Four Signs You Are Financially Anxious, Not Frugal

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had a restful weekend. My husband and I like to get our grocery shopping done on the weekends (alongside what seems like our entire city) which always leads to us thinking about ways to save. But for me, I’m always thinking about ways to save. I used to think of myself as cheap, but I was corrected and told no, I was just frugal. I thought that was an ugly sounding word but I went with it as the connotations seemed so much better than saying you were “cheap”. But frugality quickly became financial anxiety, and I think it’s really important to know the difference.


Frugal people might use coupons, choose not to inflate their lifestyle, eat out less, have a budget, and buy things used when it’s a deal. Being frugal is a great practice regardless of your income, as it can allow you to pay off debts, and put some money away for a rainy day (or season).


Financial anxiety is a little different. There is no problem with occasionally worrying about your finances. There are times when worrying can be expected – such as after large purchases, looming large purchases, or blowing a budget. But when that anxiety sticks around, that’s when issues can begin. When your budget is tight, being nervous can be expected. Trimming the fat on your spending should happen, but when you are trimming all the fat, you are creating a perpetuating cycle of anxiety.


Here are four signs that you are having financial anxiety:

  1. You stop buying yourself things.

If you’re trying to save money, it completely makes sense to cut back on your extras – new clothes, perfume, daily coffee runs, or treats from the grocery store you convince yourself you need. But if you are having anxious thinking, this can quickly spin out of control. I’d love to be able to tell myself, and everyone else in this world, that spending money doesn’t make you happy. The truth is, having enough food for lunch makes me happy, having a coffee to perk me up at the end of a difficult week makes me happy, giving others gifts (even if they are homemade) makes me happy, and buying lotion so that my skin doesn’t crack makes me happy. All of these things cost money, and some are even essential. If you are cutting things out like buying enough food for lunch (yes, I have sat there with a small, sad lunch and cried afterwards at work because I was too hungry) or lotion so that your skin doesn’t crack and itch, you may have a financial anxiety. Sometimes, it’s ok to get things for yourself, especially if they really are things you need. And even if they’re not, really assess your budget. Put a small portion away for yourself from each paycheck, separate from your general savings account, just for you.


2. You repeatedly “check on” your finances.

I think that financial apps are really cool. I use an app for my banking and credit card and my husband uses Mint to keep track of his finances. These apps make it really easy to keep track of my spending, transfer money, and make deposits. But they also make it very easy to engage in unhealthy habits. Repeatedly opening up your financial apps is not necessarily going to change anything. Unless you have investments that constantly changing, opening and reopening your financial apps is equivalent to opening the refrigerator repeatedly looking for food, and being dissatisfied with the selection, only to open it again five minutes later hoping something has changed. Repeatedly checking your financial apps does not make you a better saver. Turn off your data for your financial apps or limit yourself to only checking them a few times a day (putting them on a completely separate “page” of your phone is helpful).


3. You feel physically ill when discussing or thinking about money.

This is a big one. If you check your bank account, talk with someone about finances, or think about upcoming purchases and feel nauseous, sweaty, dizzy, etc., you are not in a good place. You need to change your mindset in regards to your money, and consider limiting conversations regarding money, especially if you are having these conversations with people that are not helpful.


4. You repeatedly have conversations about money that result in negative feelings.

This one can really go both ways. There are people that talk about money all the time and do so very freely. You can have plenty of conversations about money and walk away from those conversations and start another one. But, if you are having conversations about money, and then spend a significant amount of time thinking on that conversation that leads in to a spiral of negative emotions and self doubt, it is probably not helpful for you to keep talking about money. At some point, you are likely repeating yourself. I unfortunately fall in to this with my husband. We have a discussion about money, likely brought up by me, and then I find that I have almost the same conversation four or five more times possibly in the course of a week. No new conclusions are made, and I just spend time thinking sadly on the conversation. It’s ok to not be in the healthiest place financially, or not have the savings you want, or be recovering from large purchases or other expenses, but repeatedly having conversations that result in negative feelings and do not bring about change are not helpful to you.


Financial anxiety is extremely common, and finances are a big stressor on relationships. You may not be where you want to be with your finances. Maybe you want a bigger savings (or a savings at all), maybe you are worried about a past or future purchase, or maybe you are recovering financially from a major life event. Whatever the case may be, we are not always in the place we wish we could be in. Sometimes there are things that we can do to change that. We might be able to rework our budget, negotiate a raise, or cut back in certain areas. It’s very healthy to assess your finances in order to reach your goals, but it’s not healthy to be caught up in negative, spiraling thoughts of financial anxiety.


If you feel like you are experiencing financial anxiety, you are not alone. Find a mentor to guide you in budgeting. It doesn’t have to be one you pay for; you can look to your parents or a friend for advice. Limit your checking of financial apps, and conversations with people that aren’t helpful (i.e. “Wow, I can’t believe you don’t have a better savings”, “It’s fine, just buy whatever you want. You can always put it on your credit card”), put money away for just you, and honestly, consider therapy or a mental health app (like Pacifica) to help change your mindset and stop having feelings of failure.


I hope this post has helped you understand your feelings, or the feelings of others around you a little better.


Have you ever experienced financial anxiety?

What has worked for you in quieting your financial anxiety?


Happy saving!


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