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Scarcity and Abundance: What Do You Believe?

Aaron McHugh

A single mother raised me. Growing up, I watched her despairingly pay for groceries using food stamps. I mowed lawns to pay for my school clothes. On more than one occasion, my mom returned our collection of recyclable aluminum cans for their nickel deposit grocery store refund just to give me lunch money.

I lived on the borderlines of the low-income project housing, but I had rich friends with country club memberships. I watched and observed the beliefs of both.

I learned that being poor is as much a mindset as it is a financial reality. Rich people seemed to believe that poor people chose to be poor. Poor people believed that rich people spent as much money as they wanted.

It turned out that neither aggregate was entirely correct. Some poor people do choose to be poor by their repetitive choices. The rich, who actually remain rich, never spend as much money as they want. Poor people don’t realize it’s how much money you keep that makes you wealthy, not how much you spend. Rich people can’t fully appreciate how long it takes to save $1,000.00 when you deposit only $7.00 a week in a savings account.

Being a witness to the dichotomy of these two worlds has shaped my beliefs about money. Here are a couple of takeaways I live by:

I never use the phrase “I deserve this.”

When I hear someone use this statement in relation to money, I immediately envision what it must be like to be under a trance from a hypnotist. You’re getting very sleepy. When we are under the influence of the belief “I deserve to buy this,” then our logical reasoning disappears and our emotions take over. Quick- snap out of it.

Two stepsisters

I’ve learned that there are two stepsisters who tell me stories about money. One is named Scarcity (poverty) and the other stepsister is named Abundance (wealth). These phantom sisters represent physical and emotional realities that have driven my belief systems about money.

I can very easily be charmed by either one and consequently my actions and decisions about money pendulum to either extreme. Here is how their voices can sound to me,

The voice of Scarcity, “Aaron, You know it’s going to get bad again. You better start stockpiling rations for the next emergency.” 

The voice of Abundance, “Aaron, these good times are never going to end. Just go for it; you only live once.”

The voice of Scarcity drove my behaviors and actions for decades. Life experience had taught me to dislike unnecessary chaos and unplanned emergencies. Stockpiling rations seemed like the wisest approach.

I took it too far.

I didn’t believe that Abundance was a voice I could afford to listen to. Consequently, I missed out on a lot of fun and enjoyment of life.

Today, I’ve decided that I listened to Scarcity long enough and it’s time to have some fun. Abundance, let’s do this!

Regardless of which stepsister you’ve listened to most, spend less money than you make. 

  • Have a savings account for rainy days and emergencies.
  • Invest some of your resources in the good times, having fun, and exploring the planet.

This post is an excerpt from the Field Guide: 99 Ways to Navigate Your Best Life. Download the full guide here.

Joshua Tree National Park

This picture was taken in Joshua Tree National Park as my friend Jake and I were heading to rock climb. Listen to our podcast on Chasing Adventure: Joshua Tree National Park.

  • It’s hard to break that scarcity mindset. I still battle with it daily as well. How are you breaking away from it today?

    • Joseph- yeah I didn’t do so well with this today. I listened to a podcast this morning that reminded me that Abundance believes that there is an infinite supply to go around for everyone.