For as long as I can remember, I have had a lot of anxiety around money. It was something I just accepted about myself, a story I’d decided to ink on the foundation of who I was.
Then, last summer during a business planning session, I found myself breaking down when the subject of finances came up. I couldn’t talk about actual dollars and cents without crying.
It was humiliating and eye opening.
That was the moment I decided that my relationship with money had to change. Specifically, I needed to stop having a relationship with money and start seeing it as a resource.
Six months later, I’m finally at a point where I can think and talk about money without having a panic attack. I’ve noticed recently that my feelings on the subject have changed pretty dramatically, and I wanted to share with you some of the things that have helped me in overcoming money anxiety.
1. Make a list of your money memories
A friend recommended the book Get Rich, Lucky Bitch! by Denise Duffield-Thomas. One of the exercises in the book was to write out all the memories you have surrounding money.
That time you lost your lunch money? The time you had to use food stamps and were embarrassed? The time your dad told you that rich people are assholes? Write it all down.
I filled seven pages in my journal.
Doing this helped me identify what specific beliefs I had around money and where some of those beliefs came from, which made it easier to begin making changes.
2. Practice “tapping on” your money anxiety
This is one of those things I only do behind closed doors or when I’m home alone. It’s a little out there and may or may not be effective, but I had reached the “try anything and everything” point.
EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique, is a strategy for alleviating anxiety that involves tapping on a series of specific points on your body.
I used EFT with the money memories that caused me the most anxiety. I did notice that, in time, my stress reaction decreased significantly.
3. Listen to guided meditations about money
I’m a big believer in the benefits of meditation, and guided meditations are really helpful for me (my mind wandering muscle is much stronger than my mindfulness one!)
At the beginning of the year, I started trying out a few guided meditations about money. I usually listen to them at night before bed, and it’s been a pleasant change to practice feeling relaxed when thinking about money.
I’ve also been given some new ideas about money to replace the old fears I’m letting go of. It does no good to clear out the old if you’re not purposeful about what comes in to take up the space.
4. Pay attention to your money
I got this tip from Kate Northrup, who reminded me that “what we put our attention on grows”.
I realized that my anxiety about money had often caused me to avoid dealing with it. For example, I would make a budget once a month and then not open my bank account again until the next month. I put off opening bills – and have unnecessarily paid late fees as a result.
The more often we face the things that scare us, the less scary they become.
Now, I make a point to check all of my accounts every Monday. Doing this helped me notice a $5 maintenance fee I was paying on a savings account, which I was able to get rid of by setting up a monthly transfer of $25 from my checking account.
5. Keep a money gratitude journal
In the interest of paying more attention to my money, I started to keep a money gratitude journal.
That’s my fancy name for the Excel spreadsheet where I keep track of every penny I receive, including:
- the 4th quarter gains in our IRA
- the gift card I got for my birthday
- the royalties from my book that are automatically deposited into my account
Gratitude is an excellent way to overcome any kind of anxiety.
6. Create a plan for your money
One thing I’ve been doing right for a long time is making a monthly budget. This practice is probably the only thing that kept my fear from drowning our family financially.
Having a plan for how and where you’ll spend your money is about being intentional and purposeful. It also helps you do more of that “drag it into the light” stuff.
7. Learn how money works
There is a lot I don’t know about money. I’ve never been taught about investing or appropriate saving (hoarding is a more accurate description of what I do).
I can’t expect to effectively use a tool without some education.
I’m spending a little time reading personal finance blogs and doing more research on things like insurance. I’m going to be a real grown up soon.
It’s a Process
Like any kind of growth, overcoming money anxiety is more like a journey than a goal to achieve. It’s about relearning, shifting paradigms, understanding deep-rooted stories, and building new habits.
Have you discovered any effective strategies for overcoming money anxiety? Please feel free to share your favorite tips and resources in the comments.