How to Change Your Money Mindset

I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about money. My dad was very ambiguous about how much money he made (I still don’t know, to this day), my mom didn’t actually make any money as a stay-at-home mom, and we never really spend any money (that Chinese immigrant mindset).

All I knew is that we must be doing OK if we had a big house in a nice neighborhood, but why didn’t we ever go out to eat? Why didn’t I get new clothes all the time? Why was it a battle to get $20 to go to the mall with my friends on a Saturday? Why couldn’t I have the latest iPod touch? Why didn’t I get a cellphone?

Ah, #uppermiddleclassproblems.

We coupon clipped, we drove to multiple grocery stores to get the best deals on produce, we rarely bought new things. I knew my dad and my uncles were savvy about their money and about investing, but it was still a topic we never spoke about.

When I got to college, my mindset was still one of frugality. I didn’t actually make any money, but my parents paid for my housing and my food and literally all my living expenses. I figured that they had a college fund for me, and since I earned a full tuition scholarship, I was OK, right?

But still — I capitalized on free dining hall food, living like a college student who was poor AF.

Slowly that mindset shifted.

I realized I had freedom. I realized there were absolutely no consequences to me spending a lot of money. And so I began spending money to make myself feel better. I began buying unnecessarily high cost groceries, random clothes I wasn’t sure if I loved, skincare products, makeup…

I had come from a place of restriction, and now I was in a place of abundance.

It’s like the cycle of food: if you restrict, you will then binge.

I grew up (kind of), but I still feared looking at my bank account. It was easier to avoid it altogether than to face it head on.

That’s a path many people take, but that’s not the solution.

Most personal finance books are either 1) boring AF or 2) useless AF or even worse, 3) both. They typically start with asking, “How much do you spend?” As if you knew how much you were spending if you opened the book in the first place, and that’s the point.

They’re just compounding the guilt.

I’m here to make you feel less guilty about money and everything about it — earning it, spending it, investing it.

Let’s start with the first thing: changing your mindset about money.

Changing Your Mindset

Mindset matters. It’s the key aspect of behavior change, big or small. In order to manifest something or change something in your life, you have to think a certain way.

1. Believe in Your Self-Worth

Whether you spend too much or spend too little, you have to understand and believe in your self-worth first.

If you spend too little, it could be impacting your health.

For example: Trying so hard to save groceries that you just eat free pizza every day may save you money now, but it won’t save you money in the future when you run into health problems. Know you’re worth more than that — that you can’t put a price tag on health.

The converse — if you’re spending too much, it’s impacting your future.

For example: Spending the bulk of your income each month on new shoes or clothes. Do you need them? No. Does it feel good now? Sure.

But you aren’t paying yourself first. You aren’t thinking about investing, or your future — know you’re worth more than the sum of these material things — that you’re worth a secure future.

So peel back all the layers of spending. (This is when you can dump all your expenses into one spreadsheet — not to feel guilty, but to see what makes you feel good). Go through each item and think about what it’s contributing to your overall life — your present and your future.

Which brings us to the next step…

2. allow yourself to spend (on Things You Love)

As Ramit Sethi said, it’s not about never drinking a latte again in your life.

I used to think, “I just want to get to a place where I can get a $6 XL iced almond milk dirty chai latte from my favorite coffee shop every day and not worry about it. And a $12 gluten free avocado toast.”

Here’s the thing you probably can do that now.

But there’s a caveat. If that truly brings you joy, go for it. But simultaneously, cut out the things that don’t bring you joy.

Remember that spreadsheet you made in the last step? Go back to it.

Those things that don’t bring you joy? Think about easy ways you can cut those out. That’s where mindset and habit change principles come in.

For example: I realized I was spending a ton of money on Ubers. I was often late, often dissatisfied, and have gotten in more than one Uber accident.

So I actively started making it easier to take cheaper forms of transportation.

I walked more — I convinced myself that I was 1) getting exercise in, 2) clearing my mind, and 3) increasing my creativity. I used it as time to listen to podcasts, to just think, and to call my family.

I used to think public transportation was crowded and gross and took way too long, but it actually didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I used the time again to listen to podcasts, people watch, read, or to think. I avoided the “crowded” problem and my “I need to Uber because I’m late” problem by going to bed earlier so I could wake up earlier to commute without the mass amount of people, and I found that I actually quite enjoyed it.

Another example: I would be stuck without snacks quite often and I’d have to settle for subpar snacks that cost way too much money. This was an easy solve — take one of the snacks that I get for free as a wellness blogger/someone who works for snack companies and bring it with me.

Last example: Remember the avocado toast? There was a period of time when I was getting that 3x a week from one of my favorite coffee shops. I found myself with diminishing returns — if you didn’t take econ/don’t remember, that’s the law essentially where the more you have of something, the less return (in this case, enjoyment), you get out of it.

I went keto for a month (long story), but that effectively cut out my avocado toast habit. Once I had my first avo toast after that month, it was so much better. Ever since then, I use it was a treat — because if you make it a habit, it brings you less joy (and more expenses).

(For more info, listen to “How to Marie Kondo Your Finances,” a podcast episode from Listen Money Matters, or read the Refinery29 article of the same name.)

3. Always Be Looking to Grow (and Believe That You Will)

Comfort zones are not good places to be.

I’m not saying you should be constantly dissatisfied with where you are, but rather I’m saying you should always be searching for more ways to grow — whether that’s learning skills that will help you step up in your career or transition to a new career, finding a new company that offers more growth opportunities, taking classes on the side in something you’re interested in, doing freelance work that interests you… the list goes on and on.

Practice growth and jumping out of comfort zones by doing other things – challenging yourself to do different workouts, traveling, trying new things…

Often, growth is deeply uncomfortable, but it’s necessary in order to keep yourself moving and advancing and stops you from being stagnant.

Nobody wants to wake up in 10, 15, 25, 50 years and realize that they never did the things they wanted to do, or that they stayed in a career too long that was merely satisfactory because it was comfortable.

Next up: Easy Ways to Cut Out Expenses, How to Use Credit Card Points to Get $ & FREE Travel, 401Ks for Recent College Grads

Recommended Resources (that aren’t boring!):