The Surprising Emotions of Money

Money is much more than numbers for many people. How much you earn and therefore how much you can spend and save can be connected with feelings of success and failure. We often admire people who achieve financial success and consider them smart, savvy and skilled. People who do not achieve financial success, who need to rely on others, such as the government, for assistance, are often pitied and sometimes judged as failures.

Negative Money Emotions
It should come as no surprise that we often judge ourselves by these same standards. If you are struggling with money, you might be tempted to judge yourself harshly. Here are some common emotional reactions around money that I have observed. See if any of them resonate with you.

  • anxiety about whether there will be enough money to make required payments
  • regret over past money mistakes that ate up your savings or put you behind
  • fear about the future and whether you can take care of yourself and loved ones who rely on you
  • shame over not being further ahead
  • anger about feeling cheated or taken advantage of

If any of these reactions feel familiar to you, take a few moments to recognize that this is how you are feeling. Becoming aware of these emotions is a great first step. Letting these issues stay in the past and not sabotage your future is the next step. Tell yourself that many people have had negative experiences with money, have made mistakes and bad decisions but have still come back to pay off their debts and become wealthy.

Early in my working life, I had a boss, a hotel owner, who told me that one of his mentors said you have to go bankrupt twice before you can be truly successful. He said he had gone bankrupt only once and hoped to never go through it again. It seemed unlikely he would, given the thriving hotels he owned and managed.

Over spending is common and is often encouraged in our society. We’ve all seen ads telling us we deserve new, expensive things. Cars, clothes, home furnishing, recreational vehicles and electronics can all be purchased on credit. The debt, often with high interest rates, can become a real burden that lingers on long after the joy of the purchase is gone.

Bad Investments
Bad investing decisions can decimate the money people have worked so hard to save and leave them feeling like financial failures. They may be left feeling like no matter how hard they save, they will not get ahead.

Am I Greedy?
Then there is the pervasive, subtle feeling across many cultures that wanting to make lots of money and be wealthy is somehow wrong. We are taught not to be greedy, to be satisfied with what we have. People sometimes feel unworthy, like they don’t deserve to have lots of money and financial freedom.

I believe that everyone deserves to feel that they have control over their own money and that they can and will get ahead. No one deserves to be awake at night, worrying over whether they will make payments.

Moving Forward, Getting Past the Past
The good news is that managing your money can be a logical, common sense experience that gives you a realistic perspective and puts you in control of your money. Taking a few simple steps to gain control of where your money is going can feel very freeing.

Bad decisions and mistakes are an opportunity to learn. If you’ve been through this, you can at least congratulate yourself that now you know what not to do. No matter what mistakes you’ve made in the past, know that you deserve to be debt free. You deserve to live a comfortable life without money concerns keeping you awake at night.

Letting go of the emotions surrounding your money may not be easy. When you set up your budget, it may help to try to see it as “just numbers” or you could pretend that you are creating the budget for someone else, it has nothing to do with you personally. Another tactic is to tell yourself that this is a “draft budget”. You’re just putting down some numbers to see how it looks, it’s not the final version.

Let past mistakes be part of the past, not the present. The fact that you are reading this article now demonstrates that you are interested in making positive changes and moving forward. Let’s build off of that. Your first step is to make a budget. Read about how to do that here:

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