If you asked money, what do you think it would say about your relationship with it? Do you have a good one or does it need work? Most people neglect their relationship with money. As with any relationship, if you’re just going through the motions, then you’re going to get mediocre results – including your relationship with money.

It’s no secret that over 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. With the recent shutdown of the country (and world) it became very evident how vulnerable people are financially. This time frame has stirred up a lot of fear about the future and survival. The quarantine provided an opportunity for reflection and reevaluation. What do you want to do differently? How will you be different? Here are some suggestions for improving your relationship with money.

Money Mindfulness

Creating a healthy relationship with money begins with your mindset. Get to know your habits with money. If you want different results, then you have to behave differently towards it. Understanding where your money is going helps you be more mindful about it. Keep track of your money. Determine where you’re spending it. As a former tax accountant, I would hear the same response from almost everyone when reviewing their taxes. They would say, “I made that much money, where did it go?”

Tracking your spending gives you a clear picture of your habits. Until you see it on paper (spreadsheet or app), you’ll continue with the same spending patterns. By understanding your money habits, you can then make choices towards allocating your spending differently.

Shift spending habits by taking 3-5 seconds before you make a purchase to decide if you really need it. It’s easy to drop $5-10 or more at a coffee shop or on lunch. This habit repeated several days a week can add up to spending $25-50 per week. Over the year this could be $1300-$2600 that could be allocated towards your money goals.

Tip: Spend 15-20 minutes a day reviewing your spending for the day. This exercise helps you be more mindful about spending. Think about how your relationship will change if you respect money enough to spend a little time with it.

Get Educated

Your money mindset will only grow to the extent you do. Most people aren’t taught about money or spend much time learning about it. In fact, several years ago Dr. Gerald Bell, from the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill, did a study with 4,000 retired executives on regret.

After years of research, Dr. Bell boiled down his research to eight specific regrets. Guess what showed up as life regret #3 – managing money. These executives felt they didn’t have enough financial education, so they did what they saw their parents or friends did with their money. They felt that if they had the proper education and availability to financial products they could have done more with their money.

Many people believe they need to make more money to become better off. Simply making more money isn’t the answer. The truth is, most people will continue to spend everything they earn. What did you do with your last raise or bonus? Until the mindset around money changes, the patterns continue.  There are many resources out there to help you learn how to manage money and achieve your financial goals – no matter what age or stage you are in life. You’re in a relationship with money for most of your life. A little education about managing and growing money goes a long way.

Tip: Find people who are doing what you want to do with money and learn from them. Take courses, watch webinars, read books about people that inspire you to discover what works for your relationship with money.

Set Goals

The key to a great relationship is working towards common goals. What money goals are you working towards? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A goal unwritten is only a wish.” I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a Fairy God Mother granting my money wishes or a money tree popping up in the backyard. By setting goals you’re more likely to achieve them. Even small money goals can make a big difference over time. Money is energy. Where your attention about money goes is where your money flows.

Every dollar you earn needs a job. Whether it’s paying down debt, preparing to buy a home, pay for kid’s college or retirement, allocating money towards your goals is vital to receiving more. It shows you respect yourself and money enough to have a plan. Planning provides clarity, direction and peace of mind. It’s interesting, the more you play the money game the more fun it becomes.

Tip: After tracking your money, find at least $200 in your spending to patterns to allocate towards your money goals.

Money & Emotions

Just like personal relationships, money triggers a range of feelings from guilt and shame from overspending or spending on yourself to delight when you do something that brings you joy. Maybe there is fear about managing it because of childhood experiences with it or lack of knowledge about money. Avoidance isn’t bliss. In fact, it’s costly. How you feel about money impacts the relationship you have with it.

Many people experience fear and other issues around money because they project their past experiences into the future. Be present with how you feel about money. Notice feelings of anxiousness, worry or concern. When you feel uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge them, take a deep breath and choose a different feeling. This activity stops the reaction circuit and shifts you towards creating what you want.

Take it a step deeper. When you feel yourself being triggered by money memories, journal about your feelings. Be honest. Go deep. After you’ve identified what you feel, think about how you want to feel with money.

Tip: Next time you pay bills or go to buy something, take a deep breath and tune into how you feel. Do you hurry and pay the bills or make the purchase and ignore your feelings? Simply by being more present about how you feel about money helps you be more mindful about your spending intentions.

Your relationship with money will only change to the extent you do. If you’re willing to make the effort to learn and grow, you’ll be more likely to reach your financial goals. Money won’t force you to do it, and the patterns only change when you do. The relationship you have with money is one of the longest relationships you will ever have. Enhancing your relationship with money will help you feel more confident and provides peace of mind. What habits are you willing to change to improve your relationship with money?