Like it or not, we're all in a long-term relationship with personal finance. Money isn't going anywhere, so we need to make sure that it's a healthy, positive relationship.
As someone who hasn't always had a good relationship with money, I know some of the key signs that it's time to start transforming your relationship with money and how you can get on the right track:
Sign #1: You Complain About Not Having Enough Money
If you constantly feel like you don't have enough money to do or buy the things that you want, that's a good sign that you probably do not have a healthy relationship to money.
Complaining expresses a lack of gratitude. Maybe you're in a difficult financial situation or you wish you had the money to go to Bali like all the Instagram influencers. But just because you don't have the money that you want doesn't mean that there aren't still reasons to be thankful for the money that you do have.
So, take a moment to think about where is that ingratitude coming from. Are you really in a situation where things aren't working for you? Or has complaining about money just become a pattern?
You can get out of this pattern by taking a look at the ways that money is serving you right now. Is it helping you stay healthy? Keeping you fed? Keeping you sheltered? Is it allowing you to spend time doing things that you enjoy?
Sign #2: You Avoid Talking About Money
We all know that talking about money can be #awkward, but if you start to feel uncomfortable any time the conversation turns toward finances, even in a casual way, then it's time to start transforming your relationship with money.
If you find it difficult to talk about money even in relationships where you share money or have a lot of trust — for instance, if you avoid talking about money with your significant other — that's definitely a sign that you have to take a look at your money relationship, because the two of you need to make sure that you are on the same page when it comes to spending and saving.
Sign #3: You Don't Spend Regular Time Working on your Finances
When people feel intimidated by their finances, they often avoid dealing with them at all, because it stirs up feelings of stress and overwhelm, and (understandably) nobody wants to feel stressed or overwhelmed.
But it creates a vicious cycle. If you don't spend time working on your finances because you don't want to feel uncomfortable, your financial situation gets worse and even more uncomfortable. And the next time you look at your finances, it's even more stressful and overwhelming.
The only way to get over this is exposure therapy. You have to put aside time every week to work on your finances. We recommend setting up an enjoyable weekly money ritual.
Sign #4: You Often Regret Your Purchasing Decisions
If you often experience buyer's remorse, this indicates that you either aren't spending your money very intentionally, or you've developed some programming that has you feel guilty whenever you spend money.
We recommend following the 50/30/20 budget: you spend no more than 50% on things you need, 30% on things you want, and saving 20%.
If you're out of whack with those percentages, you may be feeling bad about your spending because you know that you've jeopardized either your current financial situation now or your financial future.
We believe in asking five questions to make sure what you buy is worth the money:
- Does this align with my financial goals or budget?
- Does this reflect my personal values?
- Do I really need this?
- How long will I use or like it?
- Can I borrow this or buy it used?
This was a game-changer for me. When I developed a clear picture of my financial situation; what my financial goals were; and what I needed to do to achieve those goals, I stopped feeling guilty about spending money, because I knew how much money I could afford to spend. That let me enjoy my purchases a lot more.
Sign #5: You Avoid Looking at your Bank Statement or Bills
Does your heart rate go up when your bank statement comes in? Do you have a drawer full of unopened bills that you just ain't looking at, or do you not even know the password to log into your credit card account online?
Having an avoidance pattern is a clear sign that you need to address you have an unhealthy relationship with money. When I was in debt, I avoided looking at anything that told me the facts of my situation, because those facts freaked me out.
It's scary to face your situation, but hiding is only hurting you. That's why I recommend a weekly money ritual and creating a regular time to review your finances, so you can deal with your money issues.
Sign #6: Finances Are Affecting Your Mental or Physical Health
If money problems are keeping you up at night or about money is negatively affecting your health or your relationships, it is time to get your finances on track. ‘Nuff said.
How to Start Transforming Your Relationship with Money
If you've realized that you need to start transforming your relationship with money, here's how I recommend you start: write a letter to money. Pretend that money is a person you're in a relationship with.
I know it may sound silly, but you do have a relationship to money. You — as an individual — have a unique way of thinking, feeling, and acting about money, and that has created your current financial situation.
So, I want you to get a pen and a piece of paper, write, “Dear money” at the top, and then go totally unfiltered. Let yourself just free write. Don't worry how it sounds or what other people would think if they read it. Free yourself to let what's in your heart and in your mind about your relationship with money come to the page.
You may find yourself saying things like:
- “Dear money, why are you never there for me?”
- “Dear money, you seem so hard to grasp.”
- “Dear money, I love you. Why isn't there more of you in my life?”
At the end of the letter, you describe how you want your money relationship to work going forward. Start to create a new picture of that relationship. One where you and money are allies in life instead of enemies.
This activity can be really clarifying and healing and help you transform your relationship with money from stressful and toxic to gratitude-filled and healthy.