There’s a lot of emotions that go along with money. So many of our highs and lows can be connected to our finances. We get a raise at work and we feel great about money! We realize our credit card bill has ballooned past what we can afford and we may feel anxious about money. Today, there is starting to be a greater focus on financial wellness, and one element of this is your money mindset. How do you think about money and how could reframing your thoughts help you live a happier and more financially sound life?
Reframe Negative Thoughts
If you recognize yourself having anxiety or negative thoughts around money, here’s an exercise to help you reframe your thinking. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two sections. Label the left column “Before” and the right column “After”. In the “Before” column list any anything that makes you feel anxious or downtrodden when it comes to money. Then circle all the negative word (i.e. don’t, can’t, never). Next, rewrite each phrase in the “After” column, but this time don’t allow yourself to use any negative language. Instead use action verbs like will or can. Even if you’re not quite sure how it’s possible to solve these financial quandaries, step one is just to lift yourself out of a self-pity stupor. Carrying those negative thoughts will only prevent you from finding creative solutions because you are existing in a state of hopelessness. By bringing some positivity back into your money mindset, it leaves room for hope and therefore problem solving.
Identify Possible Solutions
Now that you’ve reframed your thoughts, it’s time to take those newly formed positive thoughts and turn them into an action plan. For example, if I’ve now decided that I can indeed pay off all of my credit card debt, how can I best go about that? Let’s brainstorm ideas. You could negotiate your interest rates with the credit card companies. You could earn more income by taking on a side job or selling some things you no longer use. You could lower your expenses by cutting cable or taking a break from eating out for a month. List everything you could do to extinguish that debt. This will show you that it is possible and at this point it’s up to you to determine how badly you want to achieve this goal and what you will do to get it.
Create a Money Mantra
A money mantra can also help when you’re reframing your mindset to help your financial situation. Your mantra should be something you can repeat to yourself over and over again to keep yourself motivated. Continuing with the credit card debt example, your mantra could be something like, “This will all be worth it when I’m finally debt free.” This mantra reinforces your goal of being debt free, and reminds you why you are temporarily sacrificing. You may have to pass up an invitation to a fancy dinner with friends now, but in two years when you are no longer carrying the burden of this debt, it will be totally worth it.
Try a Ta-Da List
Full disclosure here, I shamelessly stole this idea from a listener on the Happier podcast with one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin. A Ta-Da list differs from a To-Do list in that it’s a list of all of the things you have accomplished. I think this idea has brilliant applications for finance as well especially when you’re working on long-term goals and feeling like you make no significant progress on a day-to-day basis. You can reframe that by making a weekly or monthly Ta-Da list. For instance, if you’re still working on that credit card debt, your list might include turning a dinner invitation down, selling some old work clothes on eBay, and making a $400 payment towards your debt. Keep these Ta-Da lists available to you so that when you’re having a bad day and all things money related seem hopeless, you can be reminded of the progress you have already started making.
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.