Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Is your bad attitude keeping you poor?

When you’re trying to gain control of your finances, sometimes all it takes is having the right attitude in order to make it work.

Some people are so quick to make excuses and blame other people or unforeseen circumstances regarding their financial situation. I see it all the time – and I’m guilty of it too. We make choices every day, and every choice we make has consequences. Some are good, and some are bad, but they are all an outcome of the choices that we have personally made. Taking credit for the good choices is always fun, but when the results are bad, it is a lot easier just to point the finger at someone or something else.

Here’s an example: I know someone who has taken out in excess of $45,000 in student loans – sounds familiar, right? When she graduated from university, she was shocked to find out what her monthly payments were going to be, how long the amortization period was, and that she had been accruing interest during her “grace” period immediately after graduating.

Over the course of one Skype conversation, she had blamed her parents (for not teaching her about how to manage/save her money), her teachers (for not telling her that her degree would be “useless”), the government (for not being more clear about the terms of the loan), the university (for costing too much) – and her grandma (for giving her sister $2,000 towards school, but not her).

Even though she spends more than she makes, even though she got to decide what degree to take, even though the terms of the student loan were written clearly on the paperwork she signed, even though it’s not her grandma’s job to pay for her education – she blamed everyone but herself.

It’s natural to pass the blame. I find myself doing it all the time:

  • Traffic on the highway made me late”, even though I woke up 15 minutes late, and traffic is the same almost every day.
  • “I can’t afford to work out because the gym costs too much” even though I have a bicycle, hiking boots, and running shoes.

When I was in debt, I was constantly blaming my low-paying job for not allowing me to save, my credit cards for their high interest rates, and my car for always breaking down. But it’s not my employer’s fault I was spending more than I made. It wasn’t my credit card’s fault for charging me because I was living above my means. And it certainly wasn’t my car’s fault that I never properly maintained it.

Of course, there are plenty of external factors that can (and do) play a role in any financial situation, but even those can be tremendously altered by our actions and behaviours.

However, with each misfortune I faced (which I felt was making my life significantly more difficult than everybody else’s), it became harder and harder to pass the blame when it was clear that every separate problem had one thing in common: ME. I knew my bad attitude was holding me back from trying to figure a way out of the crappy situation I had put myself in.

When we have a bad attitude towards money, and we’re constantly acting like a victim, we are immediately setting ourselves up for failure. It seems childish to blame the world limits for our choices, and when we’re only focusing on the negatives, it’s nearly impossible to create new opportunities in order to improve our situation.

The victim mentality allows us to stay safe from the reality that our lives are the way they are because of us. It takes a lot of courage to take responsibility for our own actions. It means that our decisions will now determine every success and every failure in our lives – and that’s scary! But what’s even scarier is never making financial progress, and continuing the downward spiral to financial disaster.

Do you think a bad attitude can stop somebody from achieving financial success?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Eddie says:

    Your story about your friend reminds me of so many people I know who blame others for their misfortunes or stupid decisions. At the end of the day, we’re the ones to make the last call, so we should live with our decisions.

  2. Julian says:

    Excellently put; reminds me of people at university that moaned about receiving their government loans and grants late, even though it was their fault for not getting the paperwork done on time!

  3. I certainly agree with your idea that people must take responsibility for their choices and cannot continually play a victim. However, I think for people living in true poverty or generational poverty, there are in fact systemic/sociological forces that are working against their success.

    I’m always just a little hesitant to get behind a bootstraps mentality or argument (not that that’s the position your article is necessarily arguing from or taking a stance on at all, although it could be construed as such). I think it’s the bootstraps-type of mentality that keeps the US from effecting policy that would stop current system that is making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class disappear completely.

    • eemusings says:

      Agreed – sure it wasn’t your fault your CCs had a high rate Krystal, or your car’s fault it broke down, but unless you had a fairly new car, odds are it would need a lot more maintenance than you could afford at the time to keep it in tip top shape. Old cars may come with no loans but the upkeep can sink you. Like says, it’s a tough cycle for those to break who truly start out with nothing.

  4. Karen says:

    One of your best articles, Krystal!

  5. jolie says:

    Very timely for me as I work to keep things in a positive frame and try to be proactive rather than reactive. Much less stress that way.

    In school I see more each year of the ‘it’s everyone’s fault but mine’ mentality, from students and from parents.

  6. I definitely made a ton of excuses for myself when I was in debt, but eventually came to terms with the fact that although I needed to take out school loans, it was extravagant spending that led me to pay them off at a slower rate than I should have. That being said, I think I know who you are talking about and I try to consider the fact that there are in fact external factors at play that cause people to have the mentality that they do. No excuse but there are certainly two sides of the coin. In any case, I think anyone can do great things with a positive attitude.

  7. Ah yes, the blame game. Two things that help me get past that are these: (1) Unforeseen/unexpected things and sucky financial mishaps happen to everyone!! So stop blaming everyone and having a pity party. Get up and get on with it becuase it happens to everyone! And (2) Yeah, maybe your blame is well placed when you blame your parents, your spouse, the sheisty car dealer, the power company, your school, your bank, politicians…maybe those blames are exactly where they should be. But it doesn’t matter becuase it’s your financial problem now. So deal with it. That was a biggie for me to learn. Even if I blame everyone but myself and even if I’m right, I still have to handle the situation I’m in. So get on with it!

  8. eemusings says:

    It’s human nature to blame others for their own situations, but to shift the blame when it’s you in a tough spot.

  9. MTB says:

    I had a bad attitude when I quit my job and was bouncing from temporary job to temporary job for a few years. I blamed the workplace, even though it was my decision to quit on the spot and have nothing lined up or even a plan.

    With a bad attitude, you end up spending more energy on whining and not seeing your net worth grow. It can also lead you to spend recklessly: “Screw this. I’m buying an expensive thing I don’t need”.

  10. I believe putting blame on things outside of your control does not help you overcome anything both in your personal and financial life.
    I learned that during high school.
    Although I still blame my parents for some stuff when we get into arguments :P I think that’s pretty typical.

  11. Paul N says:

    I agree – one of your best posts in quite some time.

    I think you could have added that people need to have a longer term “plan” before they take on any debt to begin with. (on how they will pay their debts off – an exit strategy) Never take on more debt then you can comfortably pay off. Also during that repayment some unforeseen other issue may come up. (Like your transmission falls out of your car) So you may have a surprise secondary debt come up. You really have to have that possibility in your plan too.

  12. average guy says:

    “It’s always someone else’s fault.”

  13. Chris says:

    I think it’s really funny that there’s an ad for Mitt Romney displaying next to your blog.

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