Mindful Money Management Tips
By: John D. Moore, PhD
Money management issues are often difficult, particularly if you have a history of not having money any money to manage in the first place. As Chicago therapists, it has been our experience that money problems are one of the primary reasons people experience anxiety and depression. When you think about it, nothing can be more distressing than having the jarring realization you don’t have enough cash to pay the bills. Sound familiar?
Money Management Issues
The topic of money management pops up frequently among our clients – particularly those who are in college, recently divorced or currently underemployed. The common thread among all is a variation of the statement: I really suck at handling my money.
While there isn’t a cookie cutter answer to solving financial issues, there are several universal principles that should be considered as part of any plan for effecting positive change.
If you are thinking of creating a financial makeover, we encourage you to read out five tips, cobbled together from informal conversations with our therapists who specialize in mindfulness.
Some of these suggestions may seem like common sense while others will likely cause you to pause in reflection. Read them all in order to fully absorb their deeper meaning. Warning – some of these are very direct so don’t expect something warm and fuzzy!
Let’s jump right in!
1) Stop living in denial
In our experience, one of the main reasons people find themselves in financial trouble is because they have grown accustomed to living in denial about their financial situation. Here are some tips under this point:
- Challenge magical thinking that suggests your money problems will somehow become fixed on their own. They won’t.
- Don’t play the procrastination game where you fool yourself into thinking: “I’ll look at my finances tomorrow”. It is that kind of thinking that can cause your money matters to spiral out of control.
- Stop engaging in learned helplessness; which is nothing more than a game of excuses for poor decision making (see post).
2) Examine your relationship with money
Money is often thought of something to be spent or saved. Very few people, however, look at money through the lens of a relationship. What would it be like if you tried doing this? Here are a few pointers for this tip:
- Examine your historical relationship with money. Is this something you have always struggled with? Why might this be?
- Did your parents serve as good or bad role models with money? If good, what can you mirror from their behaviors? If bad, what are you continuing to replicate?
- How do you view money? Is this a resource you respect for its power to grow and create? Or do you disrespect money and fool yourself into thinking it’s a renewable resource?
3) Create mindfulness around money
One of the best ways to get on top of money management issues is to actually spend time with your finances. You may be saying to yourself, “But I don’t have any money to spend time with.” Well – perhaps if you started to place daily emphasis on money that dynamic would change. Here are a few suggestions:
- Put aside 15 minutes a day to look at your account balances. This means signing into your bank accounts and seeing what’s coming in and what’s going out – every day.
- Get a small notebook and a pen and keep it on you. With each purchase, write down what you bought and how much it costs.
- Create a mindful attitude around spending habits and challenge yourself each time you are thinking of making a purchase with this question: Do I really need to buy this?
- Organize your bills in one location (i.e. a shoe box) and schedule one hour each week to pay them.
4) Pay yourself first
This is a long standing suggestion made by many financial experts but what does the phrase really mean? Simply put, paying “you” first means thinking of yourself as a “bill” and paying that bill before any of the other ones. This tip can be difficult to enact at first because it is the opposite of how you are used to managing money. Consider these suggestions as ways to get started.
- Automate savings. Example: have $25.00 from your paycheck automatically taken out and deposited into a savings or credit union account.
- Sign up for your employer’s 401K plans – particularly if there is a match.
- Have a goal in mind to fund something for the future. Read our post on motivational change to learn more.
5) Believe you are worthy of financial happiness
The final point and perhaps the most important one is to recognize you are worthy of financial happiness. Here, we are talking about going beyond the often narcissistic definition of “deserve” and instead speaking to your core person. Consider these tips:
- Spend 5 minutes each day journaling about the positive things you are doing to change your financial situation.
- Consider studying others who engage in the art of mindfulness, such as mega-watt celebrity Jared Leto.
- Stop playing the game of comparisons where you continually look at what others have and you don’t.
- Focus on what you do have right now and use this as a mindful starting point.
Money Management Resource
One of the previous points made in this post was to study mindfulness. A great way to do this is to consider picking up a copy of the book: Mindfulness and Money: The Buddhist Path of Abundance.
From a therapist’s perspective, one of the best ways to know what is going on with a person emotionally and psychologically is to understand how they view money. And so a question for you to think about is: What’s your relationship with money?