I’m a little obsessed with the overall concept of self-development. A meaningful life, to me, always involves trying to grow and know myself a little better every day. I want to be a better person tomorrow than I am today. Naturally, I read advice columns constantly. Half of the podcasts I listen to also revolve around giving some sort of advice, whether that’s on relationships, finding work/life balance, or even cleaning. I love taking personality quizzes to try to come up with new ways to describe myself. I love the concept of “knowing yourself better” that Gretchen Rubin so often talks about — and for me, a huge part of that is knowing how I (and those around me) express affection and prefer to receive it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the “5 Love Languages,” there’s an entire book you can read about them. In short, though, they are different ways we like to be shown love, as well as how we show others we love them. For instance, if your love language is “words of affirmation,” you most often value being told that you are loved and appreciated. “Quality time” means spending uninterrupted time with others is the most meaningful expression of love for you. “Physical touch” means you love showing affection through (appropriate) touching, whether that’s kissing your partner or hugging a close friend. “Receiving gifts” is also a love language, but it doesn’t mean you’re materialistic — you just value showing thoughtfulness in a tangible way (you’re probably the best guest at a dinner party, always armed with a hostess gift). And people who like expressing love through “acts of service” feel that there is no better way to show someone you care than through doing chores or favors that help them out. (Necessary caveat: love languages are a great way to understand your loved ones, but they should never be used to excuse generally inconsiderate behavior. Not helping out around the house because “acts of service isn’t my love language” is nothing more than a dick move.)
Your love language is not just limited to romantic relationships — it will affect how you show you care for friends and family members, too. And for me, learning my love languages has also helped me understand how I can love myself better. For example, one of my top languages is physical touch, so I think it makes total sense that one of my favorite methods of self-care is my skincare routine.
I recently realized that, just as you can use your personality type to help you get better with money, you can learn your personal love languages and lean into them in order to help you get a better handle on money and save more. If you take the time to consider how you communicate affection, you can apply that language to your money habits. So, without further ado, here are five different tactics you can start using to save more money, based on your love language:
1. Quality Time: Schedule money dates with your partner or a friend.
If you feel most loved when spending active, uninterrupted time with a loved one — no Netflix required — try bringing money into the equation. Schedule one night a week to have “money dates” with your partner, roommate, family member, or a friend. If it’s someone who is directly affected by your relationship with money, e.g. your partner or roommate, money dates are a good thing to be having in the first place. Checking in on your shared money situation is a good way to stay on top of where you both stand, and can help hold you accountable for expenses and savings you’re responsible for. If you don’t share finances with any other person, find someone else you’re close to for scheduling regular money check-ins.
This is a great way to make sure that you’re staying on track with your money goals. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you know that teachers will often instruct you to say thank you for showing up for yourself. The same idea is key here — simply showing up for your money means you’re dedicating at least some mental energy to it. It’s a lot harder to ignore your finances when they’ve become a part of your social schedule. Bonus, after you’re finished talking money on each “date,” you can get to talking about more fun or interesting matters.
2. Physical Touch: Use the cash envelope system.
Okay, here’s the thing: you are not going to get the same mushy feelings from touching an inanimate object as you would hugging a loved one. But if your primary love language is physical touch, there’s a high probability you’re a tactile person in general. Tactile learners absorb information better when they are physically carrying out an activity rather than simply reading or hearing information.
If this sounds like you, try out the cash envelope system. Instead of checking in on your spending via your checking account website or budgeting app, you physically withdraw cash every time you get paid and divvy out each portion of your budget (that isn’t paid online, like your rent or other bills) into labeled envelopes. Whatever you put in each envelope is the exact amount you have for that month — and if you want to go over-budget, you have to physically dip into another category’s envelope to do so. The idea is to get used to staying within your own self-imposed limits, so that eventually, you can stick to your budget without constantly visiting an ATM. (Though if you find cash is the most helpful way for you to control your spending, by all means, stick with it!)
3. Words of Affirmation: Keep a money mindfulness journal.
Not everyone who identifies with the “words of affirmation” love language keeps a journal, but if you’re the kind of person who thrives on verbal or written encouragement, it’s definitely worth trying out. There are many ways to keep a money journal, but for this specific love language, I’d recommend focusing on the positive. Every day, write down one good money-related choice you made. It could be anything from “reached my monthly retirement contribution goal” to “only drank the free office coffee.” Recording your wins, both big and small, is a great motivator for someone who might need more verbal encouragement. Not only are you actively reminding yourself of what you’re doing right, you’re also creating a detailed record of how far you’ve come — which is super helpful to look back on during days when you’re feeling discouraged by life.
4. Acts of Service: Volunteer your time to help with a loved one’s budget.
I’ve noticed that people who fall into the “acts of service” love language category are often a lot better helping others before they help themselves. This obviously isn’t true for everyone, but if it sounds like you, try taking a new route when it comes to budgeting: volunteer to help out someone you love. The more time you spend helping them figure out where they could be saving and how to approach their debts, the more you’ll be thinking about money, period. It’s much easier to figure out your own finances when you have experience helping out someone else.
5. Receiving Gifts: Come up with a specific rewards system.
Gifting yourself doesn’t sound as good as getting a thoughtful gift from someone else — until you realize that nothing feels better than being able to pay for a major purchase without swiping a credit card and feeling guilty about it later. I currently have a pact with myself: I have a big-ticket item in mind that I’ve been wanting to buy (which I’m not going to name here because I don’t want to jinx it, sorry!), and I know I could technically afford it. But I still haven’t maxed out my retirement account for 2018, which is my number-one priority this year. I’ve decided that my reward for maxing it out — hopefully in December! — will be getting to splurge on this one major, self-indulgent thing.
Treating yourself only feels special if you don’t do it very often, or if you only do it as a reward for taking care of something else. Come up with your own tailored-to-you rewards system — maybe once you’ve maxed out your emergency fund, you’ll finally be able to take that trip to London you’ve been dreaming about for years. Or, maybe you’ll let yourself splurge on that statement coat you’ve been eyeing once you’ve hit a big milestone with your student debt. Whatever your plan is, make sure to write it down — and only treat yourself once you’ve reached that goal. It will mean so much more that way.
Holly is the Executive Editor of TheFinancialDiet.com. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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