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working on feeling poor

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a few penceThe other week, I wrote about my love of house magazines, and how I’m frittering away money on them.

Lots of you had some great suggestions to save me money - I’m going to look into a cheap subscription to my favourite magazine, and I’m already checking out more online resources.

Llama for brains had, amongst other things, this advice for me:

You need to work on your self aura of being poor. If you put your mindset into not having enough money then it helps not buying things.

This, is pretty true. When I was a student, I didn’t have very much money, and I didn’t buy as much stuff - I just assumed that I couldn’t afford it.

One of the problems I have now, is balancing that “aura of being poor” for the small stuff, against the “I can afford it if I want to” for the big stuff. Normally, I’m the wrong way round. I think that I can afford all the small things, but balk at paying for the big things, things that I could afford if I put my mind to it.

I don’t really want to feel poor from day to day. I know it might save me money, but I’m not sure it will make me happy. And I’d rather not be miserable. But on the other hand, I probably am cheating myself out of the big things by spending too much on the little things.
What does everyone else think? Am I just imagining that it will make me unhappy? Have you got any other suggestions?

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23 comments for “working on feeling poor”

  1. I’m not sure if I like the ’self aura of being poor’, rather cultivate a ’self aura of not needing “stuff”‘.

    Being poor is a mindset that can hold you back from more than just purchases. It can affect your self image, which causes self confidence to drop.

    If you don’t believe in yourself ALL THE TIME no one else will. You can have no money with being ‘poor’. You can also be ‘poor’ and have money. It’s all in the head.

    Posted by Randall | January 29, 2008, 1:31 pm
  2. I agree with Randall that being poor or not poor is all in the attitude.

    However, I can understand where you’re coming from. I have always had a hard time spending money on big things.

    Posted by Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net | January 29, 2008, 1:58 pm
  3. I really need a better name ;)

    I think maybe the terminology I used was not completely correct. More not being able to afford. Being poor and not being able to afford are nearly but not quite the same I think. Maybe I’m talking rubbish again.

    The main benefit is when you are not really on top of your finances (like me) and don’t quite know how much money you have available. So don’t know quite the impact that buying something has on your overall finances.

    Posted by Llama for brains | January 29, 2008, 2:03 pm
  4. I agree with Randall. So I think what you’re going for, Llama, is the “fundamental decision” or whatever the hell it was called that The Simple Dollar posted about in great detail recently. You fundamentally consider yourself “frugal” as your default mindset.

    Posted by guinness416 | January 29, 2008, 2:46 pm
  5. I agree with the others, poor is a state of mind. Being broke is an unfortunate financial status. I’ve been broke, but I’m certainly not poor. I have good health, and loving family and a good job.

    Spin that feeling of being poor to a feeling of being content with what you have rather than craving something bigger and better. You’ll feel better about yourself and have more confidence. Of course, all this is easier said than done. I feel pretty poor sometimes when around my wealthy friends and all their toys, but I try to remind myself that I don’t need the same material items to feel happy.

    Posted by Frugal Dad | January 29, 2008, 3:51 pm
  6. “Broke” is temporary.
    “Poor” is a state of mind.

    Posted by Ron@TheWisdomJournal | January 29, 2008, 4:23 pm
  7. I am with Frugal Dad and would add contentment = happiness. The size of your (my) bank account should be irrelevant to your (my) happiness.

    Posted by rocketc | January 29, 2008, 4:49 pm
  8. Perhaps working on feeling like a frugal person? An aura of frugality? An aura of self-sufficiency?

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | January 29, 2008, 5:12 pm
  9. My advise to all is: Don’t confuse Net Worth and Self Worth.

    There is Nothing wrong with buying magzines, it is entertainment as much as a book or movie. Budget the money out in an allowance. it will force you in picking a couple and you will appreciate them more. budget should be a lifestyle not a sentance for bad behavior theat you hope to be paroled from!

    Life is too short, Enjoy it responsibly!

    Posted by RacerX | January 29, 2008, 5:48 pm
  10. @Everyone:
    I think you’re all right.

    It can be helpful to assume that you probably can’t afford it, as a default counter to your urge to buy things. But that doesn’t make you poor in any meaningful way, even if you are broke in a financial way.

    Posted by plonkee | January 29, 2008, 7:06 pm
  11. I find that it is easier to be frugal if I just don’t put myself in close proximity to the items that I want. For instance, it is bad for someone trying to lose weight to go anywhere near the McDonald’s drive-through.

    Posted by rocketc | January 29, 2008, 8:37 pm
  12. My mindset is that I have no money to buy anything.
    I do know though that if I wanted something I could probably get, but I don’t feel the need to anymore. The wanting to own loads of stuff has disappeared along with half the debt!

    I certainly don’t feel poor, in debt but not poor.

    Posted by nomorespending | January 29, 2008, 8:46 pm
  13. I am undecided on the question too (I have the same conundrum, mentally), but one thing that has helped is to get into the “Zen” mind set of possessing things and gathering more and more things. Of course, maybe its just helping me to avoid the decision in this case, but its working so far.

    Leo over at ZenHabits has some really good articles on decluttering and living simply, both of which ultimately contribute to being in the “right” mindset.

    So rather than feeling impoverished, I try to “get into” the idea that not only can I generally not afford the new shiny object that is tickling my fancy (probably from Apple), but that I probably don’t really need more junk in the first place, even if it does hold 83,000 more MP3’s. :)

    Posted by metroknow | January 29, 2008, 9:14 pm
  14. I do try to create the illusion of, if not poverty, at least a lot less money than I actually have. I find that if money’s plentiful, I am more apt to spend it. If I have $75 in my wallet, I will spend that $75 a lot faster than if I only have $25 in my wallet today, $25 tomorrow, and $25 the day after that.

    So every payday I squirrel away most of my paycheck into not-so-easily accessible places — my ING account, my retirement accounts, etc., and leave myself with just enough to get by until the next paycheck (without feeling truly poor). It’s a silly mind game, but it works well for me. I have enough self-discipline now that I probably don’t need to do it anymore, but it has become a habit.

    Posted by brad | January 29, 2008, 9:54 pm
  15. @rocketc:
    It does help not to be near temptation. Sadly I work in the city centre, and actually have to walk past quite a lot of shops just to get home. I need to conquer temptation head on, rather than avoid it. At least I don’t need to go past McDonalds ;)

    Although that’s a good idea, my problem is that I actually do have the money - it’s just that I’d be better of saving for bigger things rather than wasting on little things.

    Minimalism certainly helps. If I look at an object and am struggling to think where I’d actually put/use it then it’s not a good buy at all.

    This, is why I’ve given up carrying cash. It seems so wasteful to use a debit card on a tiny transaction, and cash just spends itself.

    Posted by plonkee | January 29, 2008, 10:53 pm
  16. I’d go with cultivating the self aura of having enough and already being content. Something that has positive aspirations as opposed to negative ones. Half full vs half empty. If you have enough, then you don’t think about needing/wanting more. But if you can’t afford, then you still think you need it but lack the funds for it… and where you should be is the state of not needing it at all.

    Posted by deepali | January 30, 2008, 1:15 am
  17. I’m with Brad; it really helps me to keep enough in my checking account to cover my budget but little more. I know I can transfer money from my online savings account if I really need to, but since that money doesn’t show up when I balance my checkbook I can pretend that it doesn’t exist much more easily.

    Posted by E.C. | January 30, 2008, 1:20 am
  18. @deepali:
    Being content is a good aspiration I think.

    Keeping the minimum in my current account is very helpful to me as well. In fact, I’ve gone to a separate account/credit card for my spending, so that I know exactly what discretionary money I have left.

    Posted by plonkee | January 30, 2008, 7:07 am
  19. I think it’s all about balance. If you feel deprived, what good is that? But I find if I give up something (say my morning coffee) knowing I will then use the money towards something I want (in this case, buying stocks through sharebuilder), I actually feel good about giving up the coffee.


    Posted by Lisa | January 31, 2008, 8:50 am
  20. This is a fascinating discussion. I’m not sure I ever want to feel poor, I’m not feeling so great at the moment as I’m so broke, but I know I can change this situation.

    As for the magazines, if you love them, buy them, but if they no longer bring you the satisfaction they once did, or there is something else you want more then they’ll fall by the wayside naturally from what I’ve seen about how you approach things (well from what you post in your blog).

    Posted by debtdieter | February 1, 2008, 2:54 am
  21. I’ve taken a different approach. I ask myself 2 questions:
    1) Do I have room for it (e.g., kitchen stuff)?
    2) Is this purchase environmentally friendly (e.g., magazines, excess toys)?

    The latter has adjusted my day-to-day thinking because it’s reduced my temptation. If you think on a global scale, it becomes less personal. Do I really need this? Do I want to contribute the waste? Deforestation? Oil consumption? So being green has really helped me reduce random purchases, and in turn, save money. It’s less about feeling poor than it is about feeling responsible.

    Posted by MetaMommy | February 2, 2008, 4:08 am
  22. I suppose the feelings of being poor as a student are hard to shake off and are probably still with you at a subconcious level. The point is as with a lot of things in life attitude plays a huge part. Kinda like mind over matter…if you don’t mind it don’t matter :-)

    Posted by Mike | April 18, 2008, 4:15 pm

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