Needs, wants, scarcity, abundance
February 18, 2018 9:13 AM   Subscribe

What are some resources (books, essays, experiences, practices to try, whatever) to ameliorate a scarcity mindset?

I have a deeply entrenched scarcity mindset that contributes to difficulty distinguishing needs from wants and identifying basic needs (if I'm cold, hungry, require transportation or medical attention). It always feels like I'm thinking to myself, "I can probably go on for a little longer without," and it feels scary to express, let alone indulge, a need or want. The line between need and want feels blurry to me, because things that might be considered basic needs in a wealthier country might actually be luxuries elsewhere. In my childhood home, if I needed something, somebody else in the family would have to go without, and I think I was always made to feel like I was ridiculous or wrong to need or want something. It became easier to convince myself that I didn't actually need or want anything.

Today, I feel this even though realistically, I am financially comfortable enough. I may appear "frugal" and financially responsible, but it's actually bordering on crippling for me. I find it helpful to be around people I am close to who don't have a scarcity mindset, because they act like it's normal to have needs and wants and I feel this wound-up part of me melt away. It's incredible! I also want to take a little more of an active role in adjusting this mindset.

Resources and books specifically about money are fine, but it's not only about money for me. I would like to be able to respond calmly/reasonably to my needs without all the thinking/guilt/rationing, regardless of whether or not I actually have the means to meet that need right away or whether the need/want is ultimately met at all. I've read parts of Scarcity by Mullainathan and Shafir, and imagine that some books about money management could be helpful... bonus points if it is tailored towards immigrants who are adjusting from a poorer country to a wealthier country, but that is by no means a requirement.

What worked best for you in changing the way you think about and respond to your needs?
posted by gemutlichkeit to Work & Money (5 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity by Catherine Ponder
There are a lot of Christian references here, just let those go if they don't speak to you. Also, written many years ago so many references are dated. However, the underlying thesis is powerful and had a big impact on me.

Creating Money by Duane Packer and Sanaya Roman
posted by elf27 at 9:52 AM on February 18, 2018

Trying to "get rid of a scarcity mindset" is, in itself, a form of scarcity. Trying not to think about lack, or trying to figure out how much you really have or lack ... let it go.

What you want is to nourish a sense of abundance. Books can help, sometimes, but the only place to start is your own heart. Be abundant to yourself. Start small, but with mindfulness.

Buy yourself one tulip, and enjoy noticing it in your home.
Give $10 to a cause that touches you; giving money can make you feel richer.
Add extra the next time you write a tip; not a reward, but to pass on a little abundance.
Get a pet, or volunteer to walk or pet animals at the Humane Society shelter.
Buy a book you love, especially if the author is still alive.
Start a (small) Abundance Journal; note down one time a day you noticed something good.

What happened to you when you were young was a terrible thing, and poor-shaming in our culture is everywhere. "Oh, I shouldn't buy this. Oh, at least I got it at on sale."

My mother used to quote a line from Auntie Mame: Life's a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.

Good luck!
posted by kestralwing at 12:07 PM on February 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

Ever watched the Ancient Magus Bride?
posted by queen anne's remorse at 6:04 PM on February 18, 2018

Both my parents grew up in absolute poverty. I grew up in a middle class household, and while my needs and wants were mostly satisfied, their scarcity mindset rubbed off on me and has definitely affected my life.

What I found most empowering and useful was to track all my expenses and incomes. Financial literacy made me feel in control, not fearful of how much money I was supposedly wasting. Once I got a handle on how much I was actually spending and saving, I would aim for a reasonable savings target.

That money I would save, but all the rest was mine to spend with as I want, when I want. It gave me great freedom to spend. Unlike most people, I have problems with spending, not savings, so my spending tracker showed me how much more money I could spend for the month. I also created budgets for my Needs and Wants. You cannot change how much you are spending on your Needs, not without great effort (and that is why they are Needs), but for my Wants, I could see exactly how much I had left for the month, and bought things if I was under budget. Having a fixed amount for my Wants gave me freedom and permission to spend the money!

Resources I found helpful:
1. Elizabeth Warren All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan
2. A good spending tracker. I use Toshl and I literally only have two categories — Needs and Wants. No need for a trillion categories like housing, bills, car, etc etc etc.
3. A corporate finance course. We are not corporates, but I found it helpful to think in terms of cashflow. I imagine a personal finance course dealing with cashflow is similarly useful.
posted by moiraine at 11:24 PM on February 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is may be a little out of left field, but I found this essay about the "primitive affluence" of early hunter-gatherer tribes pretty interesting, and even hopeful -- humans didn't always live this way, and a scarcity mindset, after your basic needs are met, is largely a cultural/economic thing. (Of course, the article is also quite sad, as these tribes have largely been screwed over by capitalism at this point.)
posted by Bron at 8:39 AM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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