The Financial Case for Gratitude

Thanksgiving gives us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on all the gifts we’re blessed with: health, family, food on the table, a career, a home…the list goes on and on. But what you may not realize is that being thankful can actually make a positive impact on your financial situation.

When it comes to our finances, many of us have a tendency to “compare and despair” – meaning we obsess about what we don’t have, and beat up on ourselves for not having as much as our family members, neighbors or friends. But a daily practice of being thankful for all you do have has been proven to stave off overspending and help you save. Here are four ways that adopting an attitude of gratitude can help you build wealth.

You’ll Stop Comparing Yourself to the Joneses or the Kardashians

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking we have to buy the latest smartphone, car or “must-have” designer accessory in order to be happy. When we’re unaware of all that we already have, we tend to be envious of what those around us have – their clothes, their jobs, their houses – and the status we think these material possessions bring.

But when you stop comparing yourself to the Joneses, you allow yourself to be happy with yourself as you are. Your budget and values should dictate your spending, not a desire to fit in. By letting go of the temptation to keep up with other people, you’ll eliminate unnecessary expenses.

Your Wants Will Become Less Important Than Your Needs

We can never get enough of what we don’t really need. That’s why it’s so tempting to blow our budget again and again on frivolous, ephemeral stuff such as expensive meals and luxury hotels. However, gratitude has a great way of shifting our perspective.

When you remember to be thankful for what you have, your wants suddenly become less important – which means you’ll be less likely to spend your money on indulging them. An essential aspect of wealth building is to keep your spending low and focused on your needs – like shelter, food and transportation. The money you’ll save as a result will improve your sense of security, and make those wants appear even less tempting.

You’ll Stop Scarcity Thinking

Those who find themselves in constant debt tend to practice scarcity thinking, which causes them to focus on what they don’t have and suffer a great deal of financial panic as a result. Practicing gratitude shifts your mindset, and helps you find something to be happy about regardless of your situation. Scarcity thinking will give way to a positive attitude, which will enable you to harness your potential and commit to doing things that used to seem impossible – like getting out of debt or landing a better job.

You’ll Save More

According to Northeastern University Psychology Professor David DeSteno, gratitude has been scientifically proven to increase your chances of saving money. His article in the June 2014 issue of Psychological Science cites the results of a study wherein thankfulness was proven to trigger patience and a willingness to hold out for greater monetary gain.

In a series of experiments, test subjects were offered $54 on the spot, or $80 if they waited 30 days. Researchers manipulated the test subjects’ frame of mind by asking them to spend five minutes writing about something that made them feel happy, grateful or neutral prior to being offered the money. On average, participants who reflected on gratitude were 12 percent less likely to take the smaller amount of money on the spot – the implication being that an attitude of gratitude could increase someone’s savings potential by as much as 12 percent.

So when you’re remembering all you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving, consider adopting an attitude of gratitude all year long. Writing a daily list of three simple things you’re thankful for –e.g., your health, a cup of coffee or a good night’s sleep – is an easy way to stay focused on abundance rather than scarcity. It won’t cost you anything, and it just might improve your financial situation.

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