How to Overcome a Poverty Mindset

By Eric Perry, PhD-c

“Poverty is a state of mind.” ~Rahul Gandhi 

Do you ever catch yourself passing on joyous opportunities because you feel it will be too expensive? Do you second guess yourself before or after making purchases? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of a poverty mindset. It is important to differentiate between actual poverty and refusing to experience life more abundantly. Research suggests that 80% of the world lives on $10 per day. At least 1.1 billion people in developing countries do not have access to water and some 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity. If you have water and electricity, chances are you are not living in extreme poverty. And, if you are not living in extreme poverty, chances are you can afford to treat yourself, at least some of the time.

Here are some ways to overcome a poverty mindset:

1. Acknowledge the source
Pause for a moment and consider how past experiences might have had a lasting impact on the perception you have about your current financial situation. Attachment theorist John Bowlby would suggest that childhood experiences of lack or “not having” would promote an insecure attachment style towards money. Do you feel like you experienced “not having” as a child? Keep in mind that “not having” is not limited only to monetary circumstances. For example, there can be poverty in love, health, and relationships. It is not uncommon that lack in these areas can translate into feelings of lack about financial stability.

2. Growth starts with acceptance
It can be easy, though not fulfilling, to stay stuck in old belief systems or behavioral patterns. It takes a tremendous amount of humility and courage to step outside of our comfort zone and admit we have weaknesses. Remember, if we want something different, we must be willing to try something different. Acceptance that you may be struggling in this area is the first and most important step to take in overcoming your poverty mindset.

3. Differentiate luxury versus utility
Are you comfortable spending as long as it is strictly for utility? It can be helpful to evaluate the nature of our spending. Take a moment to reflect on the areas in your life where spending is less bothersome. If you are a person who avoids spending on luxury then it is important to ask yourself, “Why am I withholding joy from myself?” Remember, money is not an end. Money can be a vehicle to increasing joy. Is it really that you cannot afford something, or could it be that you do not feel worthy of spending on yourself? Sometimes, we might even tell ourselves, “Well, once I do something worth celebrating, then I will treat myself.” Aren’t you tired of waiting?

4. Consider the sacrificial component
Sometimes, we might feel like it is necessary to sacrifice our joy in the present moment to preserve our stability for future moments. Of course, this logic makes sense to some extent. But, how far is too far? This can only be answered by you. Beware of the negative core belief of “I’m not good enough” and “I’m not worthy.” These two NCB(s) can lead to us withholding from ourselves for years and years.

5. Treat yourself 
Set aside $5-20 dollars to spend on something for yourself that is out of the norm. It really can be anything. The only rule is that it cannot be for utility. It must be on something that is intended to add joy to your life.

What are your thoughts about the poverty mindset? Have you been through this and have experiences to share that might be helpful for someone else? Please share it in the comments section.

If this was helpful, but you feel like you need more support click here.

Kind regards,
Specializing in a solution focused and results driven approach to psychotherapy


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16 responses to How to Overcome a Poverty Mindset

  1. Chrissie B says:

    Speaking from experience, I found that when I had less, my child and I were happier. Our joys came from carving out time to go to blockbuster and pick a movie and then make snacks at home. Flash forward, we have all grown older and are more than gainfully employed. What did this result in for me? Debt. Lots of it. Compound that with guilt, and what you get is more frivolous spending. Now I pay myself first by saving what I’ve earned, then my bills and whatever I have left, I spend thoughtfully and joyfully. If I feel like treating myself to something, I do. I have also learned to delay gratification. Do I really want this or that? Or am I simply caving to media and advertising and “trends”?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Jescole says:

    I am the biggest penny pincher ever and my wonderful partner is constantly reminding me that we have room to breath, we can relax, we’re not destitute. I grew up incredibly poor and being frugal was a necessity. It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I live on fixed income. SSDI. My “splurges” are books. I look for books a used or thrift stores or look for discounts on ebooks. I can usually afford to treat myself to at least one book a month.
    Everyone deserves a treat once in a while.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Cynthia Lynn says:

    Often, I find myself outside of the majority. As a child, my brother would lift me up and dump me into the goodwill bin so I could collect what donated toys were inside. We children were given nothing more than food, clothing (barely) and shelter. Successfully employed, to over compensate for having nothing, I developed an insatiable need to buy designer everything. At one point, I owned 150 pairs of pants and 210 blouses and tops. Ironically, today, I admitted to myself that I felt a prison to my possessions; I concluded this addiction is not healthy.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. adampulman says:

    Realising that I was displaying poverty mindset attributes, sub-consciously to some degree, was an eye-opener and that working on a reversal, to an abundance mentality was a game-changer. Don’t get me wrong, it took time and a lot of work, both physically and mentally, however it was only when I realised that my state of mind impacted the way I viewed my financial position, which in turn impacted on how I behaved, which in turn impacted my actual financial position, that I realised I could begin to do something positive about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Clicking for Cash from Home says:

    For years I allowed the lack mindset to rule my life. I was a tightwad because I feared ending up destitute. This was a result of observing how my parents were about money. However, after my spiritual awakening, FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) no longer plagues me because money is cool, I love it, and the spiritual universe wants me to have plenty of it! Another good resource I read that helps in overcoming the poverty mindset is the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I find being consciously grateful for all that I have, shifts my thoughts from not enough to I already have it all which creates opportunities more of what I want. It’s magical.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. ReVitellect says:

    I’m not sure if I face this exactly, but I think I may face it to an extent. I tend to usually justify not spending unnecessarily in terms of saving up and also seeing whether what I buy will actually benefit me. I guess I could loosen up a bit, but I think it’s also important to be a bit frugal. Splurging can result in or maintain poverty as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. neakris29 says:

    Most of the time I try to save and not spend, if it is not necessary. If something costs more than 20$, then I probably am not gonna get it, because there is never enough money. I am not that poor, of course, so it might be a mindset, but I can’t make enough money to save on a big things, sadly, so I try not to spend even on small one-s.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am actually learning to budget now…I usually just splurge till I’m skint. I find it almost impossible to ‘window shop’…if I step into a shop, money changes hands. I find it difficult to buy just one treat….it has to be at least two. My son on the other hand spends wisely…always prioritising. When I was younger I would prefer to spend money on new clothes rather than food and even now I find i dislike spending money on food…I’d sooner treat myself to Theatre tickets. So I’m learning to budget with an App.

    Liked by 1 person

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