The idea of self-care has been gaining more popularity lately and feels especially important when things are beyond our control. When it is time to let go, self-care can be a way to hold on to yourself and identity. Even though taking care of yourself can mean a massage or enjoying a favorite treat, there are several other important types of self-care to explore as well.
The negative effects financial stress has on our mental well-being is often overlooked. We can get stuck in patterns of avoidance which leads to more stress and more difficulty making helpful changes in our lives.
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is by taking the, often overwhelming, look at your finances; increasing your financial awareness. When you know where your money is going and make plans for how you spend your money, you are likely to feel an increased sense of control and freedom around finances. When you experience this freedom, there is space to practice self-care everywhere.
Whether you are saving $1 or making investments, here are a few tips to begin indulging in financial self-care for your mental well-being.
Accept your current financial situation:
Many times, there is a stigma attached to money, and shame spirals can quickly follow. If spending occurs, a guilt feeling can come up. If you hide your eyes every time you open your bank account, or you refuse to look; chances are you may be associating money with shame or guilt. It can feel shameful if you have made money mistakes, and sometimes they take a while to correct.
If your finances seem daunting, be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to have made mistakes up to this point and after this point. Rather than sitting in shame, you can learn to do something differently next time. To disengage shame from money, it is helpful to face what the current financial situation is for you. This part can seem unfair and annoying. In order to make change, accepting the current version of yourself is necessary. When you accept yourself and all the decisions you have made with money, you can begin to welcome financial self-care.
Pay attention to the money you have in your accounts:
The more you pay attention to what you do have available, the more you will be able to grow your safety net. Building financial safety means that you know where your money is coming from and what your money is going toward. Money is constantly flowing in and out, so focusing attention on where this is happening can be the difference between debt and surplus. The more you pay attention to money the less you will be required to pay attention to money.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop splurging on coffee during your morning commute; it simply means that observing the habit and bank account that goes along with it can hold you accountable to your action. It may help to write down daily spending so that you have a record and can track your flow of money. Pattern awareness can start to pop up once you begin paying attention to when you make certain purchases. There is no right or wrong; it’s a matter of observation without judgement.
Put online purchases on a 24-hour hold:
When your impulses get the best of you, it can result in purchases that you don’t need and won’t use. Several split-second decisions can cause eventual financial strife. Little money decisions begin to build financial outcomes. By consistently acting on impulse, you are choosing immediate gratification rather than meeting a financial goal.
Placing online purchases in the shopping cart for a 24-hour hold on a website gives you pause and a reflection period. There is always time to revisit the shopping cart the next day, and if the item is no longer there, chalk it up to not needing it anyway. Online shopping can happen quickly and may feel satisfying in the moment, but it can lead to distress later on when reconciling finances. Building a savings or remembering money goals is long-term satisfaction and leads to financial self-care. Decisions like these deserve a waiting period.
Learn basic financial literacy:
It’s easy to equate the amount of money you have with self-worth, resulting in overwhelm and distress of not having or being enough. Learning financial literacy helps to empower you to take charge of your finances. When you build on what you already know, you can make decisions that will help you rather than harm you.
Take the time to research pieces of your financial history and future so that you can avoid the same mistakes or continue habits that help you. You can start with something as simple as the meaning of available balance, factors that play into your credit score, or why earning points on credit cards may not be a good choice for you.
Understanding why these aspects are important can help you to engage in your finances again when they may have seemed scary. If the resources are available to you, it may be helpful to take a beginner class in finance. If not, there is plenty of research you can do online. If you weren’t taught how to take care of money or didn’t have a great example growing up, you still have the power to change that for yourself. Gaining financial literacy is worth it because you are worth it.
It may not seem like you are making progress when you are switching small daily habits, but the smallest acts can be the most effective. If your current financial situation is living paycheck to paycheck, it is a big deal to save all your coins in a jar. When you get to the end of your payment period, putting a small amount in savings can be the trust you need in yourself to keep going.
Saving a month of expenses can be as satisfying as an impulsive purchase. Once you have a month of expenses saved, you can continue to build barriers to uncertainty with financial freedom. If you have a credit card balance, small dutiful payments are much more effective than not paying at all.
Financial freedom doesn’t come from grandiose gestures; it comes from developing small habits to take care of yourself. Starting small minimizes spending and maximizes financial self-care. The next step to taking care of yourself financially can be simple – For example; try a day of no spending and reflect on how that feels, start to write down purchases to learn your patterns, round your purchases up to the nearest dollar to put the extra amount in savings, and make dutiful payments on your credit card. The smaller you start the more potential you have to grow.
Financial self-care isn’t only about money; It’s developing habits that can help self-worth. Taking care of your money is taking care of yourself. So, treat your money differently than what you were taught if it is no longer serving you. The feeling of financial scarcity can show up at any time, but with financial self-care, it can be transformed into security.
Though it is not a therapist’s role to provide financial guidance, we can help you explore the shame, guilt, pain, frustration and relationship you have with your finances. We can help you learn how to gain acceptance, self-compassion, patience, and managing anxiety and other emotions that come with facing financial stress.