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What the Enneagram Can Teach You About How You Handle Money

We’ve partnered with SaraJane from @Enneagramandcoffee to bring you this post. 

This cycle might sound familiar: you want to learn something new, you take in all the information you can, it’s overwhelming...then you freeze.

I call this the learn/freeze/shame cycle. We learn a ton of new information, we don’t know where to start, so we freeze. Shortly after, we experience shame in the form of “why can’t I just get this right?” What’s wrong with me that I can’t do this?” 

The quickest way to combat the learn/freeze/shame cycle is to know more about yourself and your own unique patterns. This helps you prioritize what you actually need to know and what’s just noise. 

My favorite tool for this work is the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a unique system that explores nine distinct worldviews. The theory is that we all fall into one of these distinct ways of viewing the world, and we’ve built our lives around maintaining the ideal that the worldview prescribes. 

Here’s a quick overview of each type: 

  1. The Reformer - “I must be a good person and do the right thing.” 
  2. The Helper - “I am as lovable as I am helpful.” 
  3. The Achiever - “I must always be working toward success.”
  4. The Individualist - “I need to find my unique purpose.”
  5. The Investigator - “The world is an invasive place and I need to protect my energy.”
  6. The Loyalist - “I will be OK as long as I can find certainty.”
  7. The Enthusiast - “I will be OK as long as I stay satisfied and keep my options open.”
  8. The Challenger - “The world is a dangerous place and only the strong survive.”
  9. The Peacemaker - “I will be OK as long as I preserve my peace of mind.” 

Every type has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and the beauty of the Enneagram is that it removes shame from the equation. It isn’t about placing judgement, but rather understanding our fears, motivations, and behaviors to grow. 

Below I’ve listed out a few challenges and tips to help each type understand their leanings toward money management. 

Type One - The Reformer - Moralizing Your Budget 

When keeping or not keeping the budget means that you are somehow doing the “right” or “wrong” thing— that you have failed or that you are bad, you’ve made the stakes too high. The problem with moralizing this process is that the thought of potentially failing makes it harder to even try. In addition, it can lead you to setting unrealistic standards for yourself.

No one is asking you to predict the future or never spend more than expected. Budgeting isn’t about perfect planning, it’s just about making a plan and adjusting it as you go. But if you demand a certain perfection of yourself and you can’t live up to your standards, it may seem easier to not try at all than to try and continuously fall short.

Budgeting Tips for Type One Reformers

Instead, I encourage you to see this as an experiment. Use language like, “I’m trying this out.” Or “I’m playing with the idea of...” This can help you to take the intensity out of your process and make it a bit more fun in the long run. Another way to do this is to simply anticipate falling short. Set goals that are smaller than you think you can achieve, and raise them as they become your new normal.

You don’t need to perfect your budget right away—you can start with one step at a time. Improvement is improvement—no matter how small. The truth is a perfect budgeter is not the one who gets all the numbers right the first time, but rather the one who sticks with it for the long haul. 

Type Two - The Helper - Ignoring Your Wants 

Type twos are notoriously concerned with being selfish. They often focus all of their attention onto the needs of others while ignoring their own needs at the same time.

When it comes to budgeting, you may find that you somehow always have extra money to send a gift, lend to a friend, or buy a stranger a coffee. But for whatever reason you never seem to have enough for you to get a massage. This seems all well and good, except this feel-good feeling won’t last forever. Eventually you will find yourself becoming resentful of all of the giving you’ve done without any receiving. That resentment can get pointed at the very people you were helping before, and eventually it will get pointed at the budget. 

Budgeting Tips for Type Two Helpers

It’s imperative that you build in intentional WANTS along with needs into your budget. Get honest with yourself about what it is you really want. What would you do if you knew that no one would be negatively impacted by your decision? Do that! If it’s a massage, figure out how much money you need to save a month to make that a regular thing in your life. If it’s a weekly coffee outing, build that in. Whatever it is for you, make it a priority in your budget well before you realize that you’ve over sacrificed! 

Type Three - The Achiever - The Roller Coaster Effect 

I like to call the type three energy the “Roller Coaster Effect.” It’s this big burst of energy that comes all at once. You get fired up, and you go hard. You work late, work weekends, burn your candle at both ends. And then you crash. The ride down is just as fast as the climb up was—hard. Many threes experience this as days of not wanting to leave the couch, watching more TV than usual, ordering take-out, and numbing to life. 

You are so used to sucking all of the juice out of your energy when it’s here that you forget to leave some for next week. This leaves you mentally, emotionally, and physically wiped. Until you get the rest that your body requires, you can’t access your full mojo. What I hear often is that in this downward slump you fear you will never get your mojo back, that your energy is gone forever. But inevitably once you’ve rested and checked back in with your vision you start the climb right back up. 

The way this can impact your budget is that you are likely to find yourself going in and going HARD for a while and then one day you’ll be done. You’ll be too tired to limit yourself, and you’ll just want a reward for all of your hard work and the budget gets thrown out the window. 

Budgeting Tips for Type Three Achievers

Type threes really thrive when they have a connection to their vision. I encourage you to first make sure you know your ‘“why” behind your budget. What is the reward you will give yourself for doing this work. Then, stay connected to your vision for how this will go this month, next month, etc. The more you can stay in contact with your vision and your “why,” the more you are going to be able to stay consistent long-term.

In addition, follow some of the advice I gave to ones: set goals that are easily achievable and follow through with them until they become habits. Once they are habits, THEN build onto them. Resist the temptation to go all or nothing in your budgeting life.

Type Four - The Individualist - Overlooking the Potential of Saving 

Fours can be caught up in focusing on what they’re missing. They may be quick to feel defeated and want to give up. This can look like thinking you need savings in order to start a savings account. The trouble here is that to build a savings account, you have to start somewhere. This can lead them to thinking that it’s just not an option for THEM specifically. That somehow other people are uniquely set up to save while they are somehow at a disadvantage. 

Budgeting Tips for Type Four Individualists

I encourage fours to find your motivation through action. You need to start doing in order to feel connected to the potential outcomes. Commit to 30 days of saving $10 each day and see how it feels. This will get you a few small wins under your belt and you can quickly start to see the potential in saving longer term. 

Type Five - The Investigator - Information Over Action 

Type fives value research, insight, and becoming an expert. This can cause them to spend a lot of time filling their information cup and not enough time implementing the things that they learn. They may feel like they’re not quite informed enough to start. The trouble here is that there is always going to be more to learn, and with something like a budget and savings, the sooner you begin, the better the results are going to be. 

Budgeting Tips for Type Five Investigators

I encourage type fives to set a limit to your research. Commit to a certain amount of days, a certain amount of articles, or a certain type of information you want to find. Once you’ve tackled that you must make some kind of a move. Otherwise, you are likely to stay in your cozy research bubble and forget why you started researching in the first place—to change your habits. 

Type Six - The Loyalist - Skepticism of The Methodology 

Our sixes seek certainty. Part of a search for certainty typically involves finding the right guide. Most type sixes believe that if they just find the right support then they’ll be able to do the things they want to do. This can lead to having a heightened sense of initial skepticism, overly questioning people speaking into their lives, and even over-questioning themselves. 

The trouble with this when it comes to budgeting is that it can really prolong your course of action. You get some great advice and then you run it by lots of people who all give you very vague answers—because quite frankly they don’t know what’s best for you, only you do. 

Throughout that process they’re likely to also give you ways that budgeting has worked for them, and so you go in with one option, come out with four, and you’re stuck. I think part of this decision difficulty is coming from your desire to commit for the long haul. You want to pick the right one so that you never quit. 

Budgeting Tips for Type Six Loyalists 

Instead I encourage you to trust your instincts—which are actually quite sharp by the way—and just pick a method and follow it. You can commit to it for a certain period of time with the freedom to change your mind. You don’t have to do this for life. You can pick a method that works for this season, and then another that works for you in the future. Release the pressure to stay consistent forever and allow yourself the flexibility at the beginning to change your mind if you need to. 

Type Seven - The Enthusiast - Fear of Missing Out 

The idea of limitations can be very upsetting for type sevens whose focus is primarily on keeping their world wide open. There can be this undercurrent in the psyche of the seven that says, “You have one life to live, make the most of every day.” This undercurrent can lead you into amazing experiences AND it can keep you from creating stability in your life and ultimately having even more experiences. The trouble here is that feeling limited can prevent you from investing into saving for those larger experiences that you’ve always kind of felt would just work out some day. That big trip to Asia, retiring on a houseboat in France, or even buying a house one day. These things become possible with a budget.

Budgeting Tips for Type Seven Enthusiasts

The biggest mindset shift I encourage for our sevens is to start to see budgeting as an expansion of your options. When you have a budget, you actually have MORE freedom not less. You can make more spontaneous decisions, you can take bigger risks, you can live more life. You are actually limiting yourself right now by NOT having a plan for your money or saving.

Type Eight - The Challenger - Feeling Controlled By Your Budget 

Type eights are hyper-aware of the oppressive nature of a controlling presence. They aren’t quick to take direction just because direction is being given. They want to make sure it’s good advice and that they are ultimately the one deciding to participate. This can lead to them even questioning their own attempts at controlling themselves or rebelling against their own goals because they start to feel oppressive. It’s almost like saying, “I don’t have to just because you’re telling me to” even if you’re saying that about yourself. This can lead to setting a budget and eventually feeling the need to rebel against it, just to prove that they can make decisions for yourself.

Budgeting Tips for Type Eight Challengers 

The first step to working through this is acknowledging what it is: that you are rebelling against what you want for yourself. Then, start to see this as a challenge. Something that you can conquer. To do that maybe you need to set an ambitious goal that feels impossible to meet. Almost the opposite of the advice that I’ve given to type ones or type threes: you need to show yourself that you can do hard things and by making this a challenge it will keep you motivated to prove that you can and will meet your goal. Keep the goal post moving to keep yourself interested. 

Type Nine - The Peacemaker - Not Knowing Where to Start 

Nines prioritize their peace of mind and their own comfort. They’d rather stay comfortable than experience change. Because of this, they notoriously struggle with prioritizing. I’ve often spoken to type nines about the overwhelming fear of future discomfort. They get caught up in what could be stressful for them down the road and they decide not to start at all. This can prevent our type nines from starting because they get overwhelmed before they even begin. 

Budgeting Tips for Type Nine Peacemakers

It’s almost like you see your goal as this giant brick wall that’s already been built and you don’t understand how you’re going to just make a wall appear out of nowhere. What you don’t realize is that the wall is built one brick at a time. The best thing for a nine to do is to find step-by-step instructions and just commit to following them one step at a time. The reality is that all of the discomfort that you fear is in the future. It’s not here and now. Right here and right now, you are OK. You can take that step and you’ll be fine. So, take one step at a time and then eventually your wall will be built. 

Follow SaraJane at @enneagramandcoffee on Instagram to learn more about how your Enneagram type operates in all of life’s situations, or sign up for a free trial of YNAB to get yourself moving toward a healthier financial path.

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What the Enneagram Can Teach You About How You Handle Money