Money and Impure Thoughts

Maybe you work in the not-for-profit sector, or in academia.

Maybe you’re an artist, a writer, a creative.

What you do is supposed to be noble and pure, inspired by something far greater than a love of grubby money.


At some point, you’ve picked up the idea that money is a bit grubby and earthy. You’re trying to focus on the essence of what you do – not the paycheck you get at the end.

Except, when you’ve got bills to pay, those impure thoughts keep coming back.

You can’t help dwelling on money. You can’t avoid thinking about whether a different job would make more, or whether you’re spending too much time on stuff that doesn’t actually earn you anything, or whether you should create something from the heart or something which you hope will sell.

Money Isn’t Impure

There is nothing intrinsically bad or impure about money. Whether it’s dollars (of Australian, Canadian or American flavours), or Euros, or pounds, or some other currency entirely … it’s just a token that makes life a bit more straightforward than it was under a barter economy.

Yes, we might be greedy. Yes, we might live in an unjust society. That’s not the fault of money itself – it’s our fault and it’s about how we use our money.

The Myth of the Starving Artist

We often get the idea that artists or good people – charity workers and so on – have to be poor.

The truth is, if you’re struggling to meet the bills and put good, healthy food on your table, then you’re not going to be giving your best to the world.

Any work which involves giving of yourself – your compassion, your energy, your creativity – means that you need to have enough to give. That means coming from a place where:

  • Your basic needs are met (food, shelter, companionship)
  • You feel secure (you can pay the bills)
  • You have a sense of abundance and joy in your life (enough money to treat yourself to the little things which make a big difference)

There is nothing romantic or clever about ending up in debt, or in ill health due to lack of money.

You can’t do your best work when you’re constantly anxious (and trying to deny your anxieties) about whether you have enough money or not.

Money and Action

Just sitting around thinking about money isn’t going to get you very far.

Perhaps you daydream about being rich (and then feel bad for wanting that). Maybe you fret over and over again about the same issues – paying the rent, paying off that credit card, buying the equipment which you need to work happily and effectively.

Dwelling constantly on money isn’t healthy. But those thoughts will keep on coming up if you don’t do anything to make your situation better.

So, rather than thinking – and trying not to think – roll your sleeves up and take action.

(Yes, if you’re prone to overanalysis and deep contemplation, this can be hard. You might feel that you have to get everything figured out before you begin. But when it comes to your finances, just getting moving is half the battle. You can correct your course as you go along.)

So where can you begin? How about:

  • Open those statements which you keep ignoring, and figure out your true financial position (it may not be as bad as you think).
  • Keep a spending log to see exactly what your money is going on.
  • Make one small change – like taking a packed lunch – and put the money you save into an emergency fund.

Got any tips to add? Any stories about times when you’ve seen money as something “impure” and ended up obsessed with it?

(Image by Flickr user Scarleth White)

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One Response to “ Money and Impure Thoughts ”

  1. Emily says:


    Great post! I love that you point to small individual actions. One of the simplest and most effective ways to maximize what money you have is to actively keep up with basic mail maintenance. It keeps you informed of exactly where your finances are. Better to know exactly how rough they are than to just cross your fingers!

    My next thought on the topic goes in a slightly different direction, probably because I work for nonprofits in the US. Yes, it’s up to me to have my financial ducks in a row. But the systemic underfunding of nonprofits and underpaying of nonprofit workers leaves me with very few financial ducks to wrangle!

    You’re exactly right – money is not impure. Our work would still be for the greater good even if we were earning enough money to someday buy a small house, or to not have panic attacks over student loans or medical bills. Why are we paid as though we don’t deserve to earn money for what we do? At some point we nonprofiters need to set aside the task of maximizing our pennies and address the unrealistic expectations of our funders.


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