The buzz of self-care may manifest in many ways — a soothing facial mask, a bubble bath or a daily yoga practice. But when it comes to your money, you should be thinking of it as an act of self-care, too. Fixing your finances may help reduce your anxiety overall. Money is stressful for Americans, regardless of income. According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, nearly two-thirds of adults overall cite money as a “significant source of stress,” and that number jumps to 73% for those making less than $50,000 annually.
Money can feel like a difficult, and emotionally draining topic — but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five things you need to know to help ease the mental burden.
1. Identify your relationship with money.
Because we all grew up with different parents in different environments, we will all have different relationships with and emotions around money. Dr. Alex Melkumian, financial therapist and founder of the Financial Psychology Center, recommends thinking about why you behave the way you do around money, as well as asking the people close to you to do the same.
“In a way, our emotions have gotten a bad rap … as far as our financial behavior is concerned. The reason that’s happened is because when we’re looking at our financial emotions, most people describe the unbearable emotions of either resentment or anger or extreme self-doubt or self-loathing and shame,” Melkumian said. “Really understanding what our emotional lives are and how they impact our financial lives and our mental health is really important.”
2. Treat financial hygiene like physical hygiene.
“In the same way that taking vitamins, getting exercise, and eating right are just part of our daily lives, we should put that same care into our financial health,” said Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News senior business correspondent. “Financial self-care is something to be mindful of every day.”
Try different methods that work with your lifestyle. The important thing is to just do it. “Whether you do your numbers daily, weekly or monthly, figure out what works for you, or try something different,” Melkumian said.
There are lots of ways you can check in on your finances, whether through an app, a note on your phone, or even old-fashioned pen and paper. The important thing is to keep doing it consistently.
3. Saving is taking care of your future self — not depriving your current one.
“Managing your money is a form of self-care. The future you is as important as the present you. Your dividends will be paid and emotional wellness,” Melkumian explained. “In the end, we are going to help ourselves be less emotional and have a more positive mindset.”
Saving for a rainy day can help ease the stress of financial anxiety, even if it’s tough to do in the moment.
“Having that financial cushion gives you the foundation to make better decisions,” explained Ruhle. “Think about people who are in unhealthy relationships, who are in a toxic work environment — the people most likely to stay in those unhealthy situations are people who are financially trapped. Having some sense of financial security gives people the ability to make decisions more freely in their life.”
4. Let yourself splurge regularly — even if it’s just a few dollars.
“Part of the self-care … strategy is to include what I will call mandatory splurging as a line item in your spending plan,” Melkumian said. “You’re not depriving yourself, and that you’re able to have money to spend on yourself, even if it’s a little bit.”
If your budgeting style is too restrictive, you may end up going overboard. That’s why having some built-in fun money, even if it’s only a few dollars a month, is important to maintaining your money mindset and keeping yourself from feeling deprived.
Emily Pandise is a producer and reporter for NBC News, covering business, tech and media since 2017. In her early 20s, she realized she had no idea how to manage her money. She set out to change her financial habits, and she did. Now, she wants to help others do the same. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @emilypandise.