Saturday, May 28, 2011

Peace and Plenty (Sounds Like a Good Concept)

I am rather excited to be working diligently on the various challenges and issues in my life, but some days I just wish there weren't so darned many of them. I'm doing well on the self-care front, for the most part. Not "overworking" is easy while I am still off on stress leave, but the true test will come in a few weeks when I head back to the office. I've leant a lot and am pretty positive that I have found a new way to live and can create a new relationship with work. One that won't kill me. I am eating relatively properly but still tend to make one bad food decision per day. But I am okay with that, for now. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about my relationship with money, and although I have made some great strides by cutting back on major purchases that I can't afford, I still tend to treat myself to...well, too many little things.

I blogged a few days ago about earning a credit at a used book store, so I have no business cruising the book stores where there are no credits, no free books. Not for me, or anybody. But I do. In a somewhat ironic life moment, yesterday I found myself drawn to and quickly obsessed with a book display that showcased Sara Ban Breathnach's latest book.

It's a bit difficult to read on this image, but the title of the book is Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity. How could I resist? I bought the damned book.

I just started reading it last night, so can't provide much of a summary, but I found an excellent synthesis of Sarah's main ideas on a website called Second Act. That website appears to be for people who are older than fifty. It still surprises me to realize or remember that I am one of those people. More specifically, the site is for people who would like to make career changes at midlife.

In any case, like Oprah, I was quite affected by this author's book Simple Abundance when it came out in the 1990s. I, like millions of others, started keeping a gratitude journal around that time, thanks to the book. So I figure I will give this new book a shot too. I realize that Ban Breathnach is not a financial expert, but this book looks to be more about our emotional relationship with money, which is intriguing to me.

So here's the summary with thanks to Kerry Hannon, who interviewed Sarah Ban Breathnach and wrote this great article for Second Act in January of this year. Thank you, Kerry!

Here is what Kerry gleaned from the interview:

1. Be calm and carry on.

"My heroine is Mrs. Miniver from the 1942 wartime movie," Ban Breathnach says. "She showed grace under pressure during World War II. Nothing in her daily round was too insignificant to become an uplifting source of reflection, revelation, reconnection and renewal, even money worries. She reminded us how to be grateful for the small particulars of our everyday epiphanies." Those might include unread library books to look forward to and choosing beer over wine if you are on a budget.

(Note from Dawn: For those of us in recovery, doesn't matter how cheap that beer is - we can't have it. Replace above with - "look forward to and choosing Tim Horton's over Starbucks." And - we should all be on a budget.)

2. At the end of every day, write down the five things that brought moments of peace or a feeling of plenty.

Sometimes it's when a friend treats you to lunch or the repair bill is less than you imagined.

3. Don't cry over the spilled milk or the spent pennies.

This is especially important if you have overspent around the holidays. "Just wipe it up," she says. "Forgive yourself. Get back on track."

4. Monitor the money you spend daily.

Keep a little pad and write down what you spend each day. If there isn't money for going out to the movies, stay in. Know exactly how much money you have and how much you owe. "The amount of money currently in your bank account is a fact," she says. "The amount you spend today is a choice. And the way you reconcile both is through clarity."

5. Bring back grandmother's envelope system.

Allocate cash for all spending. It's old-fashioned, but Ban Breathnach says this system really works to get you back on the path to solvency. "Go get a new envelope and mark it, ‛Just for Me,'" she recommends. Take your loose cash and change, put it in the envelope and hold it in your hand. "For those of us learning the way to financial serenity and solvency, the envelope system teaches prudence, patience and perseverance. You can only spend what you have. The tangible feel of those envelopes keeps our impulses in check."

6. Adopt the "Million Dollar Baby" rule.

Protect yourself at all times. That's the advice Clint Eastwood doles out in the Academy Award-winning movie Million Dollar Baby in his role as a trainer for Hillary Swank's character, a thirtysomething waitress who dreams of being a professional boxer. Ban Breathnach advises keeping a separate bank account in your own name. "Have a pin money stash at home," she says. "Pin money stashes grow quickly and will reward you with a growing sense of financial serenity."

7. Seek well-spent moments.

Money can't buy a truly well-spent moment. "Keep track of your well-spent moments every day with gratitude," she says, "and you will accumulate a private numbered account of wealth and wisdom the world cannot take away from you."

8. Keep a contentment chest.

Cover an ordinary lidded gift box with beautiful fabric and collect what makes you happy, one clipping at a time. "Our sacred passions and wants become secretive and shameful because we believe we can't afford our dreams now," she says. "So create a holding place. Inside mine is a travel promotion on cardboard about great train journeys I hope to go on someday (for example, the Art Deco Orient Express from London to Venice), letters I've saved, matches from wonderful bars and restaurants."

9. Take a day and don't spend.

See how it feels. You might start to feel itchy. "Thrift is a thrill -- an art to be enjoyed today, making possible contented tomorrows."

10. Learn to live by your own purse.

"There is nothing that I ever bought -- not art or designer clothing -- that feels as good as solvency and having the money for the unexpected," Ban Breathnach says. "Winter does come. We need a coat. It does rain. We need an umbrella."


  1. I'm intrigued. And you know what, we came home for lunch after working out instead of eating there. It's a start!

    I really need to learn some self-control. I immediately bought 4 other books you had suggested to me and have yet to even open them. They are however, teetering on my 'other pile of 'I must get to this book' on my nightstand. So I'll wait with this one and look forward to your interpretation 'Peace and Plenty'.

  2. Tell you what Debra Ann - I have some of your books here and I will return them to you in July with an armful of mine...we can trade back and forth for a few years!