Managing Money How a Positive Mindset Can Affect Your Wallet

by Kate Ashford | October 01, 2018

Your financial goals may feel concrete — pay off your student loans; save for your first down payment — but getting there requires more than just smartly balancing your accounts.

It takes the right attitude, too. Namely, a positive one.

Having a positive outlook could help you navigate financial challenges and save money in the long run. For one thing, tuning out negative thinking might lead you to make fewer reckless decisions. Here are some approaches to applying positive vibes to the ways we commonly think about money.

Make the goals you set achievable

If all your dreams are big ones, it’s easy to get discouraged along the way. Instead, try breaking your objectives into bite-size pieces; you’ll get a mental boost every time you hit a milestone, which can motivate you for the long haul.

Start by writing down what you hope to accomplish. "Writing your intentions and revisiting them often helps keep your goals at the forefront of your mind," says Megan Robinson, a financial coach and author of Goodbye to Broke. "That way, you never lose focus on achieving them."

That worked for Lauren Morfin, 29, who lives in Irvine, CA. “I wrote a letter to myself in 2017 and re-read it this year,” she says. “I had written: During the next year, I would like the following to happen...’ I was astonished to see that everything I wrote down in the letter did happen over the course of the year. We paid off all our credit cards, started an emergency fund and paid off my car.”

Visualize your ideal life

Creating vision boards can be a powerful motivator to help see goals more clearly. Think about what your ideal life looks like (and one that resonates with you, rather than a flashy version of that picture). Would you like to have a house with enough space to host family and friends? A job that affords you the financial freedom to travel? Enough of a cushion saved so that you can retire at a set age? Find pictures that represent your goals and assemble them into a collage.

“Get as specific as possible,” Robinson says. “The more specific your vision, the more emotionally attached you are to it. The goal is to dig deep until you uncover the desires that really compel you. That’s what’s going to motivate you to create real financial change.”

Stacy Caprio’s vision definitely worked for her. “I wrote a check out to myself and taped it to my wall where I see it before I go to bed and wake up each morning, with my monthly income goal written on it, as though I already had it,” says Caprio, 26, who lives in Chicago, IL. “That was eight months ago, and I achieved it last month.”

To meet her money goal, Caprio also visualized herself working at her computer every day and took consistent action. "The majority of my income comes from managing my own and others' websites doing SEO and online marketing," Caprio says. "So working on my site portfolio and improving all their rankings was my main focus.

The goal is to dig deep until you uncover the desires that really compel you. That’s what’s going to motivate you to create real financial change.
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Stop minimizing your successes

Owning your achievements can help you feel accomplished — and more willing to go after greater things. How do you do that? Make a list of what you’ve done and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day. And when someone talks about what a feat it must have been to pay off all your student loans, or to save up enough for that house down payment, accept the compliment rather than downplaying it.

Don't be afraid to celebrate your small wins either — it's one of the most useful tools for boosting your outlook moment to moment. The same goes for appreciating the good things in your life, versus focusing on what you don’t have. “Energy flows to where our attention goes,” says Brandyce Stephenson, a life coach and speaker. “When we focus on what we have, we begin to multiply that.”

happy woman in yellow sweatshirt

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking

In our hyper-curated world, it's easy to feel like if something isn’t perfect, it’s not worth doing at all. Or, that once you’ve done a small thing, you should go ahead and do the big thing, too. Example: You overspent on that dress — so you might as well buy some shoes, too. Or on the flip side: You might think saving $50 a month won’t make a difference, so you don’t save anything at all. "Thinking in extremes, or in terms of 'all or nothing,' prevents us from seeing alternative solutions and outcomes," Robinson says.

This kind of mindset can take a small misstep and allow it to spiral into a pile of unnecessary debt or lack of a financial safety net. If you make a financial mistake, all is not lost. Stop the damaging behavior, reset and start taking small, healthy actions to get back on track.

"Rather than thinking in black and white, look for the gray areas and focus on the positives," Robinson says. "For instance, if you only save $50 toward your $100 goal, you're still 50% of the way there. If you save $50 each month for a year, you'll have $600 that you wouldn't have saved if you'd given up on your original goal."

Look at your disappointments as lessons

Turning her thinking around was the key to success for Kelsey Eaton, a business coach and yoga instructor in Sacramento, CA. When she found herself discouraged about debt she’d taken on to start her business, she had to change her mindset. “I chose to fall in love with my debt because it was a daily testimonial to the dream I was actively turning into reality,” says Eaton, 27. "I reframed my mindset to view my debt as investments in my future."

Eaton supplemented her work with daily vision maps that clearly stated why she made the investments, how they'd helped her, and how she'd paid them off within a specific time frame. "I also started to be less hard on myself, which I think naturally brought in the right people," she says. "In just two months, I not only paid off my debt but doubled my total income."

When you face a financial setback, it's easy to think and feel negatively. To recover and move forward, you must mentally separate yourself from your failures. Keep in mind that everyone fails, and that your failures don't define you or your ability to succeed.

Positive thinking was key to help me let go of the outcome so I could clearly focus on income generating activities that made me happy.
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"You determine what comes next," Robinson says. "Once you realize this and are able to separate yourself and your future from your past experiences, you’ll feel empowered to move forward and make lasting change."

Kate Ashford

loves helping to answer questions about finances. Her work has appeared in Money, Parents and