One Sure Way to Achieve Money Zen

You’ve heard the kōan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Kōans are the stories, questions and statements used in Zen Buddhism to get people thinking or meditating.

On the other side of taking the kōan meditation, people often receive a powerful insight.

The ultimate truth: “The sound of one hand clapping is (simply) the sound of one hand clapping.”

A thing is simply what it is, nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Meaning is something we attach to things—but we do it. It’s personal to us. It’s something we, each of us, makes up.

When we get this big ultimate truth, however it comes to us, we move toward zen—our experience of true enlightenment.

Calm people, peaceful people, enlightened people have a very intimate relationship to exactly what is, and what is NOT.

Another bumper sticker way to say this is a phrase that, to be honest, seems a little tired these days: “It is what it is.”

I’m not a monk.  My understanding of Buddhism is a beginner’s level. I don’t qualify as someone enlightened enough to offer Koans for your consideration.

What I do know is that I’ve learned how to achieve money zen.

How, you ask?

There’s really only one eternal truth I’ve discovered about how to achieve money zen that’s as evocative to me as a kōan.

Do you want to know what it is?


Here it is:

“If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it.”

I know it sounds like something you might not want to hear.  It’s likely that it strikes you as pretty basic—maybe even a no brainer.  I want you to look at this again.


Here it is again:

“If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it.”

Here’s what it means to me: if I have to put it on a credit card or take loan (except for something like real estate that grows in value), I don’t have the money, and I don’t buy it.

I’ve worked my way out of a cyclical overspending pattern. I know the pain of cutting up credit cards in a state of financial despair. I know, too, that I’m not alone.

Now think of the famous folks who had money—and also made themselves famous for losing it:

  • See Johnny Carson, on The Tonight Show.
  • See Mike Tyson, in his full face tattoo.
  • See Burt Reynolds, in all his 1970s glory.
  • See the adorable Gary Coleman asking “Whatchoo talkin’ bout Willis?”
  • And remember how much you loved to dance when MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” came on, with the boom box and parachute pants.

These are examples of some of the highest paid entertainers in recent history who failed to achieve money zen and ended up filing for bankruptcy—simply because they spent more money than they made!

One more time:

“If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it.”

We are constantly presented with opportunities to spend, invest, give, enjoy. But taking care of ourselves is a lifelong endeavor. What we make is all that we can save or spend, gift or lend.

5 Habits to Form on Your Road to Achieve Money Zen

  1. Track your account balances every day. Money rarely doubles or triples in an instant, but it can go to zero just that fast. There’s power in knowing how much cash money is available for spending AND saving.
  1. Be smart about what you buy. People with means who maintain their wealth don’t often borrow money to buy depreciating assets, including cars. When people who intend to stay rich find themselves rich, they count what they keep and are careful about what they spend.
  1. Make a plan for the things that matter most to you, and set up special savings accounts at your credit union or bank. Set up automatic transfers and put money in each when it comes to you through a paycheck or a tax refund or some other source. Stay on course, and you’ll be amazed at how fast your dreams get funded and fulfilled!
  1. Manage your self-talk and BELIEVE. You’re the only one who can take care of you. You are entrusted with the brilliance of your one true beautiful life.
    You’ve got to make certain that you can cover yourself—that you can afford yourself. Plant the seeds of your own prosperity so your own life’s dreams can be fulfilled. Invest in you.
  1. There will always be things you want that you can’t afford in the moment. Good sales people are always pitching.  And what they are selling will always be available when you have saved enough to buy whatever the thing is that you want. You can design great savings games as part of the road to fulfillment, and you can reward yourself with the purchase and a happy dance, for doing it your way!