Our money baggage directs our lives. It determines the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the career we have, the size of our paycheck and savings account. Our money baggage can even determine the friends we have and the partner we choose. It takes us shopping, chooses the car we drive and, in the case of a woman in one of my workshops, even determined the temperature she kept her apartment.
Sally had two visible scars above the collar of her sweater, one on her neck and another on her chin. As I started to talk about money baggage and its origins in childhood, she became noticeably uncomfortable and introverted. While others in the class laughed at some of the things being said, she grew more serious. She was putting a lot of energy into keeping her emotions in check.
When the time came in the workshop to share her money baggage with the group, Sally said: I can’t have any more money, I’ve already used more than my allotment.
When Sally was a very young child, she was involved in a car accident and was burned over much of her body. It was severe enough that she had to be in the hospital a very long time. Her parents loved her dearly, and committed their lives to help her and care for her through this trauma. But constant and expensive medical intervention eventually wiped her parents out financially.
Sally saw all of this happening. She saw the effect her accident had on the family. They had to move out of their home and rent an apartment. They had to sell many of their possessions. They no longer took vacations. Toys at Christmas became fewer and smaller. Her parents never talked about it. They never complained or made her feel at all like she was the cause of it. But her young mind saw differently and Sally made a powerful conclusion.
She decided that she had already used up her allotment in life. Her accident had taken too much; it had used up too much money and had caused the family to become deprived.
As an adult Sally never turned the heat up in her apartment above sixty degrees. Instead, she wore a lot of sweaters like the heavy one she wore in class. She rarely if ever went out for meals. She never treated herself to anything.
This woman was shivering in her apartment because of an accident she had as a little girl. She didn’t turn up the heat in her apartment because she felt so much guilt at what her parents went through due to her injury. She associated money with pain. She couldn’t spend it on herself because she felt she did not deserve any more.
It’s not like her parents told her, “Hey, you used up your allotment.” They never did anything but try to give her the help and love she deserved. The last thing they wanted was to make her feel guilty. But she saw the financial burden she had become. She saw what her accident did to the family, what they could no longer do afterwards. Her mom had to work harder and take a second job. Sally knew it was because of her.
Through adulthood, friends visiting Sally’s apartment would think she had a little idiosyncrasy about keeping her apartment heat down and wearing sweaters all the time. It had nothing to do with that. And it wasn’t that she couldn’t afford it. Rather, she couldn’t spend five or ten dollars more a month on heat because her money baggage would not let her spend money on herself.
Tune in next week as we continue our discussion on how Money Baggage Affects Every Aspect of Our Lives.