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It’s all too easy to fall into a rhythm of mindless spending in the hustle and bustle of modern life.
This cycle of buying and seeking can leave us feeling empty, constantly chasing a happiness that always seems just one purchase away. But what if the key to a genuinely fulfilling life lies in turning toward the people around us, our communities?
Research conducted by Cigna and Morning Consult in 2022 reveals a startling truth: 58% of U.S. adults feel lonely. This number may feel palpably higher in cities, where individualism often overshadows communal living, especially for women who navigate these spaces independently.
It’s not uncommon to turn to material possessions to fill the void created by isolation. Nearly half of Americans admit they’ve spent money to improve their mood, according to a recent LendingTree survey. Women are far more likely to engage in this behavior than men, at 57% vs. 40%.
Yet this feeling tends to be fleeting. Nearly two-thirds of shoppers who have experienced buyer’s remorse regretted their purchase because it was unnecessary, according to a 2023 Google/Ipsos poll.
Then, of course, there are the financial consequences of mindless spending.
The average single female spends 110% of her monthly after-tax income, while men spend 95.8%, according to data compiled by Capital One Shopping. Over time, these habits of living paycheck to paycheck and overspending can lead to financial instability and strain, impeding progress toward longer-term goals.
Suppose mindless spending merely addresses the symptoms of loneliness rather than the underlying issue. How can we overcome the emotional load of social disconnection without falling into the trap of consumerism?
The answer may lie in the power of building a community.
Being part of a community provides a sense of belonging and identity. This connection to others can be more rewarding than the temporary satisfaction that comes from spending. For example, research indicates that the stronger our sense of belonging, the better our mental health and well-being.
In addition, communities provide opportunities for shared experiences, learning, and personal growth. Engaging in community events or projects creates memories and builds skills that enhance one’s life more than material possessions.
Beyond benefiting our emotional and physical wellness, community may also be favorable for our finances. In a Money and Mental Health survey of nearly 5,500 people, 72% of respondents said mental health problems made their financial situation worse, underscoring the profound connection between emotional well-being and financial stability.
How to forge connections
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Connecting with others is knowing your neighbors’ names or attending your neighborhood block party. But, more importantly, it’s about creating a network of support and continual shared experiences that enrich our lives in ways shopping never can.
It begins with the simple things: a smile to a neighbor or a stranger you pass on the street, a hello to the barista who makes your morning coffee. These small acts of kindness aren’t just effective for reducing stress and improving emotional well-being; they can also make us braver and bolder in connecting with people.
Some other ways to forge connections:
- Volunteer: Participating in local initiatives can also foster a sense of belonging. Moreover, volunteering for causes dear to your heart can open doors to new friendships and connections. It’s a way of giving back that enriches the community and your life.
- Engage with hobbies: Explore where your interests align with others, whether through local clubs, online platforms, or community centers. Be it a book club, a yoga class, or a gardening or dining group, these are activities where you can find like-minded individuals and potential friends. For example, I discovered Jill Daniel’s Happy Women Dinners when looking for more community. Jill plans lunches and dinners, usually with a female book author as the featured speaker.
- Initiate opportunities: Above all, be proactive. Start a neighborhood garden or safety watch group if there isn’t one. Collaborate with neighbors and new connections to create initiatives that benefit everyone. There’s immense fulfillment in contributing to the well-being of your community.
In turning toward each other, we find what we’ve been searching for — connection, belonging, and a sense of purpose and fulfillment that no shopping spree can provide.
— By Cathy Curtis, certified financial planner and founder and CEO of Curtis Financial Planning. She is a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.