Learning to work through the feelings that come up around money can be *quite* the journey. So when a redditor asked the folks at r/PersonalFinance for their tips on dealing with money anxiety, the responses that came in showed a really interesting range of ideas, both financial and psychological.
Here are some of the top comments:
BTW, neither financial advice nor mental health tips are one-size-fits-all, so take what you like and leave the rest.
1. "Coming from a frugal but financially stable background, what helped me was budgeting and an adequate emergency fund. Once you understand what your life costs, and you have three, six, nine, 12 months or whatever of living expenses saved up, it helps not to worry about the future. If I lose my job, my house, get divorced, whatever, I know I can make it work."
2. "Figure out what is causing the fear and address that. For me, it's worrying that another 2008 is going to happen. So I both have a one-year emergency fund saved and I am working on getting in to management in my company. That way, I'm far less likely to be laid off. I already moved to a section of my company that was not hit very hard by 2008, so that helped a bit."
3. "I formed a zero-based budget and created savings categories for enough things that only true emergencies feel like an emergency, and there is a fund for that too. r/YNAB completely changed my relationship with money."
FYI, a zero-based budget is one that assigns a "job" to every dollar you bring home during the month, with a goal of spending, saving, or investing every last penny.
Never made a budget before? It doesn't have to be painful or restrictive. Check out what one BuzzFeeder learned when she made her first budget ever with help from a financial planner.
4. "Shift your mindset to one of gratitude. Instead of constantly being afraid of losing what you have or not having enough, tell yourself you have everything that you need."
5. "I grew up poor and never really lost the money anxiety, despite making decent money. But I’ll say what helps is documenting your finances. I find that having a spreadsheet of planned savings, future 401(k) balances, anticipated big purchases in the next two years, etc. helps me feel more in control of my finances. For some reason, seeing it 'on paper' makes it more relieving."
6. "The real answer is more psychological — the slow process of learning to tolerate, embrace, and support distress instead of moving away from it. Then, the distress becomes something that’s just happening, rather than something that runs the day. And eventually, the stimulus of money becomes less threatening. But it takes time! Slow, compassionate, patient steps. You’re doing great."
7. "A second job helped me. It made me less fearful of losing my job and having the rug pulled out from under me."
8. "What has worked for me is not only making a monthly budget, but also making sure that part of that budget includes putting money away for unforeseen expenses."
"That part varies on many factors. Like for for auto repairs I put $60/month away. As it gets older, I can put more away. I basically have a savings account specifically dedicated to unforeseen repairs and it’s only used for that purpose.
Also living below your means is crucial too. I get paid bi-weekly so I have a budget based on two paychecks per month. For that 'extra' check that comes in twice per year, that’s just bonus money."
9. "What’s helped me is to journal when I have anxiety. Just seeing it on the page sorta helps me look at it more objectively and realize that the money is there and that I’m making smart decisions."
"I’m always worried and concerned about having enough and not ending up back in poverty, especially now that I’m responsible for my aging mother (plus two cats). But I kinda just try to take it day by day and keep making sound financial decisions."
10. "A few good questions for dealing with anxiety that I got from therapy:"
11. "Somewhat tangential, but be sure to marry someone financially responsible. Either the same as you or more. Being able to work together to budget realistically and keep everything running all the time is critical, and often a less responsible spouse will make potentially catastrophic decisions with money that will affect you both. Knowing that you are both responsible will ease much more of your tension."
12. "I learned to cope with being broke, made it part of my lifestyle, and spent all the time I used to spend worried and anxious on doing things for people or watching anime. I'm still not financially stable, but if I keep myself moving at this pace everything will slowly get better. The top of the hole is in sight."
13. "Aggressively building an emergency fund through my full-time job + Door Dash, Instacart, and selling items on the side. Zero-based budgeting. I use Google sheets instead of any actual budgeting software because I prefer it that way and have a digital 'cash' envelope system. Each account has a different purpose."
14. "I recommend Ted and Brad Klontz’s book Mind Over Money. They are mental health experts who specialize in money attitudes and behaviors. In part, the book is about how money attitudes that may have made sense at one time can be inappropriate and cause problems when your circumstances change."
15. "Every time you get paid, update a spreadsheet with your net worth and plot a graph. Over time, you will see the trajectory going in the right direction. Long term perspective gives you insight into short term variation. As long as your graph is going in the direction of your goal, you don’t need to worry about short term setbacks. On the scale of a month, a major unexpected bill sucks. Over the course of 40 years, that small dip in your graph will be barely noticeable. Transitioning from a paycheck-to-paycheck-mindset to a wealth-building-mindset can eliminate your fear."
16. Finally, "I still have this problem. I thought having $10k in the bank, $100k in retirement, a paid off house, etc. would make me feel more secure and able to mentally spend money. I enjoy reaching the milestones but haven't really gotten over this hurdle. I still look outside for my car when I hear a tow truck even though it's paid off. Some things just stick with you as generational trauma."
Note: Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Is there something that's helped you work through anxiety about money? Share your experience in the comments.
And for more stories about life and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.