These Five Mindsets are Costing You Money. Here’s How to Shake Them

Richard Irwin |

Shifting away from these five, limiting money mindsets, and choosing a healthy replacement for each, is going to have you feeling better about your finances and experiencing progress on your money. Two things that reinforce permanent mindset shifts around money are reframing the narrative so that it’s kind and helpful to you instead of being discouraging, and taking action. I’ve approached the five shifts with this in mind.

“Someday soon” thinking

Also known as maintaining the status quo. This thinking pushes your financial security further down the road. It can look like delaying investing until better times are ahead, putting off making a debt-reduction plan until you’re really in a bind, or simply not setting goals for yourself.

The positive reframe on this narrative could be, “Today I’m going to take care of my financial wellness as best as I can,” or “I don’t need to wait to be better with my money.” You’ll want to scrap any negative self-talk about being far behind or feeling foolish.

The actions that help you shift out of someday-soon thinking are regular money touchpoints to see how you’re doing. You can set out a handful of simple actions in these touchpoints, like automatically transferring money into your TFSA, or making a plan to pay a bit extra on your credit card. When you start making time for your money right away, that someday becomes today.

“I can’t move forward without sorting out my money trauma first” thinking

For many this shows up as scarcity — thinking that there is never enough money — of giving up and therefore causing financial harm to oneself through careless spending, as an example. Overcoming any form of trauma will require you moving through it — you don’t need to relive it.

Acknowledging what’s happened, maybe a past bankruptcy or watching your parents fight over money growing up, is important. But the reframe is that you survived it, it’s had an impact, but you deserve the opportunity to move past it, and you can.

Gratitude journaling and budgeting are helpful actions to nudge you forward. Jotting down two or three things you’re grateful for daily helps shift this limiting energy toward positive aspects of your life. Sticking to a simple and practical budget goes a long way toward moving through money trauma. Try out different templates to map out a budget that feels good for you. If you get stuck, reach out to a money coach who has a background in money psychology.

“Going all in on one goal” thinking

All-in thinking is like yo-yo dieting — it never sticks. The most common example is going all in on paying off debt, and delaying saving in the process. The thing about permanent debt reduction is that until you deal with the two underlying issues behind debt accumulation — not having savings and spending more than you earn — it’s a cycle that repeats itself. Another example is someone who’s overly frugal to the point they’re unhappy. Thinking all debt is bad is yet another example, and it’s not all bad when used to help build up assets.

Balance is the reframe. The action is working toward two or three healthy goals (it’s OK to prioritize one) at the same time. An example would be paying off debt, and also carefully building an emergency fund. When the unexpected happens, and it will, you’ll be prepared to pay for it with savings rather than dipping into your credit cards again. That’s what stops the cycle of debt.

Reinforcing a belief you have with select information

“The markets are going to crash, so I won’t invest.” Then finding all the doom and gloom articles you can online.

“Having rental properties is the only way to make passive income.” Then reading and listening to content exclusively on income-property investing.

“The only way to avoid a divorce is by buying a bigger home.” Then house hunting with your angry spouse at every opportunity.

“My car is six years old and needs replacing to avoid major repair bills.” Then finding all the potential maintenance costs you might incur, freaking out and buying a new car.

We do this because it’s comfortable to validate pre-existing thinking. But it almost always costs us dearly.

The reframe is that a well-rounded decision is going to produce the best outcome. The actions that make a well-rounded decision are taking into account multiple angles, reading up on contrary views even if you don’t like them, seeking a professional unbiased opinion from a financial planner or money coach, and being open to having your mind changed.

Home ownership is the only way to build wealth

It’s not. Buying is out of reach for many people now and the narrative needs to change so that we don’t shame renting, and instead celebrate making the most of whatever your housing situation is.

The reframe is that renters can build the same level of financial security as homeowners. The actions are around renters ensuring they are saving and investing at the most efficient pace possible. If rent is $2,500 and a comparable home if owned would cost $5,000 per month, invest as much of that difference as possible in tax-advantaged retirement plans. That strategy for renters will help make up for the equity that would otherwise be built through paying down a mortgage.

Mindset shifts can happen quickly, especially if you have hope that a positive financial road is ahead. The key is to be consistent with how you reinforce the shifts — regular budgeting, gratitude journaling, meeting with a money mentor and so on.