Like many of my past relationships, my relationship with money is fraught, complicated, and a huge, bright red flag. And yet, I care about money so much. Still, as a millennial, having had to navigate a recession at every pivotal point of my adult life, money has never appeared to care about me. “It’s because you have a scarcity mindset,” a friend said to me over expensive wine I said I couldn’t afford. “The reason you’re bad with money is that you believe you’re not worthy of having it,” she says, explaining the concept. “The money will come back if you have an abundant mindset,” she continues, raising her glass to toast. “Manifest it. Get the wine you want, not the one you think you should get.”

Manifestation is essentially a self-help exercise requiring a positive mindset to attract what you want out of life — love, success, and yes, money in abundance. Over the past few years “manifestation coaches” have become ubiquitous in the social media finance space, purporting to help people fix their money woes with the help of the law of attraction. There is no real proof that manifestation works other than countless testimonials from people who’ve achieved their dreams, including celebrities and top execs such as Oprah Winfrey. Manifesting money also works in tandem with overcoming a scarcity mindset, which Headspace defines as a “pattern of thinking that focuses on what you don’t have and the underlying belief that you’re not ever going to have the things that you want.” Instead, having an abundant mindset — the belief that there are infinite possibilities and opportunities for success and happiness — is key. 

I’ve spent the past few years trying to manifest more money through proactive visualization, journaling, and challenging my limiting beliefs about how much money I could earn. I wrote £5,000 in big red letters on a Post-it note and stuck it to my vision board along with a date. On TikTok, manifestation creators entice viewers to recite the mantra, “Money comes to me easily, money comes to me fast…” so I did. I found thousands of videos on TikTok on how to manifest money and attract wealth; some use hypnosis and some solutions even require crystals. I believed I could manifest money with everything in me. And yes, money did come via various work opportunities and side hustles. I was elated. But then I spent it. My rent went up. Debts eat up anything that remains. Money always leaves me, just like another bad relationship. 

To say I’ve become disillusioned with the concept of manifesting money and having an abundant mindset is an understatement. Especially now, as the UK officially enters a recession, the cost of living crisis rages on, and my last energy bill reduced me to tears. For me, manifesting money has never equated to financial literacy — and if I do have a so-called scarcity mindset, it’s because money is scarce right now. While having an unwavering belief in my ability to make money has had its advantages, now more than ever, I’ve needed practical and actionable solutions to my own personal financial crisis. 

It’s why 2024’s biggest financial trend “loud budgeting” piqued my interest recently. At the dawn of the new year, TikTok creator Lukas Battle introduced the concept of loud budgeting after claiming the quiet luxury trend (that encouraged us to invest in minimalist statement pieces to look like “old money”) was out.“[Loud budgeting] is almost more chic, more stylish,” he says. “While quiet luxury is about idolizing celebrities, loud budgeting is about the everyday person.” According to Battle, loud budgeting is a vocal acknowledgement of our financial woes and encourages radical honesty about money. “Sorry I can’t go out to dinner tonight, I’ve got $7 to live on,” he demonstrates. With loud budgeting, you permit yourself to admit: I’m cutting back, I need to stick to a budget, I don’t have much (if any) expendable income, I’m struggling to afford basic provisions, I feel insecure about my future and finances. I simply can’t afford it. 

“I love the idea of loud budgeting — I think it’s great when people are open about why they’re choosing to spend less and anything we can do to destigmatize financial difficulty or stress, and to normalize having to work hard to manage your money, is worthwhile,” says Clare Seal to Refinery29, a finance creator who runs the Instagram account My Frugal Year.

Seal created her Instagram account five years ago to document her journey out of around £27k of personal debt. She explained to Refinery29 that she started her account to find “some like-minded people for accountability while paying off debt”. Seal ended up paying off her debt and buying a house in two years. “I think we could also do with being a little louder about our financial mistakes, as well as our successes,” Seal adds. “When I first started my account, I had no idea how many people were secretly in debt or struggling with financial shame and, rather than letting me off the hook, knowing that I wasn’t alone actually inspired me to make a change.” 

As Seal suggests, loud budgeting encourages more people to have difficult money conversations more openly and with far less shame. Mental health charity CALM has been looking at the impact of the current financial crisis on mental health in the UK and the charity’s research reveals that despite 80% of Brits worrying about money (and a quarter worrying about money every day), three-quarters of people haven’t talked to anyone about their money worries.

​​“Loud budgeting encourages us to create boundaries with spending and most importantly, feel comfortable about sharing our boundaries with others and what we choose to spend our money on,” explains Kara Gammell, financial expert at MoneySuperMarket to Refinery29.“When we’re trying to make savings, we often cut back on things like socializing with friends, gym memberships and hobbies, which can help bank balances but could leave you feeling isolated and low.”

According to CALM’s research, over a third of women surveyed have stopped spending money on health and wellbeing in recent years, impacting self-esteem and mental health. “Talking about money and budgets doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and socialize with friends,” adds Gammell. “It helps open up the conversation about doing something different that could be a better fit for everyone’s bank balance.” 

Through having open conversations about money woes with her online community, including taboo issues like debt, Seal managed to change her circumstances and is helping many others do the same. Her Instagram is full of practical tips, realistic budgeting, and refreshing conversations that challenge some consumerist pressures, such as “You don’t need a Stanley cup to stay hydrated.” However, she isn’t so keen to promote manifestation as a help for people struggling with money. 

“Manifesting money isn’t my cup of tea,” says Seal. “I can see some merit to letting go of limiting beliefs that you have about earning and holding onto money, because often these beliefs knock onto our actions, and changing the way we behave does have an impact on our finances, of course. But there are some principles of manifesting that I would argue are down to luck rather than divine or spiritual intervention. It’s true that there’s an abundance of money in the world, but money-manifesting narratives are often ignorant of the actual systems that are in place that keep poor people poor, and rich people rich.”

As Seal suggests, some money-manifesting ideas seem oblivious to how people from working-class and minority backgrounds have been systematically disadvantaged beyond their control. As a Black woman, I’ve always understood that I needed something other than simple self-belief to transcend the racial and gender barriers that present them in work and in life. And essentially, loud budgeting is just a trendy social media term for what working-class people have always had to do. Last year, the Guardian reported that “people from working-class backgrounds employed in professional careers earn £6,000 less compared to those from other backgrounds in the same jobs.” It’s hard to keep a positive mindset as the UK’s class gap widens.

“Not everybody has the same opportunities,” Seal continues, “And often people teaching or preaching money manifesting have confirmation bias because usually, they have managed to be quite financially successful themselves, perhaps by selling courses telling people how to manifest money.”

Despite the cynicism that surrounds it, many people swear it is possible to manifest money through a positive mindset. Hannah Calvanese, who has a chronic illness, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, started her cosmetic business The Coffee Scrub Company during a difficult time in her health. “I was bedridden,” she shared. “I had just started my company and doctors told me I would have to work from home. It had a detrimental effect on my mental health.” During this period, Calvanese says she started diving deeper into spirituality online and by learning about manifestation, her fledgling business began to thrive. “For me, it’s a whole energy of going out and believing in the vision you have [for your life] and acting on it,” says Calvanese who says manifestation led her to build skills in finance and business management, make valuable connections and increase sales. 

“Personally, when I look at the abundance mindset, it’s more than just your thoughts and feelings,” she continues. “It’s about how you move and how you behave. And unfortunately, there are people who just say they have the abundance mindset but when you look at their actions, they don’t align [with their goals]. This is the problem.”

When speaking to Calvanese, it feels possible to marry manifestation with realistic financial tips. Seal agrees somewhat. “As I said, many of the tenets of manifesting have merit. Letting go of limiting beliefs is a really powerful coaching technique for anyone feeling stuck in any area of their lives, so challenging any beliefs that you might hold about not being good with money or not being able to save can stop this from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she says. “Of course, our approach and attitude towards earning, saving and investing money impact our behaviour, and mindset is really important for making material changes.”

I don’t want to undermine manifestation. I still believe it’s possible to harness the power of self-belief to improve your life outcomes. However, there is no practical way to manifest money without considered and intentional actions and, for me, in this period of my life, it starts with loud budgeting. Hopefully, money will not only come but stay. 

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