The air is feeling chillier, leaves are falling all around, there are decorations all over town… the holidays are indeed upon us. Reflecting on the past month of celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and loved ones, entering the month of December and Christmas upon us, I am stuck on the idea of gratitude.
Taking time to be still and give thanks for the abundance in our lives can be a joy-giving practice during the holidays and year-round. It’s no secret that gratitude can improve our relationships, our work lives, and even our moods… but what about our finances? What does being grateful have to do with helping you get rich? The answer may surprise you because gratitude has EVERYTHING to do with building wealth!
Last week, I stumbled across a video on YouTube talking all about this unlikely pair (gratitude and finances). Patrick King, CFP, the Founder of Prana Wealth Management posted a video called 4 Ways Gratitude Can Improve Your Finances. Though it’s only four and a half minutes long, Patrick’s video really made me think!
In this article, we’ll dive into the 4 ways that having a habitual gratitude practice can help you build some serious wealth and a Life You Love. I’m so excited to expand upon Patrick’s points and ideas! Let’s get started.
What does stewardship even mean? According to Dictionary.com, a steward is someone who takes care of or manages something on another’s behalf. When we use this term in the context of our own finances, we mean that we act on our money’s behalf, because it can’t make its own decisions.
Money doesn’t have a thinking mind or autonomy. It doesn’t ask itself, “hmmm, what investment opportunity would allow me to live up to my fullest potential?” It’s just money! We are its stewards. We act on behalf of our money to give it value and purpose.
If you’re here reading this blog, you’re probably trying to learn everything you can to become a good steward of your money. You don’t spend it frivolously on things you don’t need, you don’t turn a blind eye to your monthly budget, and you probably don’t light dollar bills on fire for fun. You probably spend a few of your waking hours consumed with thoughts of making more money to steward!
There’s nothing wrong with being driven by income, but Patrick made an amazing point in his video:
“Gratitude cultivates stewardship. By practicing gratitude, we become more appreciative of everything that we have. That appreciation cultivates an attitude of stewardship. Becoming better stewards allows us to take better care of our investments so that they grow to their full potential over the years.”
In this financial independence retire early (FIRE) community, it can be so easy to always chase more. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! But this idea from Patrick that taking the time to sit back and give thanks for the money and wealth you already have can give you a fresh lens on stewarding that money. You may experience more clarity in investment decisions and more motivation to use your money wisely.
*Financial Gratitude How-To #1: Try sitting in a comfy, quiet space and reflect on how much you’ve grown financially in the last 12 months. How about the last 5 years? Last 10? Give yourself some recognition and credit for all that you’ve accomplished so far. Make a list of some of your proudest moments. Taking the time to reflect on where you’ve been can help you give thanks for where you are.
Patrick says it best when he says, “we always seem to be on a quest for more.” These days, there’s an overwhelming influence for buying, upgrading, and revamping our possessions. The cycle is endless. You buy the next-best-thing today, and the next-next-best-thing comes out tomorrow. Consumerism is a vicious machine that can be treacherous for those of us who want to become financially independent and wealthy. How do we escape it? Patrick poses the question, “Can it be as easy as being fulfilled instead of buying fulfillment?”
Something that I realized while watching this video is that without gratitude, there will never, ever, ever, ever be enough. If we can’t sit back and truly give thanks for our possessions, we’ll always need more of them. If we can’t feel deeply fulfilled with what we’ve already got, we’ll keep looking. When does it stop?
It stops with gratitude. Giving thanks for your items as you use them can foster a deep-seeded sense of contentment and gratefulness for the abundance in our lives. It can finally release you from the chains of consumerism and always feeling like you don’t quite have enough.
Feeling free from the cycle of consumerism is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do for your FIRE journey. Understanding that things are just tools for living life. A jacket is just to keep you warm. A pair of shoes is just to protect your feet and support your body. A home is just a place to keep you safe and warm and a space to make memories with those you love most.
Spend what’s necessary, replace things when they break, and don’t count on objects to make you happy or whole. Your possessions are not your personality, and the people you want in your life won’t care about what you have… they’ll care about who you are! As the Minimalists say, “love people, use things, because the opposite never works.”
When you use gratitude to reach a point of complete contentment with the items you already have and escape the consumerism trap, you’ll undoubtedly watch your wealth skyrocket.
*Financial Gratitude How-To #2: Patrick gives a great tip – “buy it nice or buy it twice”. I love this idea because it hints at the difference between being cheap versus being frugal. Spend $100 on a winter coat that will keep you warm and last you several years instead of buying a cheap one that doesn’t even block the wind and falls apart with the first wash.
You’ll get more use out of your belongings, and you’ll be able to be more thankful for them. You’re more likely to take better care of them, too! Having less things but nicer things that you truly like can help combat that feeling of needing to go out and buy something new.
I absolutely love this point that Patrick makes on the connection between gratitude and finances – and I think it’s two-fold! Gratitude for your finances can shift your perspective regarding how you compare yourself to others in your social circle and how you stack up in comparison to the rest of the world.
Let’s talk about comparing our financial journeys to those of the people around us (or those we see on social media). It is getting easier every day to beat ourselves up for not having 18 income streams by the age of 20. Or for not already being an affiliate marketing millionaire at 25. It’s even getting easier to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Joneses” – though you know very little about your neighbor’s finances, you can’t help but get a little green with envy every time he pulls into the driveway with that nice new car…
Comparing ourselves to others is so natural. As Patrick says, “it’s part of being human.” But it can be detrimental to our financial journeys. You may take an investment risk that you shouldn’t in an attempt to catch-up with that guy you watch on YouTube. You may make a large purchase you regret in an attempt to fit in with the people in your social circle.
Practicing gratitude for where you’re at in your FIRE journey can help dull the burning feelings of comparison we face each day. Reflecting on the fact that you are making the best decisions you can for the money you have can help you feel a little less green when you see that neighbor’s new car tomorrow.
Now, let’s talk about comparing our finances to that of the rest of the world. Patrick says, “in the United States, which comprises around 5% of the world’s population, we account for far more than our share of per capita income and global wealth… having the perspective of our amazing relative affluence can help us navigate our finances in a healthy way.”
It may sound a little cheesy but thinking about those around the world who are far less fortunate than us can completely refresh your perspective on your finances. Being grateful that we live in a country where building wealth comes down to working a little harder and buying less stuff can really help you take your finances to the next level.
*Financial Gratitude How-To #3: Make a list of some things you’re jealous of – people, items, successful businesses. Then, make a commitment to yourself to stop comparing your journey to theirs. Your Chapter 2 will never look like their Chapter 10! Take a moment to write out a few things you are thankful for about where you’re at right now. Is it your savings? Is it your retirement accounts? Is it that you’ve paid down a certain amount of debt in the last few months? Celebrate your wins, don’t downgrade them just because someone else’s wins seem “bigger.”
This is my absolute favorite point in Patrick’s video, because it ties the other three up in a nice bow! Think about it – being a good steward, feeling less pressure from consumerism culture, and comparing yourself less to those around you all lead to a much more satisfying existence. And gratitude makes it happen.
When we slow down and give thanks for the money we have, the items we have, and the opportunities we have, we can stop giving so much of our energy to it! We have a higher capacity to love on those around us, enjoy the beautiful world around us, and be happy! Giving thanks for your finances leads to letting go a little bit – and “ultimately, Living A Life We Love”.
I want this quote from Patrick framed in my office – “Gratitude and appreciation for your life, just as it is with all its imperfections, allows us to let go of the stress that comes with wanting more, earning more, and consuming more. We all have so much to be grateful for.”
Carving out a little time each day to reflect and be grateful for what you do have instead of what you don’t have will lead to a feeling of fulfillment. Fulfillment leads to less money wasted on things you think might get you there. Fulfillment leads to higher levels of happiness, which lead to more productivity and creativity. Fulfillment leads to better relationships and friendships. Fulfillment leads to more clarity when making big financial decisions.
Can’t you see how gratitude can drastically change your financial life? By feeling more grateful, you’ll naturally be a better steward of your resources. By feeling more thankful, you’ll be less inclined to buy new things when your items are perfectly good and functional. By giving thanks for what you have, you’ll feel less pressure and comparison when you see people who have things you don’t, and you’ll feel overwhelmed by your own abundance. By practicing gratitude, you’ll feel satisfied exactly where you are on your financial journey and ultimately remembering that, Life is Short, Love the Life you Live!
This holiday season, do me a favor and spend just 10 minutes writing down some of the financial things you’re thankful for – here are some examples:
I promise that if you can keep this practice up year-round, your entire mindset around your FIRE journey will shift. Things will feel easier, and you’ll feel lighter. Gratitude for your money can lead to building crazy wealth and to you finally Living a Life You Love! What are you waiting for?
To read up on more ways to be grateful this holiday season, check out our mindset writer Dani’s article, 5 Ways to Show Gratitude During the Holidays.