seems like my perfect match, because he gets anxious when we start to run slightly low on food. Likewise, it used to be a pet peeve of mine when we got low on something he would say that we needed to use it up (so we could buy more), but my thought was always that we should make it last as long as possible before replacing. 

But I am guilty of feeling scarcity when it comes to kids clothing. I have this sense that suddenly they’ll outgrow stuff and I’ll be stuck shopping in season at full price. So, my habit is to buy in advance for the season or year ahead on sale. I’ll buy a whole bunch twice a year and almost nothing in between. Our Big Guy is a big grower, and early on was growing out of clothes in no time flat. So I rightfully felt like he always needed new clothes. On the other hand, Girly’s growth is more average and she’s actually in clothes sized for her age. Out of my shopping habit, last fall I bought Girly clothes in the next size up thinking that she would grow into them in a few months. Consequently, I realized the other day that she probably has enough new clothes in her closet to last her another year! Obviously, we have no true scarcity in the clothes department, but my perception is driving our purchases. I also realized that I’ve felt the need to buy almost all new clothing our kids because Hubby’s family was always very well dressed, and I want him to feel a sense of pride and wealth in seeing our kids in nice clothing. With this enlightenment, I’m committing myself to buying more used than new and not buying more clothes until they truly need them…a big personal revelation 😉 

What’s your view on scarcity?
Does it differ from your partners?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

2 thoughts on “Scarcity & Finances

  1. Ms. Miel

    You hit the nail here. I think that money really depends on how we look at it. I find that as I travel, my perceptions change as much as the currency does. It is also one of those areas more difficult on relationships, whether it be spouses, kids, parents, or friends.

    Keep up the great writing!



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