I am an anxious person who thinks in circles like a dog chasing its tail. Just today, I had a near panic attack on posting for my blog because it was Wednesday and my post would run on Monday. I hadn’t written a word and so here I am, trying to write out my feelings. I have a litany of First World Problems like this that I subdue through various methods. I’ll get to that in a bit.
These heart-palpitating moments did bring up an opportunity for me to write about anxiety and money, so it wasn’t all bad. After all, who hasn’t felt anxiety over money? If you haven’t, you are missing out of some sweet lessons on how fear can simultaneously be your concierge motivator and paralyzer. Fun stuff. Hey, have you checked your credit score recently?
Money Anxiety Disorder
First of all, I guess there is a thing called “Money Anxiety Disorder” so let’s get comfortable with naming the beast.
It was not without a bit of irony that the best information I got on the disorder comes from an article in Psychology Today (circa 2010) and a more recent one published by Experian (the credit score company).
Bob Sullivan, a writer for Experian, and who has no degree in Psychology that I can tell, lists out habits that people with money anxiety disorder have such as hoarding money or things, overspending, being frugal to a fault, financial incest (sounds gross but it’s just controlling others with money), financial infidelity (saving or spending without your partner knowing about it), financial enabling (giving others money in a way that leads to dependency), and anxiety.
Anxiety causes financial anxiety. Yep. I had to read that again too.
What Sullivan explains is that in a Cornell University study (the link to this in the article led nowhere), people who suffered from anxiety and depression were less likely to put away for retirement. The darker side of this, it is explained, is that they may feel they aren’t going to live long enough to enjoy retirement.
Now We Can All Feel Alone, Together
According to the Psychology Today article by Brad Klontz Psy.D., three out of four people will name money as their number one stressor and according to information cited by Bob Sullivan in the Experian article, 57 percent of people report that if they were asked to cover $500 unexpectedly that they would have to go into debt to do it. As an added bonus, in case you haven’t been told time and time again, having a problem with finances is one of the leading causes of divorce. So great, now you have more to be anxious about.
How Stress Takes Money
I don’t know about you, but my former coping mechanisms all involved money. Retail therapy, a hefty gym membership, diet plans, late-night Amazon purchases, a long commute to a job that hired me first so I stopped looking for anything closer, and Diet Coke and the occasional bottle of wine all cost me money and gave back guilt with interest.
We didn’t have overdue bills and it wasn’t like I woke up one day, not knowing beforehand that we were $20,000 or so in debt. I had my excuses: not being able to work full time during student teaching, the cost of having two babies in less than two years, and getting a newer car than was necessary to fit two child seats. These were all choices, however. When we did come out of our fog of terror, we got real about our mistakes and our situation.
How We Conquered Our Finances and Our Stress
You know what we had to do to pay off our debt? We had to stop contributing to our retirement accounts. That was painful. It felt like we were admitting we weren’t quite ready to be adults yet. We then had to use all the money from our tax returns and extra income to pay down our debt. My husband worked a lot of overtime. I had to learn to cook more at home. We had to make a budget, cut up our credit cards, and get ready to stop having any fun. Two out of three ain’t bad.
During the two years it took to pay off our debt, we had so much fun. We minimized and made room in our home, we got really comfortable with the library, the children’s museum, and the zoo through the memberships we were gifted during Christmas. We biked to every park within a five mile radius, we played at free outdoor pools, and treated ourselves to 50-cent ice cream cones. I filled the calendar with every free kids event our city had to offer. It was beautiful.
Taking care of our finances is just a part of our daily life now. I use Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar app and it has made budgeting and planning SO much easier. It’s worth the $9.99 per month. For some added incentive, listen to or view Ramsey’s podcast.
Ways to De-Stress That Don’t Cost Anything
When I “found minimalism,” I had to change my spending habits and this took some time. There are still some areas I can improve upon but here’s some things I do when I am anxious.
I Give Myself a Time Out.
My children get a time-out when they are having issues with coping. Why shouldn’t I get one too? I tell my kids that mommy is taking a timeout and I go into my room, listen to music or read a bit of a book or an online article.
I Take Our Dog for a Walk
Nature is the most wonderful space to get away from it all. Most respected geniuses took regular walks or runs in nature to help gain back their center. You and your dog will be happier for it. Granted, I only get to do this when my husband is at home because it wouldn’t be stress free if I took my children along.
I Literally Tell My Negative Thoughts to Shut Up
Recently, while reading a book A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti, I was inspired by the protagonist’s practice of saying the word “Stop” to herself out loud to stop negative and harmful thoughts from taking over her consciousness. It works and it’s a relief.
I Listen to Music and Cook or Clean
This is something you do not because it is expected of you but because you WANT to do it. It’s like the errands thing. When someone suggests you run errands to take time for yourself, they are assigning work for you during the time when there should be no expectation of work.
Your Challenge for This Week
Identify one financial struggle or insecurity you have. Do you spend too much on food or clothing? Are your bills piling up because you don’t have a budget? Do you spend when you are stressed?
Take this challenge and plan your attack. Can you scale back to eating out once a week or go clothes shopping once a month? What bills do you have and what is your game plan for paying down debt? Develop a budget. Where do you go when you are stressed? What might be a better, non-spend substitute?