This morning, I paid my credit card bill and realized that I was sorta angry about it. It was higher than I anticipated and I experienced a kind of knee jerk reaction of negative emotion. Shortly afterward, I got an email from my husband that he made reservations at a really nice restaurant over the weekend, like I had asked him to. And the first thing that went through my head was “Oh great; that will be another high bill.” Now, I had already made the choice to go to this restaurant. We have been there before and while it is rather pricey, the food is really good, and it’s very nice as a once in a while treat. Not to mention, we also have a gift card, which will definitely help with the cost. When I tried to figure out why I reacted this way to my husband’s email, I realized it was because of my negative state of mind from paying that credit card bill.
Do you ever get unreasonably annoyed when you have to pay your monthly credit card and/or utility bills? Sometimes, does just thinking about it seem to get your blood pressure rising? I think we have all felt this way from time to time, at the very least. But why do you think that is? Paying our bills is simply exchanging value for goods and services that we already agreed to purchase. For our credit card bill, we evaluated each item, agreed to the purchase price and signed off on it. For our utility bills, we signed up for the services and agreed to pay the assigned amount. Unless something out of the ordinary happened, none of these things should really be a surprise. So it’s interesting that we would feel so negatively about it.
I think part of the issue is our perceived value of things. This perceived value could be based on past experience, word of mouth from other people or possibly even something completely arbitrary. We all know how unpleasant it is to find that something we purchase all of the time has increased in price. We know that inflation exists and that as the price of commodities goes up, everything else has to follow. But it still kinda feels like a betrayal when it happens. We have assigned a certain value to that item or service and now we are being asked to pay more. In our minds, we are now being ripped off. That thing isn’t worth its current price tag. It’s only really worth what I used to pay. Even if we have received several cost of living increases before the price went up, we cannot emotionally connect the dots.
This is an extreme case, but most of us have probably heard something along the lines of “In my day, sandwiches only cost a nickel!” Not only is this statement saying that it is no longer “your day” because the world has changed around you and you were unable to accept that change, but it is also saying that you assigned this perceived value of a nickel to a sandwich and think that all sandwiches are now rip offs. Forgetting the fact that salaries have gone up exponentially since that time. People have a hard time with any kind of change and it can be even harder when it comes to something we connect to our own survival, like money. Since this is the type of thinking we were exposed to when we were young and impressionable, there’s no doubt it had some kind of effect of our perceptions around value.
In those situations, we at least agree to pay more than our perceived value at the time or purchase or not. There are no surprises. But what about this situation? Let’s say you were to buy a couch. Your expectations are that it will last you and your family for years. You happily pay the bill because it is definitely worth the money over time. But within 6 months, the springs are going and the material is starting to wear. Now, you have definitely been ripped off! What you paid for that couch was worth way more than the 6 months you ended up getting out of it. Now this brings the fear of the unknown into every purchase. You had no idea you were paying too much for the couch when you bought it. You didn’t find out until much later. That means that at any time, you could discover you were ripped off months ago. Something like that could definitely add to the anxiety and uncertainty around paying your bills.
This anxiety is only exacerbated by marketing and competition. We are bombarded with sales and coupons and reasons why one company is better than another, which makes it very hard to determine the actual value of anything. It gets to the point where we are certain someone out there is getting more value for less money and when our bills come, our fear of being ripped off turns to a reality in our minds and this makes us angry.
To make it even more confused, sometimes our perceived value of things can be completely arbitrary. An experiment was done, where people had to pull a ping pong ball out of a box with a number on it. They then were showed a bottle of champagne and asked what they thought it was worth and what they would be willing to pay for it. The higher the number on the random ping pong ball they chose, the higher the participants valued the champagne at and the higher they were willing to pay for it. For certain things, it’s possible we may not even have a rational reason behind our perceived value.
Sometimes arbitrary perceived value can be set by others, as well. Some people will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for “antiques” or “collectors items” that many people would consider garbage. Or take something like designer handbags as an example. Most items are priced based on a combination of the raw materials and the labor to put them together. But you can spend $100 on a handbag made with similar time and materials as a $2,500 handbag made by a famous designer. The perceived value is solely based on who designed it and how it was designed. And there are people lining up to purchase these designer handbags.
On top of all this, most of us have probably been seriously ripped off at some point in our past. When I was attempting to break through in the acting scene, I signed on with a new talent agent and paid hundreds of dollars for new headshots that he said I needed. The pictures turned out to be unusable because the lighting was not at all done professionally. When I tried to get my money back, I found that the talent agent had picked up and moved, without a trace. A scar like this, where you were undeniably ripped off, intensifies the fear and anxiety we already have about being ripped off and makes things even worse.
Then on the flip side, many of us feel that we are underpaid and undervalued at work. We are certain that there are other people in our position (maybe many other people) who make much more than we do, without working anywhere near as hard. That’s just another way we are certain we are being ripped off all of the time. And it adds to the fear we have when we receive our monthly bills. What if this trend continues of us being paid less than we are worth and having to pay more for everything we purchase than it is worth? Eventually, we will be unable to pay our bills and might lose our house or even starve. I know this is dramatic and probably thrown out of proportion, but I am not talking about your rational conscious mind. I am taking about your emotions. Your secret fears and anxieties, which sometimes cannot be reached with rational thought. How many people are terrified of spiders versus the amount of people who have been hurt or killed by them? Sometimes our fears just cannot be rationalized. And that is where EFT (tapping) comes in. I will definitely be tapping on all of this tonight. Except the spider thing. Fortunately, I’ve never really been afraid of them. I actually find them kind of fascinating… when they are outside… and not in my hair!