A few years ago I found myself wondering why I was buying the things I bought. Why did I need to own two cars, a motorcycle, live in an expensive apartment, or have a walk-in-closet filled with clothes with tags still on them? Why did I need a new phone each year or get the latest tech gadget? Did I really need to spend $40 per night on dinner or go out for a weekend bar crawl and spend $200-300?

I was living life and enjoying it but I also felt unsatisfied. Something was missing and I was trying to fill it with things such as an $1800 watch and weekend retreats. I was making money but I was also spending it. I didn’t have a plan aside from stashing money into my 401(k), buying stock through my company’s ESPP (employee stock purchase program) and holding onto debt. I also held onto debt because it became a purpose for me to work.

It sounds strange but it’s quite true. I realized my relationship with money, credit and debt had to do with the lack of knowing who I was, what I loved and what I was working towards. I’ve often talked about how I’ve followed the plan from a college graduate to a senior executive. I had what some may call the perfect story but I’ve had my ups and downs.

There are still many things people don’t know about my journey.

For one, while attending college, I worked 60+ hours a week and took up to 19 credits a semester at Rutgers. I needed to work because I needed to pay for tuition. I made enough for school but since I was bad with money I was squandering it. For example, all that hard work at school and my job, I rewarded myself with a brand new BMW. On the upside, I realized that if I truly wanted something I could achieve it through hard work and determination.

I started my career at the airport as a bartender serving drinks, washing dishes and cleaning toilets to vice president of Silicon Valley credit union in under 8 years. Even when I made a leap in the amount of money I made from hourly to salary, I still had the wrong money mindset.

Money mindset? Glad you asked.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about money mindset or money mindfulness. I’ve also read tons of articles on conscious spending. Basically, all these hippy new age words focus on awareness – financial awareness to be more specific. And I couldn’t agree more.

Mindfulness is an increase attention to how we feel, think and react to the world around us. When it comes to finances such as wanting a bigger home, larger paycheck or dream vacation and faced with the reality of debt, bad credit, low income or bad investments, we end up making decisions that compound the problem. During these financial moments, our decision-making is strongly influenced by our unconscious feelings and behaviors.

When I had extreme amount of debt I spent more money and all I could think of was my inability to buy the things I wanted yet I bought many things at a whim.

Learn More >>> The Psychology of Spending

The reason why we don’t have a fulfilling life is not because we’re spending the money we make rather we’re spending the money on things that really doesn’t matter to us. That’s the part of our unconscious spending. We fear we don’t have enough so we make rash irrational financial decisions. Let’s forget about the personal finance motto of putting needs over wants. When we live without financial awareness, we continue to spend on likes not loves.

Again, what prevents us from our dream lifestyle is that we’ve put likes over loves.

I’ve heard an acronym said many times throughout the years but just never knew how it applied to money. That acronym is “WANELO” which stands for Want, Need, Love. The premise is to prioritize spending on things you absolutely love.

Take a step back and ask yourself, “how many purchases have you made that you only liked and didn’t really love?” Quite a few? You’re not alone.

Imagine all my $40 dinners I had in span of a 30 days. That’s $1200 enough for an all inclusive trip to the Dominican Republic for two people. I would complain I didn’t have the money to go on vacation but I was continuing to buy things I liked over what I said I loved…traveling.

In the last couple of years, I became more aware of the process of Loving, Needing, Liking and Wanting. If I don’t absolutely love something then I determine if it’s something I need, like or want. It’s helped me prioritize how I spend my time and spend my money.

I’ll repeat it again.

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