Like with yo-yo dieting when you try to “eat healthier,” it’s easy to find yourself trapped in a cycle of unhealthy habits with money, too. And like your relationship with dieting, your relationship with your finances runs deep—it’s never as simple as being “good” or “bad” with money.
This is why, in many ways, making a budget is only a surface-level solution. It’s tough abiding by a budget when there’s an unresolved emotional root of your money troubles. Here’s what to know about healing your relationship with money, so you can start to form healthy habits that actually stick.
Start the conversation
When you’re in a bad place with money, it rules your life. Even if you aren’t drowning in debt (thank goodness), with the never-ending prospect of a recession looming, you are still stuck living with uncertainty. And uncertainty doesn’t exactly encourage a healthy relationship with money.
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It’s hard to talk about money, but here are some questions to start asking yourself and your loved ones. To be clear: “Asking for help” isn’t code for “asking for money.” This is about relieving yourself of the shame that holds you back and traps you in a bad place financially.
So start talking about it. How did you wind up in your current financial state? How long have you been struggling? Has anything changed recently? Do you need to unlearn habits from your parents? What are your financial goals? What are some small things you can do that others can help hold you accountable towards? Create the space for yourself and others to be more open about debt, overspending, and money mistakes.
Define your relationship with money
Once you find some honest answers to the questions above, try to identify your overall relationship with money. After all, we all have a money story—and it’s never as simple as “I’m bad with money.”
Keep asking yourself questions about the root of your money issues: How were finances handled growing up, and how did you feel about money once you became independent? You might have a lifelong scarcity mindset, or perhaps financial insecurities have led you to becoming a compulsive spender. Once you understand your approach to money in general, it’ll be easier to change the narrative.
Learn how to indulge thoughtfully
As we’ve previously explained, it’s a mistake to react to a tough financial spot too stringently. You can’t avoid spending money altogether, so learn how to do it without debilitating shame (the same shame that only keeps the unhealthy cycle going).
Forming a healthy relationship money means indulging thoughtfully. Ask yourself, “How do I expect this purchase will make me feel? What do I want it to make me feel? What feelings am I trying to avoid by buying it?” Only you can determine what is truly valuable in your life, whether that’s the occasional latte from your local coffee shop or saving up for a luxurious vacation every year. Allow yourself to indulge, especially if these indulgences improve your overall relationship with money.
Look into financial therapy
The takeaway is that improving your financial situation is rarely as easy as, “OK, I just need to pay off my credit card debt” or “I just need to budget better.” You fell into a tough place for a reason, and that reason may warrant professional help.
We’ve cover how to find a financial therapist here. Financial therapy combines financial advice with psychoanalysis, giving you a way to unpack the emotional or behavioral barriers to your financial well-being.
You can begin searching for the right financial therapist for you through the Financial Therapy Association.
If you do look into financial therapy, remember to approach the process with an open mind. All kinds of therapy require vulnerability and trust, and financial therapy is no different.