Changing our patterns with money: how your wallet is a gateway into uncovering your core beliefs

Changing our patterns with money: how your wallet is a gateway into uncovering your core beliefs
29th June 2018 Tim Malnick
In Money & Life

I got an email today from someone who wanted to come on one of my Money workshops but wasn’t sure what to pay. I charge in different ways for these workshops, and for this one I used a simple formula based on age and income[1]. This person’s email was deliberately jokey. He explained that it was his birthday the day before the workshop so he wasn’t sure what figure to put in for his age. Actually it only makes £1.25 difference!

But the exchange got me thinking about how changing our habits with money can be a gateway into some of our deepest, least conscious core patterns. This is what I wrote back to him:

“I have never been asked the question about birthdays before! I reckon it makes £1.25 difference – so feel free to be either ‘generous’ or ‘stingy’ as you prefer. In the spirit of the work I suggest choose whichever option is most amusing and delightful for you – not which seems most worthy or honest!”

 There are two main points in this relatively trivial example:


We should focus less on quantity and more on quality in our money transactions.

Our culture and upbringing strongly encourages us to focus on quantities of money. ‘How much?’ We are preoccupied with whether we have ‘enough’ (without ever really knowing what ‘enough’ is.) We make judgements every day about whether something is ‘cheap’, ‘good value’, or ‘too much’. We think a lot about how much or little to charge or how much or little we get paid. This is entirely about quantities. It reflects a preoccupation with the amount or the number involved.

We pay very little attention to qualities in relation to money. A quality question would be, ‘how do I conduct this negotiation with humour, love or kindness? (It could of course be any quality, these are just three that popped to my mind). Another quality question is, ‘how can this money exchange deepen and strengthen our relationship?’ Another is, ‘how will this transaction support the work that is most precious to us both?’ Once we focus on quality questions we put at the foreground questions of relationship, connection, service and purpose.

Our society has become deeply confused in the way that it prioritises quantity over quality in so many areas. There are various philosophical and historical reasons why we do this[2]. The outcome is that individually and collectively we make decisions that maximise money flow, but damage relationships, connection and meaning. The personal damage is to our vitality, well being and fulfilment. The collective damage is to communities, societies and the natural environment in which businesses function.

Remembering to focus on qualities more than quantities in our money behaviours is a worthwhile, interesting and potentially radical experiment.


We could consciously experiment with our money patterns and deliberately broaden our repertoire.

This leads to the next point. Without realising it most of us have extremely fixed and rigid habits around money. We each have our unique, and as it turns out somewhat odd, ways of ‘doing money’. We bring our personal judgements and assumptions about what is too much, not enough, too generous, too stingy, irresponsible or sensible etc. Because these are largely unconscious, we don’t tend to ever question these stories. We just go through life thinking that this is just ‘how things are’ and ‘how money is’. We accept as orthodoxies behaviours and beliefs about money that are in fact very much personal. The Money workshop is entirely about uncovering these unconscious beliefs and finding ways to become freer and more flexible.

As a starting point it is a great experiment just to consciously reverse your habits with money. If you are always the first to open your wallet in the pub then experiment with being the last. If you are always the last, then experiment with being the first! This is much less about money itself and much more to do with using money as a gateway to personal discovery. By consciously reversing a habit, in a playful and curious way, you will provoke an emotional response. And money is certainly emotional! It might feel deeply uncomfortable, exposing, odd or stupid. This is excellent – you are discovering some fixed and rigid view you hold, which is certainly limiting your capacity to be creative, dynamic and free in life itself.

As you start to experiment in this way, notice how these small money experiments you are doing are telling you something relevant to other aspects of your life. Try buying the really expensive bunch of flowers instead of the reasonably priced one. Ask a friend to buy you lunch just for the fun of it. Be extremely mean when you are next asked for sponsorship or a donation! Each time you do this and work with the emotion that provokes, you are discovering a hidden aspect of yourself that will come in handy sooner or later.

There is much to discover and play with. As with money, so in life. As we become more conscious about the underlying beliefs that create our very particular fixed money behaviours, we are in fact becoming more conscious about our own rigid personal identities. As we experiment with broadening our money repertoire, so our capacity to respond wholeheartedly, creatively and courageously to the flow of life itself will expand.



[1] For this workshop the formula is: (£2.50 x your age in years) + (1/3rd of 1% of gross annual income) +/- 10% discretionary. It is intended to create a rough sliding scale that takes into account both income and accrued assets over time. Some people really like the formula, others find it rather provocative. Both can be great gateways into further exploration of our unconscious money beliefs.

[2] See for example: Fritjof Capra: The Turning Point; Maurice Berman: The Re-enchantment of the World;