What Is Financial Self-Care All About
Feeling emotionally exhausted. Tossing and turning at night. Avoidance. Anxiety. These are all tell-tale signs of financial stress. Maybe you barely have enough to cover the bills for the month, or you loaned your sister some money when you fully knew you couldn’t afford to.
If this sounds like you, you might need to keep your financial self-care in check. While there’s been much chatter with self-care in terms of physical, mental or emotional health, how does this relate to money matters?
Here’s what financial self-care is all about, why you might struggle with it, and how you can practice it in different scenarios:
Financial Self-Care: The Low-Down
Similar to tending to your physical or emotional needs, financial self-care means putting your money needs first. That could look like a number of things: Having enough sitting in the bank to cover your monthly living expenses, saving for a big move, kick-starting an emergency fund, or making it a point to save for retirement.
However, knowing what your financial picture should look like is one thing, and actually getting there is another. Easier said than done, right?
To start, know exactly what you’d like your financial picture to look like. How is it different than your current reality? Would you ideally have more money to put toward your living expenses, or toward a savings goal? Which savings goals are most important to you and why?
Now, here comes the hard part: What’s been stopping you from creating that financial ideal? This might require a bit of soul-searching, and the true answer might not come easy for you. Perhaps it stems from an internal force, such as not being prone to mindlessly shopping online when you’re stressed or bored. Or the reason could veer toward an external one, such as feeling the tug of obligation to pick up the bar tab when you’re out drinking with your always-broke pals.
Be OK With Saying “No”
While there’s so much existing chatter about self-care, what does it mean to have self-care for your finances? And self-care boils down to having the discipline and guts to say “no.” Sometimes you’ll have to say “no” so you can say “yes” to your own needs. That might mean disappointing someone, or letting them down. That might be hard for you, especially if you’re a natural people pleaser.
But think of the consequences if you don’t set boundaries and push back. It could lead to putting your own financial needs on the back burner. And that could spiral to feelings of resentment and anger, which could hurt your well-being and the relationship.
If you struggle with saying “no,” practice it beforehand. As nerdy as it sounds, picture a scenario where you might have to push back or decline a request. Picture how it might play out, and get in tune with how you’re feeling throughout the process.
Here are a few scenarios you can practice putting your needs first:
Keeping Up With the Joneses
You want to keep up with appearances and appear successful. And you might do so by throwing down dough for luxury handbags, the newest gadgets, or trade that beater car for a new set of wheels.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting nice things. But are you doing it for the right reasons? If you’re doing it because these items genuinely make you happy, I call that a values-based purchase. But if you’re doing it out of peer pressure, or from feelings of insecurity, you might want to reassess.
Caving into FOMO
For many of us, this remains a longtime personal struggle. When you see your friends’ Instagram feeds populated pics of them at a raging summer music festival, or blissed-out Sunday brunches — replete with bottomless mimosas — you might feel a heaviness sink in: the sad feels of missing out.
Along the same lines, it’s easy to cave into social pressures. You might want to go along with the crowd and throw down a bunch of money for dinners and social hour. But you feel like you’re paying for mediocre experiences, or for things you just flat-out don’t enjoy?
Before you dole out hard-earned cash on such purchases, think about future you. Would you rather squander that money bar-hopping for one night? Or would that cash be better spent on an amazing two-week vacation to the Amazon?
Carefully mull over the trade-offs between honoring present you versus future you. As we’re programmed to want instant gratification — think having one cookie now versus two cookies tomorrow — it’ll require a bit of discipline.
Loaning Money When You Can’t Afford To
Of all the scenarios where you might have to exert some financial boundaries, this one might be the toughest. This might be a close friend or family member who is in a pinch. They might’ve lost their job, or a cluster of bad things happened to them. And they’re coming to you for some help. It’s one thing if you can afford to help and would feel good about lending a hand, but another if you simply can’t afford to. Or maybe you’re focusing on a savings goal.
It’s perfectly okay to say you aren’t able to help right now. Know that it’s not your responsibility to “save,” “rescue,” or “fix” someone. Practicing tough love might make you feel guilty and even a “bad person.”
If you are going to lend money, make sure it’s an amount you can afford. You’ll also want to spell out the terms of repayment in writing. While it might feel awkward treating it like a business transaction, you need to protect yourself.
Self-care in all arenas is a lifelong process. For many, it won’t come easy. it’ll take some time and soul-searching to learn to tend to your needs first. The best thing is to get started and to make a commitment to achieving it.