I have this mantra, whenever things go wrong in my life.
It’s nothing fancy – I just say to myself over and over, “you got this”.
(In my head, just btw. My coworkers don’t need to hear that every time my computer shuts down or every time a client freaks out).
It always seems to work for me, whether it’s just the kind of meditative process of thinking one thing over and over, or if there really is some kind of magical property to that phrase that makes things turn out for the best.
You might have your own phrase or your own strategy to deal with things when they get crappy, but no matter what you’re dealing with and how you’re dealing with it, you are going to be okay.
It’s so easy to panic and get stressed out about money. Seriously. People don’t talk about it, but everybody has money worries. They’re not always the same worries, of course, but everyone you meet has some kind of money anxiety at some point.
Mine is rooted in the scarcity mentality. I fight this daily.
The scarcity mentality is a concept defined by Stephen Covey in the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and it’s basically the belief that everything is limited and the fear that you will not have enough.
This can be about anything, but for me, it’s definitely money. It’s irrational (mostly), but I fight the belief that I can’t afford to live the way I want to (I can) or that I am one unexpected expense away from having nothing (I’m not).
There are all sorts of bad things that can come of the scarcity mentality, but the number one I struggle with is the fact that it comes with an “all or nothing” kind of mindset. Meaning, I regularly war with myself between “I can spend absolutely nothing for the next month” and “I’ve deprived myself for so long, I deserve to splurge and spend all my money today”.
Both of those urges come from this sense of scarcity and the fatigue from all of the emotional energy spent worrying about accumulating “enough”.
I’m lucky that I came across this concept a few years ago, immediately identified with it, and have taken steps to fight back against it. And, I know I’m not alone – Covey says that more people live with the scarcity mindset than with its counterpart, the abundance mindset– the belief that there’s enough out there for everyone and the sense of personal security.
My little internal mantra has become my own response to these mentalities. Trying to change my complete psychology and become someone with an abundance mentality is not going to happen overnight.
Instead, I aim for the halfway point that I’ve decided to call my “you got this” mentality.
If you think any of this scarcity mentality stuff sounds familiar to you, and you want to join me in fighting back, I’m sharing 8 ways that have worked for me in moving away from “not enough” and towards “I’ve got this”:
When I was in school, if I had a big assignment due or an exam coming up, the first thing I would always do is clean my room.
These days, if I have a stressful day, I’ll tidy my inbox or organize my home filing cabinet.
On a practical level, staying organized means you’re more likely to stay on top of all of your bills and more likely to have your shit together if something bad happens. There’s peace of mind in knowing that if there’s ever a car accident, a theft of your identity, or some other emergency, you have all of your policies and documents available to you.
On a psychological level, your mind is clearer when you feel organized. If your mind is clear, you’re going to make better decisions.
You’d think that someone with the scarcity mindset would hoard money like it’s going out of style, but in reality, that fatigue I mentioned leads people with this mentality to actually make worse financial decisions.
Having a clear mind helps you better evaluate those decisions and avoid knee-jerk splurges, while being organized means you’ll know where your money is and where it’s going.
Automate your bills and savings.
This is, hands down, the most useful tool in my own struggle with the scarcity mentality.
First, I have automatic payments set up to pay my bills each month. Not only does this mean I know when the money is coming out of my account, it also means I have the peace of mind I knowing that I’m not going to miss any bills and have to deal with the credit implications or late fees.
I also have automatic deposits set up into my employer pension, my RRSP, my TFSA and my emergency fund. So, when I start to feel stress about an unexpected purchase or just a generally bad day for spending, I can relax knowing that my savings are still being fed.
I’m not worried about having nothing left at the end of the month, because my savings have already been taken care of.
Stop checking your bank balance
Checking your accounts is always good to make sure there’s nothing funky going on. But that said, you don’t need to be checking your accounts every day. They are not likely to change unexpectedly, and you’re not going to be able to make them change faster just by staring a hole through your computer screen.
If you’re like me and you get antsy waiting for pay day, checking your bank balance on the regular is only going to make this feeling of scarcity worse. Once you automate your payments, trust that your money is trucking along behind the scenes just like it’s supposed to.
Seriously. Research shows that people who get a good night’s sleep make better decisions, have more self-discipline, are more productive, have more energy, and have more positive moods.
All of these things are going to equip you to fight off the effects of the scarcity mentality. Fun fact – naps can help you accomplish this, so all is not lost if the neighbour’s baby kept you up all night.
I don’t just mean keeping a gratitude journal, but maybe that will work for you. I mean, physically looking around and paying attention to what you already own.
Next time you feel like you’re behind because you don’t have that iPhone 7, take a look around yourself and see what you already have. That 5 year old Android (don’t be mean, this is my phone) gets you through the day, doesn’t it? It works perfectly fine, you pay the bills, and best of all, it’s not costing you $1000. Show that phone some love.
That old car you drove this morning to that job that pays you? That super cool machine crossed a decent distance to get you to work before you were even fully awake. That’s crazy awesome.
And you know what, give yourself a pat on the back for having built an emergency fund all those years ago, or for having Googled about how to get started investing. Somehow, someway, something gave you the motivation to look into this stuff, so be grateful for that and ignore everybody else.
Showing gratitude is useful for me but sometimes if I’m left alone with my own thoughts for too long, I spiral down the scarcity rabbit hole.
Keeping busy helps me – staying active and social means that I have less time to worry about money, to check my bank accounts, or to compare myself to other people.
And, time spent running, or doing yoga, or visiting with friends is time not spent spending money. So its win win!
Tune out the noise.
By now you’ve probably seen studies that show that Facebook can actually have a downer effect on you if you’re on it too much. Facebook lives are not actually real lives, since people don’t typically post about all the crappy days they’re having and the amount of debt they truly have (except that one girl we all have on our friends list who only posts about that kind of stuff).
There’s no point in comparing yourself to that college friend on social media who just took that 17 day Mediterranean cruise, since you don’t know what her finances look like or what else is going on her life.
Try to stay away from social media and mainstream media so you’re not facing unnecessary temptations or comparisons.
Focus on the good actions you’re already taking.
We’ve come full circle. If you’re doing any or all of these things, the next time you find yourself worrying about not having enough, remind yourself of all the steps you’ve taken to better yourself financially and to calm your financial worries.
You’re already doing what you can, and you’re doing a great job. Rather than worry about what you can’t change, focus on the habits you can and have changed. Have some patience, and give yourself a pat on the back.
Because the thing is, you – yes you, dear reader – are doing something about it.
This is how I know you’re going to be okay. You’re reading a blog that talks about finance. Somehow you stumbled upon this post, or you sought it out, but you’re reading it.
That means you care.
And that means you’re going to be okay.
You got this.