Are You In An Unhealthy Relationship -- With Your Finances?
By Monika Ritchie
This time of year can be a great month to “check in” on the relationships in our lives to ensure they’re stable, healthy, and on track. While you may do this with family, friends, and colleagues, there is one relationship check-in that you might be missing. How is your relationship with your money doing? If you’re comfortable discussing your finances, are honest about your money situation, and overall feel in control, then you’re probably on the right track.
However, because financial struggles are still shrouded in shame and secrecy, you may be ignoring the red flags that come with an unhealthy relationship. Are you in denial and telling yourself the problem is not that bad? Are you losing sleep or feeling stressed out because of your money problems? Are you trying to hide the severity of your financial situation from family, friends, or even your partner? These are all signs that you need to step back and reassess your relationship with your money.
While you can’t simply “break up” with your finances, there are steps you can take to repair and ultimately improve your relationship with them. Being honest about your financial situation, getting help with your financial issues and taking steps to prevent them from happening again, can all go a long way towards alleviating stress and allowing you to move forward. Here are some financial relationship red flags to look out for.
Being in Denial About Financial Problems or Ignoring the Issue
Do you hide from your financial problems? If you ignore your receipts, avoid checking your bank account, swipe away notifications about bills, or have a box of unopened bills and paperwork in your house, it’s likely that you are. Struggling financially can feel overwhelming; emotions like shame, anger, sadness, and embarrassment are all very common. Facing these can feel impossible and for many people, simply avoiding the problem can feel “safer” than tackling it head on. Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss and the longer you hold off on addressing the problem, the bigger and scarier it could get. Start with small steps, crossing a few simple items off your to-do list will go a long way to building your confidence. Here are some ways to get started:
- Whether you have a box of bills hidden under the bed or you’re avoiding looking at your online bank account, it’s time to stop ignoring your finances. Pick a calm time of day when you don’t have any other obligations and go through everything. Take your time and sort as you go. Seeing all those numbers may feel scary at first; remind yourself that you are now taking steps to improve the situation, and that it can get better starting right now.
- Decide on a filing system and settle on how you want to keep track of your financial documents. Whether it’s a spreadsheet on your computer, an organized box of folders, or something in between, choose what works best for you.
- Stay consistent. Pick a time and day every week that is reserved for any financial “chores.” That means, opening all your bills, paying them, and then filing them away. This can also include responding to creditors, checking your budget, and making any needed adjustments.
As you continue with these healthy financial habits, you will find that it does get easier and that the “fear of the unknown” will start to disappear.
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Losing Sleep and Feeling Stressed Over Your Money Problems
Having debts and other financial problems can make you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. The last couple of years have thrown some extremely challenging situations our way and stress levels are already at an all-time high. But, if you can’t sleep at night because you’re thinking about your finances or if you’re in a constant state of anxiety about money, those are serious red flags for your relationship with your finances. Not only is it taxing your mental health, but the stress and anxiety can also make it very difficult to get to work on the problem. It may feel impossible, but there are steps you can take to reach a solution.
- Make sure your mental health is your first priority. If you find that your thoughts are overtaken by your financial problems, you’re feeling hopeless, or otherwise mentally unwell, your first step should be to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. They can ensure that any medical issues are dealt with. Once you’ve ensured that your mental health is stable, then you can reach out for help with your finances.
- Reach out to a trusted financial counselling organization or accredited financial counsellor to help you get started on working through your financial issues. Often these services are a free or low-cost option for tackling your debt problems once and for all.
- Beware of “quick fixes.” It might be tempting to get help from places that promises to “repair” your credit in a flash, but don’t get pulled in. There are no short-cuts for putting in the work to solve your financial problems. To avoid getting scammed, make sure that the organization you are working with has a good reputation and can be trusted when it comes to helping people with their money.
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Hiding Your Financial Problems From Friends and Family
Do you find yourself putting up a “false front” when it comes to your finances? If you’re frequently painting a rosy picture to hide what’s really going on with your finances, it’s likely time to start repairing your relationship with your money. As we continue to share (and sometimes, overshare) on social media, it has become easier than ever for us to present a brightened-up reality to our family, friends, and followers. Not only does social media allow us to keep up (false) appearances but it can also pressure us into excessive spending that we can’t afford. Much like debt itself, secrets and deceptions are a heavy load to bear. Even if you’ve been covering up for a long time, it’s okay to admit you’ve made mistakes with your finances.
- Let your family and friends know the truth. Once you’re no longer “keeping up appearances” you can focus on fixing your finances.
- Take a break from social media. You’ll eliminate the need to spend money trying to keep up with the -- usually edited and photoshopped -- Joneses.
- According to the recent Consumer Debt Survey, although 44% of people would be embarrassed to ask for financial help from family or friends, a whopping 61% said they would be happy to help a friend or family member with their finances.
Admitting the truth about your problems can feel scary, but don’t underestimate how much your family and friends will want to help you out. And while it may not feel like it in the moment, being open about your financial situation could go a long way to improving your mental health and helping you get back on track with your finances.
Try This Self-Assessment to See Where You Stand
It's Okay to Reach Out for Help
Sometimes even with the support of family and friends, repairing an unhealthy relationship will require professional guidance and advice. That’s where non-profit credit counselling comes in. If you’re struggling with your finances, reach out to an organization like CCS for help. Accredited financial counsellors can show you how to build a strong and healthy relationship with your money.