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Updated: Apr 01, 2024

How to Maximize Your Relationship With Money

Learn from your current relationship with money, how to overcome problems, shift your habits and better serve your finances.
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Sitting at the blackjack table, watching hand after hand go to the dealer and everyone shell out chips for the next round, I felt uncomfortable. The slot machines around us were filled with people absentmindedly pulling levers, hoping for a big payout, most losing hundreds in a matter of seconds. The mere thought of it made my stomach churn.

As you can see, casinos make me uncomfortable. Where many people see fun and excitement, I see a place where your savings go to die. This isn't a reflection of the people or the activities, though, it’s a reflection of my relationship with money. I tend to lean towards an anxious money mentality, which means I constantly wrestle with a fear of not having enough.

While this might serve me well when it comes to gambling, it doesn’t serve me well in life. When I started my previous job, it took me six months to sign up for the contribution-matched 401k. Instead, I socked away more and more into my savings account, where it remained stagnant. Why? I didn’t want the mental anguish of not knowing what would happen to my money in a volatile market.

Yes, I realize that’s not reasonable. In fact, I lost out on a significant amount through this way of thinking.

This is the problem with my money mentality: I steer clear of risk, even when it’s in my best interest to take the leap.

What about the problems in other money mentalities?

  • The problem with an abundance money mentality is the tendency to spend recklessly.
  • The problem with an avoidant money mentality is an inability to talk about and properly manage money tasks.
  • The problem with a worship money mentality is an attachment to money as a status symbol.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the problems these money relationships present - but there's no power in focusing on the problems.

Overcoming Problems by Focusing on Bright Spots

Sometimes we focus on the problems we have in an effort to be more vigilant about them. But all that does is hide the areas can utilize our strengths. That's where "bright spots" come in.

Authors Dan and Chip Heath introduced the term "bright spots," which focuses on finding the good in the situation and improving from there. There's a lot of power that comes from focusing on these bright spots.

In an article for Fast Company, Dan Heath explains,

“...there’s one time in life when this problem-focus backfires on us, and that’s when we’re trying to change things. In times of change, our report card doesn’t look almost-perfect. It looks mixed. Parts of it look like a failure. And if, in those times, we slip into problem-solving mode, we’ll spin our wheels, because there are problems everywhere. That’s a recipe for inaction, for paralysis.”

So, how can you focus on the bright spots in your money mentality? Read on to find out.

How I Tapped Into My Bright Spots

My financial situation at the moment is a little bit of a roller coaster. I work as a freelance writer, which is a feast or famine lifestyle. It takes some serious financial maneuvering to keep up in this line of work. And given that my money mentality is one that presents a fear of risks, you would think it'd be impossible for me to handle the freelance lifestyle.

True, if I placed my focus on the risk, I would throw in the towel and opt for a steady paycheck tomorrow. But the truth is, if I focus on the bright spots of my money mentality, I find that I’m actually pretty good at making this lifestyle work.

Instead of holding me back, my conservative nature helps me as I plan for the financial ebbs and flows of the freelance lifestyle. I know I can't inflate my lifestyle after one lucrative month, so I save instead. I keep my expenses low to reduce the stress of my variable income. Also, since I have a tendency to look towards the future, I'm committed to taking control of benefits an employer would normally cover (such as a retirement plan).

Again, if I focused on the problems of my money mentality, I could never make it in my line of work. So I focus on the bright spots and not only find that I can make it, but that I'm particularly well suited to handle anything this lifestyle throws my way.

How to Tap into Your Bright Spots

Want to know how you can tap into your bright spots? First, you have to know which money mentality you have. Read here for in-depth descriptions of the different types of money mentalities.

  • Abundance Money Mentality

An abundance money mentality is one in which you spend freely with little to no thought about maintaining a budget. This can be a recipe for credit card debt, but not if the habit is carefully cultivated.

As I mentioned before, it's important to take calculated risks. There's no way to invest and grow your wealth if you're too scared of what might happen. Abundance money mentality types might be more comfortable with these risks than other money types.

The key here is to focus on the bright spot: being comfortable with risks. Then focus on how to use the bright spot: be careful and intentional with the risks you take.

With this type of money relationship, money is released freely. The key here is to release it in the right way to the right places.

  • Worship Money Mentality

A worship money mentality is one in which you view money as a status symbol. This kind of viewpoint can lead to reckless spending on things only because of what they represent. It's aspirational spending and it can easily hinder financial stability.

But what about the bright spot?

The bright spot of the worship money mentality is eternal optimism. Instead of feeling like there's not enough money, this mentality thinks, “there’s more where that came from.”

When harnessed, that optimism can lead to a healthy pursuit of more money. That pursuit might be one in line with a pursuit of career growth and even the pursuit of greater financial security (to ensure that there really will be more where that came from).

It all comes down to how you look at it. If you view money as something you can continue to get and combine that viewpoint with strategies to do so (and to save and grow your money), then you're focusing on the bright spot.

  • Avoidant Money Mentality

The avoidant money mentality is just what it sounds like. It's when someone avoids looking at or thinking about their finances altogether. This avoidance can be a serious detriment to your financial stability.

But what if the bright spot is that this mentality isn't overly concerned with having money? What if people of this mentality feel free of a relentless pursuit of “things?”

If that's the case, then there's a greater opportunity to experience financial stability. When you don't feel the need to acquire things to portray a certain lifestyle, then you can keep the money you earn for savings and financial growth.

Are you noticing a theme here? It's easy to see the negative with all these money mentalities. But it's also easy to find the positive. Even if the positive doesn't feel true right now, can you create that positive spin through your actions moving forward?

Habits can be fine-tuned for positive results no matter what money mentality you have. It's all in how you look at it.

Shifting Your Habits to Better Serve Your Finances

Many of these bright spots are only bright when the habits and mentalities around them are crafted that way. It's always necessary to carefully examine and shift your behaviors if you want to turn the negative into positive outcomes.

In my case, I was able to use my anxious money mentality for good by being proactive with my finances. I used my worries to make me a better planner. And having a stronger plan helped to decrease my worries.

In other words, I plan and map out my goals and big picture spending each month. That prevents me from falling into a tailspin of worry when my income fluctuates.

So what about you?

If you have an abundance money mentality, you can capitalize on your ability to take risks. Just make sure they're calculated risks. If you feel the urge to impulse buy, remember that there might be longer-term calculated risks you want more. (Such as investment, moving for a job, etc.)

If you have a worship money mentality, then you can tap into your desire for more but shift the focus. Rather than buying things to increase your status, focus instead on actually building greater wealth. You can do this through savings and investments that will serve you much better in the long run.

If you have an avoidant money mentality, you can put systems in place to ensure your financial bases are covered. Look for ways to avoid fees and penalties that might be associated with money avoidance. Then use the help of technology to create a financial system you can (mostly) set and forget.

No matter what your money mentality, you can either let it hold you back or you can use it to pave the path to your ideal financial situation. So, walk towards a path that serves you? Or become a slave to negative behaviors and outcomes? Which will you choose?