When you think of money and gratitude, do you think of the two as everyday occurrences, braided together as part of an intentional life?
Or does the thought of gratitude cause a certain once-a-year American holiday to pop up in your head?
If it does, let’s think of a PB&J sandwich instead. I’ll explain exactly why later.
For now, think of this classic comfort food. It’s available year-round, not reserved for special occasions.
Like gratitude. Instead of saving gratitude for yearly holidays, try to incorporate this into everyday living.
Because success with money often depends on your money mindset. And one of the best ways to improve your money mindset is to practice gratitude.
Gratitude helps you overcome a scarcity mindset and moves you towards one of abundance. It’s a core money mindset shift to make in your journey toward financial independence and beyond.
Let’s start with a definition.
What Do You Mean by Gratitude?
Gratitude is a pleasant feeling of being thankful or appreciative for what you have or what you’ve received in life. It includes being grateful for both the tangible, like a place to live, or the intangible, like the love and support you receive from other people.
Expressing gratitude means you look around you, and you focus on what you do have.
Linking money and gratitude helps you spend less, save more, spend wisely, and earn more. It also supports you on your financial independence journey.
That’s a pretty big claim, so let’s see how this works.
Linking Money and Gratitude Helps You Spend Less
Gratitude leads to contentment or being happy with what you have. It helps curb our appetite for “more.” No matter what we have, it can seem like never enough.
Blame hedonic adaptation or the wiring in our brains. Hedonic adaptation causes us to return to our original emotional state after either negative or positive events in our lives. It’s why winning the lottery probably won’t make you happier in the longer term.
It’s why we feel like we need to keep spending money to maintain those positive feelings. Otherwise, we quickly return to our set point of happiness.
The emotional high of a new purchase only lasts so long, and then you get used to it. For example, after a few months, a speaker system you once marveled at now fades into the background. You stop noticing how beautiful it sounds.
Because of this, we tend to live on autopilot, blindly acquiring more stuff in an attempt to attain happiness. But gratitude helps curb those impulse purchases. It gives you the space to stop and think.
Advertisers push the latest, greatest product or experience that (they tell us) will finally make us happy. A new and improved purchase to lead to a new and improved you.
Gratitude provides protection against advertising so you can spend less. It helps break the link that you need to spend more money to be happy.
Appreciating what you already have, and savoring it, versus taking it for granted is a way to counteract hedonic adaptation. So when you turn on those speakers, this time you’ll pay attention and enjoy the rich sound surrounding you.
Linking Money and Gratitude Helps You Save More
Spending less money is a big part of frugal living. It’s how you channel more money into savings. But when you pursue frugal living, it could be easy to fall into a scarcity mindset.
A scarcity mindset is where you feel like there is never enough. It comes from a place of “I can’t afford it.” It’s all about lack. Gratitude offsets that tendency by changing your focus from what you may be giving up as part of frugal living to what you already have.
Gratitude also offsets potential feelings of lack when creating a budget or spending plan—a vital part of a financial plan. A spending plan can feel restrictive or limiting. After all, there will be only so much money you can spend each month (especially if you save a lot of your income).
Again, gratitude shifts your focus from lack to appreciation. This helps you set money aside for your future, versus spending every dime in an endless quest for “happiness.”
Gratitude Leads to a Wise Use of Your Money
One of the wisest uses of your money? Give it away.
Ummm, what? Isn’t the aim of financial independence to accumulate enough money, so you eventually have the option of not working?
Yes. However, you want to enjoy the journey, and gratitude, which leads to generosity, is one excellent way to enjoy it.
Generosity leads to a feeling of well-being and can even relieve stress and anxiety.
If this idea resonates with you (and you have the money), add it as a category in your budget or spending plan. Think of it as mental health spending.
Also, from a purely transactional point of view, generosity provides a high “return on spending.” The article, Six Ways to Get More Happiness for Your Money, lists being generous as one of the six ways.
The article cites research showing that spending money on others makes you happier than spending it on yourself. This is especially true when a social connection is involved— like treating a friend for lunch.
This brings us to the next benefit of money and gratitude.
Gratitude Can Lead to Potential Opportunities
Almost all your income comes directly from other people. Especially if you have a job or a service-based business—you depend on other people for the money flowing into your life.
Your earnings are the result of relationships you have with others. One of the best ways to forge strong relationships and gain trust is by showing gratitude to others.
When you show gratitude, you’re also showing people you appreciate them. You’re expressing prosocial behavior or actions “characterized by a concern for the rights, feelings, and welfare of other people.”
Being prosocial can lead to more opportunities for earning money.
It’s common sense, right?
Who would you rather hire, work with, or pay money to—the positive and likable person or the cranky complainer who makes you feel like you aren’t enough?
Who would you rather help, the person who expects it (or worse, continually criticizes you), or the one who thanks you?
Research on gratitude in the workplace links gratitude to many positives like less stress and higher satisfaction.
Expressing gratitude to people you work with can, if nothing else, promote better relationships.
Practicing gratitude with people you work with can spill over into your personal life and improve all your relationships. Who wouldn’t want that?
Money and Gratitude Practical Practice: Two Magic Words
This might sound trite, but it isn’t. You’ll not only benefit yourself—but you’ll also make the world a kinder, more friendly place.
What are these two magic words? “Thank you.”
Simply say “thank you” each time you get something, yes, even when you pay for it. People on the front lines like cashiers, restaurant servers, and other service professionals deal with grumpy people all day long. If nothing else, saying “thank you” can brighten someone’s day and help them feel seen and acknowledged as a person.
“ ‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humanity, understanding.” – Alice Walker
Although this is a solid habit to develop, avoid a rote, automatic response. Instead, when you say, “thank you,” look the person in the eye and mean it.
Thanking people builds strong relationships and strengthens your feelings of gratitude, a double win.
Gratitude Supports Your Financial Independence Journey
If you’re on the path to financial independence, you know it can be a long one. You need to pause along the way and appreciate yourself for the work you’ve put in to get where you are.
It’s essential to be happy in the short term, even as you work towards achieving long term goals like this.
When you’re working on a plan to improve your financial future, it’s easy to get lost in what you don’t have yet, or where you want to go. But acknowledging what you’ve already done or already have will provide positive emotional fuel for the journey ahead.
Every dollar you save represents the work you’ve done to overcome the programming to spend it. Celebrate!
Focus on what you’ve achieved and bathe yourself in feelings of gratitude. Only then should you look at where you want to go next. If you live your life always focused on the next step, this will be a painful journey, and you are more likely to quit in disgust along the way.
Practicing gratitude also supports patience, another core mindset shift to help you on your financial path.
Okay, let’s look at a second practical way to practice gratitude on your financial independence journey.
Money and Gratitude Practical Practice: A Gratitude Journal
Find a notebook and put it somewhere you’ll see it each day. Then, once a day, either in the morning or at night, write out three things you’re grateful for.
This works because it refocuses your mind on the positive. To come up with those three things every day, you’re developing the habit of scanning your environment for what is right, for what is working.
As you write each thing down, focus on the feeling and experience of gratitude. Savor it. Provide details.
Simply jotting down three things to check a box won’t do much. Also, avoid writing down negative items that you pretend are positives. I was guilty of this, writing, “I’m grateful most days aren’t as bad as this one,” when I had a crappy day.
Instead, look for something good that happened on even the worst days. You’re alive, right? There’s one.
Don’t just look for big, exciting things. Instead, focus on the ordinary. Be grateful for the purring cat on your lap, or the smell of the apple pie on your plate, or the soft, plush comfort of your fleece blanket.
Please keep it simple with three items a day at first. Here’s an excellent resource from Positive Psychology if you want to learn more about gratitude journaling.
Gratitude and Finding Your Enough
By linking the thought of money and gratitude, you can unlock a positive, abundance mindset around money.
After all, thinking about money can trigger instant fear and feelings of scarcity and lack. But by focusing on gratitude as a practice, you can slowly change this.
Gratitude and money linked together help you save more and earn more on your financial journey. It also makes the trip far more pleasant along the way.
Oh yeah, how are money and gratitude the PB&J of financial success? Well, money is the protein-packed peanut butter, and gratitude is the jam that makes it sweet.
The sweet practice of gratitude helps you find your enough.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Psychology Today:
“Human beings spend a lot of time trying to figure out what will make them happy, but not nearly enough time trying to hang on to the happiness they already have. In a way, this is like focusing all your energy on making more money, without giving any thought to what you’ll do with the money you’ve already earned. The key to wealth, like the key to happiness, is to not only look for new opportunities but to make the most of the ones you’ve been given.”
I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read this and hope it benefits your life.