Molly’s Money: Avoiding the Poverty Mentality

March 7, 2013·

How often have you heard one or all of these phrases:

“Oh my gosh, I’m so broke right now.”
“Ugh, I will never be able to afford that.”
“I can’t do X because I have no money.”
“I just can’t, I have NO money right now.”
“I’ll do this or that when I have the money.”
“Well, I’ll never be as rich as X.”
“Sure, you can say that, you have money.”
“My salary is a joke.”
“I can’t afford X…”

Odds are you’ve probably heard a few people say one of the above. Odds are you’ve probably said one or all of those phrases at some point in your life. Heck, I used to say stuff like that all the time.

It’s like it’s cool to be broke.

It’s normal to be broke.

It’s okay to be poor.

Poor, broke people are the norm while financially stable, debt free, and/or wealthy people are weird and outsiders.

Those phrases and those ways of thinking, ladies and gents, are what we call the “Poverty Mentality.”

This is one of those posts that’s been on my heart for a while, but I’ve been a little nervous about writing it because, honestly, for many people, it’s a touchy subject and this type of mentality isn’t really a “mentality’ for them, it’s reality. It’s a way of life.

But the truth is, the poverty mentality is destructive, negative, harmful, and can often end up being somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it’s become that way for SO many of us… if not the MAJORITY of us.

As I mentioned above, this was my way of thinking for a long time. I was always complaining about being broke and not having any money to do anything – and the truth was, it was actually the case. But I would complain about it ALL the time. I would verbalize my frustrations like my situation was “cool” when, in fact, it wasn’t.

It honestly wasn’t until I shifted my attitude towards money that my entire attitude changed and I stopped dwelling in the poverty mentality. I started thinking that once I got control of my finances and once I got control of my budget that money would no longer control me. That it was not cool to be broke or poor, that being financially stable and responsible was actually cool because that meant I would be able to bless others and live a life well lived.

“You have to live like no one else, in order to live like no one else.” -Dave Ramsey

Up until I had made that realization, I was in a vicious cycle of financial negativity that only kept me from reaching my goal of becoming debt free and becoming financially stable. I was literally fulfilling my own self-fulfilling prophecy.

How did I do it? How did I rid myself of the poverty mentality?

I quit blaming others for my financial problems. It wasn’t the government that got me into debt. It wasn’t my family that got me into debt. It wasn’t my friends that got me into debt. It wasn’t the cards I was dealt or the situation I was given that got me into debt. It was ME and my own mistakes that got me into debt. Once I was able to come to terms with that, I was able to forgive myself and, ultimately, move on.

I started speaking positively about money. I stopped thinking of money as the enemy. It was a matter as simple as taking what could be a negative statement and making it a positive. Instead of saying, “No, I can’t go do X, I’m so broke right now.” I’d say something like, “Oh man thanks so much for the invite, I’m actually saving money for X right now and so I’m gonna spend the night in with a good book and a Diet Coke.”

By saying that I was SAVING money for something (which was true), I was creating a light at the end of the tunnel. I was not spending money so I could put it towards getting myself out of trouble so that one day, I could spend money again.

I started giving. Giving what, you say? Money. Yes, money. I started blessing others. Even if it was a little bit at first, I started giving. Financially. I started tithing (which is a post for another day). I started donating to my friend’s causes – even if it was just $5 or $10. I gave any chance I could. A $5 or $10 donation to a worthy cause was the equivalent of a trip to Chipotle for me. So, that just meant I didn’t go to Chipotle one time in exchange for blessing someone else. Totally worth it.

Once I started giving and seeing how blessed and grateful others felt when I gave even when I didn’t really have money to give, it again, completely shifted my attitude towards money.

The more I gave and the further I got out of debt, the more I couldn’t wait to give MORE when I had more money. Giving became a motivator for me.

Now, I LOVE giving. My husband and I give (above and beyond our monthly tithe) every opportunity we feasibly can. It might not always be much, but it is always worth it.

I understand that every situation is different. Some people really are dealt awful cards and their situations are totally out of their control. I am sensitive to that. But the truth is, even in the face of horrible adversity, I’ve seen so many take a positive attitude and create opportunities for themselves.

Good things come to those who work… with a positive attitude… and try to change their situation.

Good things typically don’t come to those who complain… are negative all the time… and sit around moping rather than working to change their circumstances.

Now when I hear those close to me use those poverty mentality-esque phrases I used to use ALL. THE. TIME. my heart breaks. It has really become an epidemic in our culture. “It’s okay to be broke. It’s okay to be poor. Being comfortable is weird.”

But this type of thinking has to stop or it’s only going to continue to manifest itself day in and day out and be passed down to our kids.

Now, my husband and I are not rich by any sense of the term, but we are comfortable. We are debt free, we give generously, and we can pay our bills. Our money does not control us. We control it.

This may not always be the case, but I do know that we are blessed beyond measure and that no matter what, God is in control, He will always provide, and we will always be okay. Even if this were all to go away tomorrow – our house, our cars, our “stuff” – we’d still be so unbelievably blessed.

Why? Because we’ve kicked the poverty mentality to the curb.

What do you think? Do you see the poverty mentality around you? Have you kicked the poverty mentality to the curb? What things have you done in your life to change your attitude towards money? Or is this something you still struggle with? Leave your thoughts in the comments!