how to feel better about money

It’s been almost four years since I earned a steady paycheck. Still, I’m not worried about my finances. 

Remember this to feel better about money: The facts of your financial standing are unarguable. Your beliefs about them are optional.
Remember this to feel better about money.

No matter what your income is, you get to choose what you think about your financial situation. The facts of your financial standing are unarguable. Your beliefs about them are optional.

This week a client told me they had no money. They were stressed about paying their bills. I stopped them and asked if all of their bank accounts had a zero dollar balance. They said no, they had money in their accounts. In fact they said they had more than enough money in their accounts to pay their bills this month and the following, maybe more.  

I hear this type of thing a lot and I used to do it myself too. I’d tell myself I couldn’t afford a jacket, or a trip, or a painting, or whatever. When I looked at the math of my bank account though, I totally could. I just didn’t want to spend my money on whatever it was. I’d rather spend it on something else or save it.

During the pandemic, we conditioned ourselves to seek out toilet paper every time we grocery shopped. That level of vigilance is the same level we want to apply when it comes to our thoughts. We have to pay attention to the way we think about money if we want to feel better about it. 

Regardless of the exact amount of money in your account, it’s not helpful to think about your finances in a way that creates stress. We don’t exactly do our best work while we’re panicking and anxious, would you agree? 

We can redirect the brain power we’re spending on worrying to take action that gets us paid.

In my client’s case, they were using old belief systems they put in place a decade earlier to start paying their bills on time each month by spending less frivolously and creating a habit of saving. They told themself they didn’t have money for bills and other living expenses to stop themself from overspending on clothes, or concerts, and other non-essentials. It wasn’t true, but it worked.

Now, ten years later, they have a retirement account, savings account, and two checking accounts that altogether held more than two months living expenses, a rainy day fund, and another lump sum for them to use later in life. The same thinking that made it possible for them to become a saver and pay their bills on time, now created unnecessary stress. Their financial situation had changed, but their thinking hadn’t. 

As humans we have this tendency because our brains like to think the same thoughts over and over, especially when they’re negative. We have to be proactive to update the way we think. The thinking that got you here probably won’t be the same thinking that gets you where you want to be with your money. 

It's our thinking that creates the stress we feel about money.
Where does money stress come from? Our thinking.

Here’s a concept that might blow your mind: our money doesn’t control our thinking. What we choose to believe shapes how we feel about our financial situation. The human mind’s thought process is abstract, fluid, and based on choice. Thoughts aren’t always true. On the contrary, money doesn’t lie. Money is not subjective and it’s not a choice. Money is black and white. It’s there or it’s not. In most cases, money is just a number on a screen. It might sound crazy at first, but it can be really empowering to accept that it’s our thinking that creates the stress we feel about money.

I use a few practices that help me stay relaxed about money. One of my favorites is to write down what I’m thinking and compare that to my actual financial standing. Increasing my awareness of my financial ebbs and flows makes it easier to navigate my thoughts and stop making myself miserable with worry, stress, and financial fear. My clients find success in applying this same approach of choosing helpful thoughts to start taking action to overcome whatever the money issue might be – generating income, stopping overspending, or saving for retirement. 

Here are three questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel stressed about money:

  1. What are the facts about your financial circumstance? Start with two or three facts. These are the 1’s and 0’s, the neutral data points that everyone could agree on looking in from the outside. This might be things like how much your rent is and what day it’s due. It could be the amount of money you have in your savings account or the amount in your checking account. 
  2. What is the thought you have about each one of the data points you identified above? Try to pair one data point with one thought. If you catch yourself having lots of thoughts, that’s fine, just go with the first one that comes to mind. 
  3. What is the feeling that comes up for you when you think that thought?

If my client above did this exercise it might look like this:

  1. Fact – I owe $1,600 for rent on May 1st.
  2. Thought – I can’t afford that.
  3. Feeling – Worry

By simply going through this process, you’re less likely to worry about money than when you started. After reading the example above, can you imagine how you’ll separate your thoughts and the reality of your money so there is space between them? The space between is where all of your power is waiting for you. The space between is awareness. It’s where you get to choose between two very critical options: 1) keep ruminating on the same worrisome thoughts that make you feel like crap or 2) choose a new thought – one that creates results you actually want. 

Are you willing to let go of your thoughts that create worry? What do you need to believe to take action that creates desirable monetary results? If you’re not sure, try these alternate thoughts and see how they make you feel.

  • I will do what it takes to pay my bills.
  • I can learn new ways to make money.
  • I don’t know what my money situation will be in the future, and that’s okay.
  • I can afford everything I need right now.
  • I have plenty of money and I can earn more.

You don’t need evidence from your past to choose to believe something new. 

Your thoughts don’t require proof. You can choose to believe whatever you want just because you want to, just because you like how it feels. If you’re experiencing a lot of stress, drama, or negativity about money, it’s time to let go of old thought patterns and adopt a new perspective for the benefit of your financial future and, of course, to feel better right now.

What is your favorite money belief? Are there any other ideas above that worked well for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Thinking of pursuing your passion but unsure how without risking financial insecurity? There is one key metric that can help. I’ll go over what it is, how to calculate it, and how to feel financially free through transition in my next post!

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