How a Positive Mindset Can Affect Your Wallet

by Kate Ashford |October 1, 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."

happy woman in yellow sweatshirt

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."

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."

"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 Forbes.com.

The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article.