Money is just a story

While clearing clutter from the Notes app on my Mac I bumped into this short note: “Money is just a story. Seth Godin.”

Having no recollection of the source, I quickly googled the note and pop came this short and sweet blog post by Seth published more than four years back. It’s still darn profound. Just what you expect from him!

Your story about money

Is a story. About money.

Money isn’t real. It’s a method of exchange, a unit we exchange for something we actually need or value. It has worth because we agree it has worth, because we agree what it can be exchanged for.

But there’s something far more powerful going on here.

We don’t actually agree, because each person’s valuation of money is based on the stories we tell ourselves about it.

Our bank balance is merely a number, bits represented on a screen, but it’s also a signal and symptom. We tell ourselves a story about how we got that money, what it says about us, what we’re going to do with it and how other people judge us. We tell ourselves a story about how that might grow, and more vividly, how that money might disappear or shrink or be taken away.

And those stories, those very powerful unstated stories, impact the narrative of just about everything else we do.

So yes, there’s money. But before there’s money, there’s a story. It turns out that once you change the story, the money changes too.

— Seth Godin, Your Story About Money

The other reason why it’s so profound is the timing — I found this just when I needed the inspiration to start budgeting again and pull back from worrying too much about having too little to splurge this month and the next. What happened? Here’s what — I set up fiscal goals — to save for a smartphone and a new car (2020 and 2021 respectively). It was painful, considering that I’d meant to buy both these big-boys’-toys this year.

The key is to contribute to these “funds” every month, without skipping a payment. It’s freaking hard to stick to a schedule when nobody’s monitoring you. But what’s harder… and still funny is how our priorities change and instead of being thankful that we’ve got our basics covered we whine about the things that are unnecessary and wasteful.

The bills inside my wallet tell a story. The digits displayed on those payments apps, my Starbucks card, internet bank accounts, and even my debit card tell a story.

Irrespective of how good or bad your story is you control the narrative. And hence, you can change the story. You know what happens next.

If you’ve ever wondered words can kick you in the rear… be assured, they do.

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