My Money Story, the Scarcity Mindset, and Choosing Abundance

I've been really interested in the concept of money mindset lately. Mindset in general is fascinating to me, while money itself has always been a little elusive, stressful, and confusing to me. The two together? Absolutely fascinating in a scary, scary way.

The mindset shift I keep coming back to focuses on scarcity vs abundance. So many money experts have spoken on this subject and until the last few days, it never resonated. It kept coming up but I hadn't figured out where it fit into my own life and my own money story.

But I know now: for my whole life, I've had a scarcity mindset.

It's easy to see when I lay out my money story in a timeline of sorts.

Kid / Preteen years: I earn allowance by completing chores. The only time of the year that I get money is around Christmas and my birthday. I get in the habit of collecting as much as I can and then taking it to the mall and spending every penny. I don't save any, I don't invest any, I don't give any.

Teenage years: No job, not really making money in any way. I’m always trying to earn more allowance, but it's never enough. My parents won't buy me the things I want, so when I do have some money, I spend it quickly. I want a car so badly but they say I have to save. Despite all this, I still don't go out and make money.

February 2007 (age 18): I finally get a job. Part time, minimum wage. I sure don't make much money. But I have SOME, so I'm spending like crazy. Gas so I can drive all over the place, dinners out with friends, groceries so I can eat the things my parents won't buy, anything I want for myself. I finally have a car, but it requires a ton of maintenance. I don't save a penny. I don't know a damn thing about money, except for how to write a check (thank goodness for high school home ec class <insert eye roll here>)

Spring 2008 (age 19): I get laid off from my job because we're feeling the effects of the recession. I start community college using a student loan.... my first foray into debt. I'm heading in a better direction: a graphic design position at the same company I was working for before. I’m learning design skills on the side and I love it, but for now, school is my full-time job.

Winter 2008 (age 19): I get rehired by my first job and I'm finally making (some) money again. I'm getting to design as my job now, which is so amazing.

2010 (age 21): I start my own business for freelance design. I'm not making much money, but a little extra cash here and there is nice.

2012 (age 23): I'm trying to keep up with my friends. Lots of dinners out, trips to expensive places, and silly money spending. I stopped attending school (and didn't earn a degree), but I managed to pay off all my debt. I spend a lot of time at the local coffee shop, building my own education, taking online courses, creating art, reading so many blogs, growing my own skills. I fly to Spokane to visit my best friend and someone else has to buy the ticket for me because I just don't have the money for it.

January 2014 (age 25): I get a fancy new job that pays more. Since it’s further away, gas is more expensive, but it's worth it. I continue working at my old job on the side so they still have a designer. A little extra cash sure helps.

Early April 2014 (age 25): I buy a new (to me) car. It's exactly what I want - a Toyota Tacoma. I spend a little more than I planned, but my dad cosigns so that I get a low interest rate.

Mid-April 2014 (age 25): I get sued by my former employer for something I didn't even do. We eventually end up settling outside of court, but in the meantime, I lose all motivation to design, I get scared to spend any money whatsoever, my parents offer to help pay for my lawyer bills by taking money out of their retirement and I have no choice but to accept, I lose a bunch of friends, I cry a lot, and I question everything. My whole world is rocked.

2015 (age 26): I haven't done freelance design in almost a year now. I can't stand the idea of opening up Illustrator. I've decided to go back to school for psychology so I can head down a different career route. I take out school loans because I don't have any other way of paying it off. I'm still paying back my lawyer every month.

Early 2016 (age 27)I finally finish paying off my lawyer bills. In the meantime, I've turned to credit cards because I don't know what else to do. I haven't done any freelance design in a while because I'm still scared to do so.

April 2016 (age 27): I drop out of school when I realize it's making me miserable. I haven't been creative in who knows how long. I haven't seen my friends or done a single social thing in months. I'm left with $15k of student loans. I realize that I now have student loans AND credit card bills that equal way too much debt. I resolve to change things, but don't make a plan and don't really try that hard.

Early 2017 (age 28): I fall into some expensive hobbies... like target shooting, modding my truck, and camping. I buy too many guns, truck parts I don’t really need, and a full set of camp gear. I charge it all on credit cards. Many credit cards. But these things make me happy and help me forget my debt, so I keep buying and buying and buying.

July 2017 (age 28): I start dating Cody, who is much more financially focused than I've ever been. I'm terrified to tell him about my debt. We talk about it a little on our first date, but I don't give details. The bright side is that he gives me an example of what a healthy money mindset looks like. He definitely has an abundance mindset that I love and I want to lean into. I get motivated to pay off debt and have a healthy financial life.

Present day: I've changed so many of my money habits and I'm finally headed in the right direction. I've paid off quite a bit of debt, but I know I could do better. I read a lot about money and listen to a lot of podcasts about money. I'm doing a lot of work regarding money mindset and abundance. Things will get better.

Looking back at this whole story makes me realize that I've had a scarcity mindset basically since the moment I started handling my own money. Even while I was writing this, I had a hard time coming up with moments of abundance.

I've been letting my moments of scarcity write my money story for me.

A huge part of it has to be attributed to my own language.

"I can't afford that."

"I don't have the money for that right now."

"I'll take care of it when I have more money."

"That can wait until I get paid."

"I'm just waiting for my next paycheck."

"I just can't do that right now."

Those phrases, or some semblance of them, are CONSTANTLY on my lips these days.

But they're not true.

The most recent example I can think of is regarding concert tickets. I very much want to go see Young the Giant on their new tour, hitting Oregon in March of 2019. I made a plan... and then screeched to a halt when I saw the cost of tickets. My first reaction: "I can't afford those. I guess we're not going.”

But that's not actually true at all. I actually DO have the money for that. I just would rather spend it elsewhere. It's allocated for something different. If I REALLY wanted to, I could rearrange my money and pay for the concert with plenty of money leftover. And so I did. I bought them anyway... and made $50 in the next two hours. While it doesn't pay for the entirety of the tickets, it's a start.

The words we say matters. The phrases that I say matter.

So, no, I'm not broke. I really DO have the money for anything I want. I just CHOOSE to not spend it on frivolous, silly, mindless things.