Why is it that some people can live on very little and be perfectly content, while others who seem to have plenty feel like they are dirt poor?
I’ll give you a clue: It has more to do with attitude than assets.
Do you find yourself feeling down because you don’t have the budget your neighbors seem to have? Does being frugal and pinching pennies leave you exhausted or depressed?
If so, you might be suffering from the “We can’t afford that” mentality.
What is the “We can’t afford that” mentality?
The “We Can’t Afford That” mentality is characterized by feeling controlled by– rather than in control of– your finances. People claiming that they “can’t afford” things set themselves up as victims of their circumstances instead of acknowledging their choices in their financial life. This negative mentality is emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing. To make it worse, a victim’s attitude can keep us from setting and progressing toward financial goals.
Last year I wrote about why I never say “We can’t afford that.” Although our income is very limited and our financial goals are big, we don’t let ourselves become victims. We prefer to take responsibility for our financial choices rather than let our circumstances dictate our decisions. If you haven’t seen it, go back and look at the post, as this is an extension of those ideas.
Killing the “We can’t afford that” mentality
If you want to make financial progress, it’s time to kill the “We can’t afford that” mentality. If you don’t feel my same linguistic aversion to the phrase “can’t afford ______,” this might sound counter intuitive. You might think that saying “We can’t afford that” more often would increase financial traction.
I’m not saying that you should go splurge on whatever you want, whether you have the money or not. Dropping the phrase “we can’t afford that” and the mentality that goes with it doesn’t mean you should go budget-less and spend irresponsibly. Instead, your should recognize each financial decision as a choice.
Sometimes, especially when money is tight, we feel helpless and not in control. It seems all of our money is spoken for and there are no choices left. When we feel like this, it’s helpful to turn the situation around and make each transaction a choice.
Instead of looking at your income as a pie where everyone gets a slice but you, take control of the pie. It’s your pie, so you can divvy it up as you please. You could take it and go to Disneyland if you wanted or you could choose to pay the mortgage and the utilities. You can make the choice. Just remember that while you are free to choose your actions, you can’t choose the consequences of your actions.
Realizing that you are choosing to pay the rent or the mortgage is empowering. Instead of feeling imposed on by that bill, make a firm decision to use your hard-earned funds to provide yourself and your family with a place to live. When you pay the bill, do it exultantly, knowing that this exchange of cash is how you earn your home. No one is taking the money from you; you are choosing to give a certain amount away in order to fulfill your priorities.
Tame your “wants” and learn to be content with what you have. Change your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have. You have much to be grateful for. You really can be happy on any income. Constantly comparing yourself and your finances to others, guarantees you’ll be anything but happy.
Your kids will take note of your attitude and amplify it. If you make yourself a victim of your finances, your kids will feel like money controls you. If you focus on making choices with your money, your kids will learn that money is something we have control over. Your attitude will determine whether your kids feel rich or poor.
Change your ways, change your words
Solidify your change in attitude and perspective with a change in vocabulary. Instead of saying that you “can’t afford” something, add words like “choose,” “decide,” and “want.” It’s your money. You call the shots!
There is a whole lot more to you and your life than your account balances. Realizing that you are making choices (not having them thrust upon you) should ease the financial tension you feel. Killing the “We can’t afford that” mentality is a matter of attitude and perspective. Once you’ve conquered it, you’ll feel refreshed and empowered to face the financial obstacles in your future. Taking a active and positive role in your finances will accelerate your progress to your goals.
How about you?
- Have you recognized a “We can’t afford that” mentality in yourself or others?
- How have you taken control of your finances by giving up the “We can’t afford that” mentality?