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Stuck in a Financial Fog? Try this!

How to rewire your brain for money joy

We all know that one person who’s in a constant state of negativity. When something challenging or inconvenient comes up, they say something like, “Of course! Things like this always happen to me.” And when something positive happens, they inevitably find something to complain about. They’ve resigned themselves to the fact that they always have the worst luck, and nothing good will ever happen to them.

In the words of Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday, they "suck the fun out of everything."

The thing is, negativity has a pesky tendency to breed more negativity, perpetuating a cycle of pessimism and a “woe is me” pattern of thinking. It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly notice all the other people on the road driving that exact same car. If you’re looking for faults in everything and everyone you encounter, you’ll find them. If you’re expecting something to go wrong, it probably will. 

Trapped in a financial fog

Before I discovered YNAB, I was carrying around some pretty heavy negative mental baggage about money. I was a self-proclaimed “financial dummy” who had always been and would always be. Henceforth and forevermore, I was “bad with money.”

The vicious cycle of money woes

My husband and I were drowning in debt and could barely cover our basic needs every month. I’d try to patch things up by creating a spreadsheet budget and setting strict spending rules, but I would inevitably fail, further proving my mindset: this is how it’s always gonna be.

I remember saying to my husband on multiple occasions, “If only we could catch a break. If only someone would just give us $10,000 dollars, everything would be better.” The problem is, if someone had given us that money, things would have been okay for a little while, but we would have ultimately ended up right back where we started: trapped in a financial fog, unable to plan for the future, and just getting by getting through the now.

My inner narrative sounded something like this:

Will we have enough money for groceries and gas this week? Can I take my mom out to lunch and still be able to pay bills? I’m pretty sure our annual car insurance payment is coming up, but I can’t even think about that right now. Did my daughter say something about needing new shoes? Why is money so hard? Why does everything come up at the same time? How am I possibly going to afford this? Why can’t I be better with money like that one rich cousin of mine? I wish money didn’t exist.

Little did I know, I was holding myself back from creating a better life. From having a sense of ease around money. From breaking the cycle of negativity that was stunting my financial growth. My mindset and patterns of thinking had me feeling stuck. Looking back now, I’m grateful to have found a way out.

There’s a better way

So how do you break out of the financial fog? How do you stop seeing money as a problem in your life? How do you build a new mindset that allows your finances to flourish?

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results." - Willie Nelson

So many people, including some financial “experts,” think that the only way to get better with money is through tough love and guilt, which is just negativity dressed up as financial advice. But this won’t get you anywhere. What you really need is a new way of thinking about money that puts your hopes and dreams at the center. A mindset that asks, “How do I WANT to spend my money?” instead of “I need to get better at money.”

To escape the financial fog, here are four simple steps you can take:

1. Build new, healthy money habits.

YNAB is built around the idea that if you change your financial habits, you change your life. 

When I first started learning about and implementing YNAB’s Four Habits, the wheels started turning in my brain. I started imagining new possibilities for the future. For the first time ever, I felt like I actually had a shot at changing the financial trajectory of my life. I felt empowered instead of disadvantaged. At peace instead of stressed. Hopeful instead of discouraged.

These habits are simple, yet life-changing.

YNAB’s Four Habits:

  • Habit One: Give every dollar a job. 
  • Habit Two: Embrace your True Expenses.
  • Habit Three: Roll with the punches. 
  • Habit Four: Age your money. 

Intrigued by the power of positive thinking? Learn 4 ways to eliminate second-guessing around money.

2. Start telling yourself positive stories about your finances.

As my confidence grew, I started to tell myself positive stories about my financial situation. I’d say things like, “I can totally see how things are getting better.” and “Maybe I’m not actually bad with money after all.”

When we consistently think positive thoughts, celebrate the small wins, and tell ourselves positive stories (or affirmations), we are essentially rewiring our brains, helping them to adapt and change over time. This strengthens our neural pathways associated with optimism, resilience, and self-belief. 

Four money affirmations to repeat daily:

3. Surround yourself with people who have a positive money mindset. 

The crowd we choose to spend our time with shapes our reality. Kicking it with people who have a positive outlook on money makes a major difference. Being around that kind of energy can lift you up and give you the confidence to see money as an opportunity. So, choose your money buddies wisely—they can really help you level-up your money game!

4. Create an aspirational money plan.  

Now that I’m over five years into using YNAB, I see it more as a life-planning tool that can help shape a future that matches my dreams, desires, and values. Earlier this year I created a brand new plan in YNAB and named it “Upwards.” I pictured where I wanted to be a year from now and what I wanted to spend my money on, and built my plan with that in mind. 

So, how do you want to spend your money?

Your money plan should be centered around the life you want to live, not the one where you’re just getting by. Ask yourself the important question, “How do I want to spend my money?” and build your plan around the answer. 

Take time to really dig in and ask yourself what you aspire to. Make a list of things you want to spend money on now, in the near future, and in the distant future, and include them in your plan. Then, build in flexibility so when unexpected bills or life events pop up, you can roll with them instead of seeing them as setbacks. 

When the fog lifts

Imagine a world where you feel great about money. Where you no longer have to brace for the impact of bank breaking surprise expenses, or second guess every purchase you make. A world where you no longer see yourself as “bad with money” or “stuck in a rut.” Where the financial fog has lifted and you can actually start looking towards the future with hope and clarity. 

When you adopt a positive mindset and new habits around money, you’re setting yourself up to break free from your financial fog and accept a new reality where things actually can be better. When you surround yourself with like-minded people, you’re creating a network of accountability that will keep you on the path of growth and positive thinking. And when you have a plan that’s built around your aspirations, your outlook on money (and your bank account) will just keep getting better and better. 

So turn off the fog lights. You won’t be needing them anymore. And we’ll be cheering you on along the way!

Financial clarity starts with a 34-day free trial. Make YNAB your next right move!

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