Money mindset is such an important issue. I used to be pretty anti-money. You know, the root of all evil, causes more harm than good, if there was no money there would be no war, no famine, no greed…
Thing is, I’ve come to realise that none of these things are actually true:
Money is a tool, a symbol. It’s entirely neutral.
“It’s really just a representative of value. When you do something for someone, they give you money for your service. When someone does something for you, you compensate them for their value. In short, it’s an exchange of energy.”
Money can be used for good and bad. All the power we give it comes directly from those who wield it. When you think about it, it’s kind of your duty to make as much of it as you can, to put the power back in the right hands!
Human nature is a strange and complex thing. We like to lay the blame where we can for our own failings. But by adjusting our money mindset and cultivating a positive attitude to our cash, we can at least make friends with our finances.
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What exactly is Money Mindset?
Money mindset is essentially your attitude to cash.
Those with a ‘positive money mindset’ have a good relationship with money, they see it for what it is – a symbol, a representation, a medium of exchange, energy.
Those with a ‘negative money mindset’ believe that money causes stress and grief. Like cash is somehow inherently evil and out to get you. Think of the term “cold, hard cash” – yes, it’s descriptive, coins are indeed cold and hard – but the saying holds more menace than that. It isn’t so much a description as a character reference…
Related reading: Developing a Growth Mindset – A Beginner’s Guide
Your relationship with money
How does money make you feel? What does it represent to you?
People have lots of feelings regarding money:
For some, there is never enough of it, they associate money with hardship, suffering and strife. For others, money is abundantly available and they associate it with luxury and the finer things in life.
All straight forward, and maybe this is what we naturally assume – if you lack money, you feel bad about it, if you have plenty, you feel good….
There are those who have money at some points in their lives, but not in others; some have very strong feelings about cash flow, others are seemingly ambivalent.
There are also people who have very little money and are joyful, or who have built up a fortune but are miserable. Then there are plenty of people who live comfortably enough, have a roof over their heads, change in their pockets and food in the fridge, but maybe don’t have spare cash left at the end of the month, they cover their basic costs but nothing more.
How do they feel about money?
Well, how long is a piece of string? You can run the entire spectrum of money mindset from believing money is the root of all evil, to believing that money can save the world.
Because the thing is, how much you have of the stuff has no actual bearing on your attitude towards it...
Your Money Mindset
Your attitude towards money can come from several places…
Imagine you grew up in a home where your parents were constantly working to make ends meet, giving up precious time so that they could work and put food on the table. Maybe they were constantly making reference to the fact that they wished they had more money, that things could be so different if only they could find a way to earn more…
In this instance, you may well have something of a negative money mindset. You equate money with stress, hardship, longing and maybe even rejection, seeing it as the thing your parents gave their time to instead of you.
On a surface level, as a sensible grown-up, you know that they did what they did to give you what you needed, but little inner child you feels differently. You may not even be aware of it, but small-you may well be harbouring feelings of resentment and jealousy regarding cash, which is affecting your ability to make any in the present. Deep non?
Lack of information
We are given little to no education about money. Not understanding it (or at least our understanding of it coming from the media, where it often gets a bad rap) the world of finance can seem menacing and intimidating. It is said that money powers the world – and certainly, in the wrong hands, it can be powerfully wielded (although again, don’t forget that the same applies to money in the right hands!!)
Without an understanding of money and how it can be used mindfully and with positive purpose, it’s easy to find it overwhelming and feel the urge to keep it at arm’s length. Or to desire it, but in that way you desire doughnuts – longing mixed with guilt. (Did I say guilt – Ok, I have none when it comes to doughnuts, but I’ve heard this is a thing so the analogy stands…)
Changes of circumstance
Sometimes life throws us a curveball:
It could be a ‘good’ one (winning the lottery) or ‘bad’ (losing a job) or maybe more complex than that (a relative passing away and leaving you money) Your attitude to money in each of these circumstances could be altered.
It’s a confusing struggle, as often those who have negative feelings towards money, simultaneously want more of it and believe a sudden windfall would have all the answers.
“You can’t buy happiness”
In all of these scenarios, what is crucial to bear in mind is that money itself isn’t responsible for any of it. Your reactions to money are.
All of the above examples are emotional reactions to situations and events. It is entirely how you feel about money that shapes your relationship to it. That, in turn, dictates how well you will go on to manage your money in life.
Money doesn’t need to buy happiness – you create that yourself, just as you get to decide how you feel about money, whether you have as much as you’d like or not.
Money is necessary
The bottom line is this: If you have any issues or mental hang-ups about money it is going to seriously impact your ability to make any, and y’know, regardless of what you may have been told, money is kinda useful.
Like it or not, chances are you need at least a little bit of money to get by. There really is nothing to be gained by ranting and complaining and stating otherwise. Earn your money, love your money, let it love you back, build a positive relationship with your bank balance!
What are you worth?
Not charging enough for your services because it seems ‘crass’ to ask for what you’re worth? That mindset is going to leave you wanting.
There is a wonderful book called ‘Happy Money’ by Ken Honda, in which he discusses the idea that your money is joyful when joyfully earned. If you do something you love and provide value to people, and they in exchange for this service provide you with money, the money is happy, the client is happy, and so will you be. If you earn your money greedily or by doing something which you don’t value, everybody loses, people get short-changed or receive poor service, and the money is bitter and unhappy as a result.
We should all be striving for happy money! Ask for that raise! Go for that dream job! Start your own business! Do whatever you can to make your money happy!
Related reading: What’s stopping you from living your dream life?
So how do you create a positive money mindset?
Recognise that money is a symbol, it is neutral. The power it has is in the hands of the person that possesses it.
Money is not a villain. It cannot sneak into your home at night and steal all your belongings and all you hold dear. The following money mindset exercises can help you make friends with your finances and develop a more positive attitude to your cash:
Money mindset exercises
Get to know your money
Budget, note down what you spend on, journal how well you’ve managed to stick to your budget at the end of each week. When you have a better idea of where you are spending your money, you feel more in control of it, and the fear you associate with it lessens. Keeping a kakeibo is a wonderfully mindful way of keeping tabs on your spending, allowing you to budget and regularly assess your spending habits.
Make a wish list!
Money has the power to turn into anything you wish it to, like magic! Write a list of all the things you’d like, big and small. A big, fat selfish list of everything from a cinnamon bun to your dream home. Every experience you can think of which you would one day hope to have.
This exercise can help you see that money is really just a medium of exchange, something symbolic which can be transformed into something that will enhance your life in some way, not detract from it.
Money is everywhere
Hoarding and saving your money, building up stockpiles of the stuff and never spending it can also stem from having a negative money mindset. It comes from a fear of running out. Recognise that money is abundant. There is buckets of the stuff floating around in circulation. There is no real reason why some of it shouldn’t come your way!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t save – obviously putting money aside for specific purchases, saving for early retirement, having money aside to see you through unexpected financial droughts – these are all sound practices.
I’m talking more Ebeneezer Scrooge here – a miserly covetous approach to cash management stems from bitterness and fear. Your anxiety around money will never lessen if you let fear rule you. You might save enough for a month and still feel this isn’t enough, so you’ll save enough for a year, then 2, then 3…it will never feel like enough – and if you save a small fortune you will then fear losing it all.
The anxiety you feel around money will not cease if you can’t confront your issues surrounding it.
As I said before, money is a medium of exchange, a symbol. See it as such. Save proactively, in a way that benefits you, not drains you. The key to intelligent budgeting isn’t to spend nothing, but to spend well
Buy things you need. Buy good quality items which delight you. Support causes which mean something to you. Vote with your purse for the kind of world you want to live in. Understand that money should not be squandered and wasted OR hoarded. It is there to be used, use it well.
Spread a little happiness
A friend of mine once organised a community art event, inviting local kids and artists to get together and create. It wasn’t a sales exercise, just a bit of fun, but Thing 2 painted a colourful pattern on a scrap of paper which one of the artists at the event took a liking to and asked if she could buy. She gave my daughter £10 for her little painting, who was delighted, feeling like she had been recognised and paid a handsome fee for her work. This in itself is a nice story of the positive way in which money can change hands, but the happiness continued:
Feeling a little bad that she had purchased something from one of my children but not the other, the artist in question handed Thing 1 a £2 coin as a present. He was so happy about this coin! A simple gift in exchange for nothing!
But wait… It gets better:
We went into town after the art event, and walking past a homeless man curled up in his sleeping bag against a wall. Thing 1 stopped and started digging around in his pockets – he took his £2 coin and offered it to the man.
The man looked up, saw this boy silently holding out the coin, and took it with tears in his eyes. He thanked him again and again, with such sincerity that strangers actually stopped to watch and commented on how beautiful it was to see such a kind act from a child.
Thing 1 smiled all day long, telling everyone who would listen about how happy the homeless man had seemed and how in turn how happy that had made him. I have never seen £2 cause so much joy in the course of a day.
Spend on others
This 10 minute TED talk looks at how money CAN buy happiness, if spent correctly, which is to say, spent on others.
How do you stay positive when money is tight?
“Ok, I hear you, but as much as I appreciate this touchy-feely “money is energy” stuff, it’s hard to be positive when you’re struggling to pay the bills.”
Yes. This is valid and true. A lot of the above assumes that you have money, you just don’t feel comfortable about it. But what if you’re genuinely in need? What if you are out of work, or elbow-deep in debt?
The principles of developing a positive money mindset still apply. You need to remember that although a lack of money can create enormous stress it isn’t the money’s fault.
Building a positive relationship with your money really can help you. I have amassed a veritable debt mountain over the years which I am still chipping away at.
I have never had a job that pays more than a few pence above minimum wage, but since I got a handle on my money mindset and stopped blaming my lack of finances for all my woes, I have been able to take control and start saving for the first time ever! I have been able to make empowered choices about how I want to earn my money and start building my own online business!
Little by little, I have learnt to see that regardless of whether I have money or not, how I feel about it as an entity isn’t going to dig me out of a hole. And feeling negatively may even affect my ability to do so… I genuinely believe that improving my attitude to money has helped me to get my head out of the sand and start doing something about my financial situation.
If you are struggling, consider getting in touch with Stepchange, a debt charity that offers free, confidential advice and services, online or over the phone. Your positive money mindset could be just a phone call away!
Money mindset books:
Happy Money – Ken Honda
I mentioned this one earlier on in this post. One of my absolute favourite books on the subject of money mindset! Packed full of interesting observations of different types of people and attitudes they have towards money, as well as tips for overcoming your money mindset obstacles. Ken Honda, the self-titled ‘happy little millionaire’ writes in an infectiously upbeat way that can’t fail to make you smile!
You are a Badass at Making Money – Jen Sincero
Oh Jen, how I love you! If you know me you’ll know how much I love Jen Sincero, her no-nonsense, tell it like it is style had me from the first word I read. Funny, intelligent and inspiring, this is a great book for blowing your outdated attitudes towards money out of the water.
Money – Know More, Make More, Give More – Rob Moore
An honest and interesting look at attitudes to money, how to create wealth and win the money game by self-made multi-millionaire Rob Moore. This one is well worth a read!
What are your money mindset struggles?
Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about money. Does it delight you? Or leave you cold? Let me know what (if anything!) you struggle with, and what steps have worked/failed for you!