What I Learned About Money From 400 Days of Gratitude

While the concept of practicing gratitude may seem fluffy, research has shown that gratitude has a positive effect on your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Follow Rachel’s journey of over 400 continuous days of gratitude, and how it allowed her money mindset to evolve.

It was September 2020. The last nine months had been particularly grueling: A worldwide pandemic, a nationwide lockdown, and a redundancy process that began in January and finally wrapped up nine months later. Faced with unemployment, I needed something to keep me going. Something that would help me see the good, the true, the beautiful in life.

That night, I made my first #30daysofgratitude post on social media.

The physical and mental benefits of gratitude are well-documented. 30 days seemed like a manageable target. I never would have thought that two years and 400+ gratitude posts later, I’d still be going.

It’s amazing the things a regular gratitude post has taught me. For one thing, there really is something to be grateful for every day — even if it’s only the warmth of the sun. For another, I’ve learned a lot about myself in ways I didn’t expect.

Take money, for example. It’s a strangely reciprocal relationship; money teaches me about gratitude, and gratitude teaches me about money.

1. (Money) mindset matters

In the early days, gratitude was an effort. I was so busy focusing on what I didn’t have — like a job — that I had to stop and actively think of something to be grateful for. Now? I won’t say it’s reflex, but it’s definitely a solid habit. It’s the same with my money mindset. Unemployment, temp work, freelancing… through the ups and downs, I learned to look for the positive and the plentiful. Instead of worrying about using my emergency fund (after all, isn’t that what it’s there for?), I worked on being present, being content, and looking ahead to the next opportunity.

The scarcity vs abundance mindset is well-known. I looked back even further in history for some inspiration, and found myself dwelling on this verse from the Bible: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8b).

2. The details and the big picture aren’t mutually exclusive

I like gratitude for the same reason as I like PocketSmith: Because, unlike my phone camera, I can focus on the tiniest details at the same time as the hundred-mile overview.

With gratitude posts, I’ve taken snapshots of everything from the breathtaking vastness of the night sky to a bus driver stopping while a cat crossed the road; from the fluffy feathers of a sparrow to a seismic shift in employment. I’ve been grateful for the overwhelming (Day 165. Fell in love with the perfect flat. Ran the numbers and I can afford it!) and the overwhelmingly mundane (Day 417. Another sunset! Cool how they happen every night, innit?)

Likewise, I love that I can track the slow growth of my net worth and watch my student loan slowly tick down, while also keeping an eye on the dollars and cents of my weekly grocery budget. Big picture and small, they work together. The loan might seem overwhelming and the groceries mundane, but they balance out.

3. Money isn’t everything… but it’s a factor

Looking back through my “Discretionary Spending” category in PocketSmith, it’s reassuring to see that I’ve never hit my monthly limit, but also that I’ve always spent something. As an introvert and a natural saver, it’s easy to justify not spending money. But in 400+ days of gratitude, I’ve learned that’s not an excuse.

I’ve been grateful for making money. Day 17. I’m grateful for: Good friends, church networks, and full-time work that turns up out of the blue.

I’ve been grateful for saving money. Day 382. Gratitude post and #moneytip in one: Before you buy something online, google “[website] discount code.” You’d be amazed at what pops up.

I’ve been grateful for spending money. Day 322. I’m grateful for a little $5 paint test pot but what a big change!

Money is an inextricable part of modern life — not an unknown element to be feared, but a practical tool to be used.

And now, for me, so is gratitude.

Rachel E. Wilson is an author and freelance writer based in New Zealand. She has been, variously, administrator at an ESOL non-profit, transcriber for a historian, and technical document controller at a french fry factory. She has a keen interest in financial literacy and design, and a growing collection of houseplants (pun intended).

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