The Success Mindset

The Success MindsetIf you truly want to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself, a “success mindset” is more important than any other tool you’ll need to reach those goals.  As my family and I work toward our goal of being debt free, I’ve made a job out of observing those who fail and those who succeed at the financial or other goals they’ve set.  And I’ve noticed one glaringly obvious difference between the attitudes of those who succeed at their goals, and those who give up.  Those who succeed at their goals have what I like to call the Success Mindset.  What is a “success mindset”?  Let me give you an example:

The Success Mindset

The other night, my husband and I and our four kids went out to eat to celebrate a close relative’s birthday.  Now, going out to eat is not something we do often.  For a family of six at a sit-down type restaurant, we can expect to spend between $60-$80 after dinner, pop to drink and tax and tip.  Since financial freedom is more important to us right now than eating out, we simply don’t eat out, but we made an exception – one we feel is well worth it – in order to join this loved one in celebrating her birthday.

However, we did some things before the night out arrived.  Things like:

– checking the online menu for prices, so that we had an idea of what the price range of the restaurant was and what we could expect to spend for the evening.

– budgeting and saving in advance for the expenditure

– searching online for money-saving coupons

Eventually, we found that we could get a coupon for $5 off of two entrees simply for signing up for this particular restaurant’s e-club.  Two minutes later, we had that $5 off coupon printed out and in my purse, ready for the big night.

The afternoon of the gathering, I was talking to another person who was going to be joining us for our dinner out.  I excitedly shared the news about the $5 coupon, so that they could join and save as well.

“Nah.” was the response.  “We rarely go there – not worth my time.”  Now, this is not necessarily a criticism, but more of an observation.  This particular person who blew off the $5 coupon is always broke, despite a decent income.  Why?  Because they have the “it’s only……” mindset.  You know the one: the “It’s only $5, $10, $20 or $100 mindset.

Unfortunately, no matter if it comes to spending or saving, the “It’s Only” mindset is a major enemy to the Success Mindset.  It’s that “it’s only” attitude that will keep you from losing weight, from being rich, and from every other goal you want to reach.

When we became serious about our journey to get out of debt starting in January of 2013, we went back and reviewed some of our 2012 expenses, and found that the “It’s Only” mindset  was costing us nearly $1,000 every month in inflated grocery costs, gasoline costs, energy costs and entertainment costs.  We thought that we’d done well in 2012 because we were hitting fast food joints instead of sit down restaurants, and we probably did spend less in 2012 than we had in previous years.  However, we still had the “It’s Only” mindset, and that mindset is the polar opposite of the Success Mindset.

The Success Mindset says that every little bit adds up and every little bit counts.  Whether it’s saving money and choosing to spend less, saving calories by choosing to eat less, or whatever, having the Success Mindset and accepting the fact that the little strides toward (or away from) your goals are just as vital as the big strides will make all the difference in the world as to when – and if – you reach your goals.

What qualities and attitudes do you think are vital to success?

Image via Celestine Chua

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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  1. June 25, 2014 at 8:24 am — Reply

    This reminds me of a friend of mine who is also always broke (even though he’s single, has a good job, and lives in a tiny house). When I told him I was in the market for some nice headphones and I found them for half price, he asked “if you’re going to spend $50 why not just go ahead and get some Bose headphones for $100”? I didn’t know how to respond to that– “because $50 matters?” is what I should have said.

    • June 25, 2014 at 8:39 am — Reply

      Ugh, stories like that make me cringe, probably because I know how very much cash we wasted away when that was our mindset. 🙁

  2. June 25, 2014 at 8:36 am — Reply

    This is so true. The goal on everything is how you mentally perceive it. The goal to financial freedom is not only about debt but about changing your mindset. What I have learned from my experience is to always have a plan of action. If I would of planned my May I wouldn’t have have struggled as we did that month. Because we have “we can do this” mindset we didn’t let a busted budget get us down. It’s so easy for dwell on the negative and not celebrate the positive sometimes. I have learned so much about myself since taking control of my finances years ago. Great post.

    • June 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm — Reply

      Brit, you bring up a great point about how having the “we can do this” attitude will help to keep you afloat when budget busters arrive. That is a huge part of the success mindset!

  3. June 25, 2014 at 8:41 am — Reply

    Man, that “It’s Only…” trap can really get you in trouble. It’s like dying from 1,000 paper cuts. Some may be bigger than others, but they’re smaller and they all add up to something much bigger. One thing I find that is important to success to always finding something to motivate myself with. That drives me when I am tempted to give up. If I can tangibly see something and know that I can attain it by continuing to work then I’m much less likely to give up.

    • June 25, 2014 at 9:15 am — Reply

      Love that analogy, John!!!!! Great tip about always having a motivation. I get mine when I look at the faces of our sweet kids. 🙂

  4. June 25, 2014 at 9:13 am — Reply

    I know a little about the “Success Mindset” as well. I do mystery shopping – did quite a bit of it when we were paying off our debt. The jobs only paid $15-20, and I sometimes wondered if it was worth my time. But after stringing a couple of them together, getting a check in the mail for $60 was ALWAYS welcome!

    • June 25, 2014 at 9:16 am — Reply

      LOL, that’s the success mindset, Travis. It’s doing what you don’t want to do so you can get what you want to have. 🙂

  5. June 25, 2014 at 9:38 am — Reply

    I feel so drawn to this post, Laurie! I really think it’s something I would have written, exactly! For me, little success habits make all the difference. From my morning routine, which includes exercise that gives me way more energy throughout the day, to the mental chatter in my head that I keep positive no matter what – it all helps me move toward what I believe to be success for me. In terms of money, I am committed to digging my way out of my student loan debt, so I got rid of any “keeping up with the Joneses” mindset, allowing me to limit spending and increase my debt payments. And it is paying off!

    • June 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm — Reply

      You make such a great point, Natalie, about managing all of those little habits. It’s a bit, tedious, but in the end it adds up to big success. 🙂

  6. June 25, 2014 at 10:45 am — Reply

    I love this article! I never knew what to call it before, but the “It’s only…” mindset is perfect. I actually have been learning about the successful mindset in an unexpected book, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent. The book talks a lot about how the successful mindset is important in reaching your goals. I’m not planning to become a real estate agent, but the book is surprisingly applicable to all types of goal setting.

    • June 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm — Reply

      Hmmm, haven’t read that one – I’ll have to look for that at the local library. We were “victims” to the “It’s only” mindset for years. It convinced us that our money issues weren’t our fault, but rather the result of not making enough money. What a deceptive state of mind!

      • July 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm — Reply

        That is interesting Laurie. I think many people have that mindset also of ” they can never make enough money”. I know I see that a lot. People who make lots of money complaining that it’s never enough. Every increase in salary just makes it harder for them and they are always looking to make more money but I don’t see them trying to spend less.

        • July 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm — Reply

          I see the same thing, Raquel!! They always think that if they just make “X” amount more, it’ll be good. We were them once, and I can vouch that the income is not the issue: the mindset is! Great point. 🙂

  7. June 25, 2014 at 11:04 am — Reply

    This was me a few years ago and this is my sister now! I told her I switched banks because I will get $20 a month that I wasn’t getting before and she said “what’s $20 a month going to do?” We’ll my lovely sister, I keep my extra $20 and you keep not-getting the $20 a month.

    • June 25, 2014 at 2:28 pm — Reply

      OUCH. We see that often in our families too, Aldo. It’ll be interesting to see the stark differences in your finances vs. your sister’s finances in 10 years.

  8. June 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm — Reply

    I just had a long conversation with a client about this very thing and not falling into the whole “it’s only” mindset because the “it’s onlys” have a way of adding up to something problematic. You really do need to mind every last dollar and control where you can control because it will not only get you to your goals faster, but it helps cushion the blow when the unexpected arises.

    • June 25, 2014 at 2:29 pm — Reply

      Love your last sentence here, Shannon! It’s amazing what a lie the “It’s only” mindset is.

  9. June 25, 2014 at 2:01 pm — Reply

    Yes, I like that term! An “it’s only” mindset can be really dangerous, and I saw that firsthand with a friend. I personally think any amount, however small, can take you away from your financial goals. Too many instances and you might find yourself miles and miles away. It’s best to take those small steps. I would have been excited about the coupon, too =). That’s pretty much my routine for dining out.

    • June 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm — Reply

      E.M., we found out exactly how dangerous that mindset was when we stopped eating out at sit down restaurants and “only” spent on fast food. That “only” added up to $175 a month and $2100 a year!

  10. June 25, 2014 at 7:44 pm — Reply

    Tallying up the “it’s only”‘s at the end of the month, heck, the end of the week, is a real kick in the wallet!

    I think there should be an article on the flipside-when there’s something that seems expensive, and could add up quickly, but benefit you. For example, standing chiropractic or massage treatments. From a health perspective, spending $40 every few weeks can help with headaches and migraines, chronic back problems, asthma and even depression, holistically. IMO, it could actually save you money in the long run on health costs :). Just my two cents ! ~Brenda from SuperMoney.com

    • June 26, 2014 at 8:27 am — Reply

      Ha! I just kinda sorta wrote about that on Frugal Rules today, Brenda!!! Maybe I’ll expand on it for my next post here in a couple of weeks. 🙂

  11. June 25, 2014 at 9:49 pm — Reply

    I can’t believe that people don’t search for coupons before doing anything. It’ so easy to find one for just about anything, but you’re absolutely right about the mindset. People who can’t be bothered with things like a $5 coupon are the ones who aren’t bothered to pay interest on a bill or a late fee for something just because they didn’t want to take time to do better. The fun thing is that when you get used to saving behaviors, it just becomes second nature, like breathing, and really does not take that much time at all.

    • June 26, 2014 at 8:28 am — Reply

      So true about it becoming second nature, Kim. That – and it’s fun!! It’s almost a bit of a competition for me now, to see if I can beat out the stores at their own game. 🙂

    • Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com
      June 26, 2014 at 4:38 pm — Reply

      Kim – agree 100%. We always look for coupons when going out to eat or actually adjust our plans to match up with available coupons that we have. There really isn’t a reason to spend 45 seconds looking for a way to save $5-$10.

  12. June 25, 2014 at 10:43 pm — Reply

    Love this, Laurie! The “It’s only” mindset is something that I have been guilty of as well and it’s very easy to convince yourself that those few dollars don’t mean much. And sure, they don’t in that moment but the reality is we do it all the time, which does add up to significant dollars as you discovered. And I find the more we take money for granted, the more careless we are with how use it and the less joy we derive from it too. Great post!

    • June 26, 2014 at 8:28 am — Reply

      Great point about the more careless we are with our money the less joy we’ll derive from it. I never thought about it that way before!

  13. June 25, 2014 at 11:38 pm — Reply

    There is something worse that the “It’s only …” mindset and that is the “I can’t do it.” mindset. There aer so many people who just give up because of, well, so many reasons. Everyday and not so everyday disasters hit these people and the buckle under the strain. You can hardly blame them sometime. The road to success is flled with so many detours, potholes and road closed signs that it is a surprise that anyone gets to where the want to be. It takes resiliance and determination and, I think, some degree of luck.

  14. June 26, 2014 at 8:29 am — Reply

    Ugh, that’s a bad one, Brad. But I do find that with every step of success, no matter how small, that the “I can’t” mindset moves a little bit further to the back of one’s mind. 🙂

  15. June 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm — Reply

    It really boils down to how much do they want success and the actions they take towards it. When I decided that I wanted to become free of debt, I did everything I could to accomplish it. I knew that I was capable, people had done it before me, so there was no reason I couldn’t achieve the same result…unless I stopped myself. I approach pretty much all of my goals with the same mindset and work ethic.

    • June 28, 2014 at 8:35 am — Reply

      Kassandra, you are a great example of how the Success Mindset can work if you’re willing to adapt it. So happy for you that you’ve attained that goal of debt free!

  16. June 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm — Reply

    We are very similar in our approach, Laurie. We’ve even signed up for deals while we are out to eat (yes, during the meal) if it meant getting money off our bill (TGI Fridays comes to mind). I think if you have a long-term view of your finances instead of a short-term view it’s much easier to get into the small wins here and there and realize the potential for them to add up. I’m sure all our thriftiness in grocery shopping and eating out have really paid off over the years.

    • July 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm — Reply

      LOL, I love it that you’ve looked up and found coupons during your meal – that’s awesome, DC! True frugality. 🙂 And yes, you’re right – it adds up to a ton of cash!

  17. July 2, 2014 at 11:02 am — Reply

    You are right. Your mindset could really determine if you will succeed or not.Your mindset could result into words or actions. And your actions could results to what you really set in your mind.

    • July 2, 2014 at 6:36 pm — Reply

      So true, Kevin!! Those things are very important on a journey to success of any kind.

  18. July 28, 2014 at 7:56 pm — Reply

    When I was younger, this mindset helped to keep me in debt. If I would question a purchase, I would just tell myself, “it’s only $20”. Conveniently, I would “forget” about the $20 I spent yesterday, so today’s $20 was “only” $20. In reality though that $20 and the $10 and $5 really added up over time and helped to me in debt because I couldn’t pay off my balance each month.

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