Money emotions and how to cope with them

Money underpins almost everything we want to accomplish in life: what we do, where we live, our lifestyle, financing a family, and so on.  Our spending patterns are linked to who we are, and many people have a difficult relationship with money as a result.

Some common negative money emotions that can cause distress are:

Fear and anxiety

Not having enough money to live the way we wish to, or in some cases to fund everyday essentials, can cause extreme stress and anxiety.  In many cases, we may even be afraid to open our bank or credit card statements, as our financial reality feels too overwhelming.

Shame and guilt

We often feel ashamed about how we spend our money, and worry that we have ‘wasted’ money on unimportant things.  These feelings can be intensified when we share our finances with a partner, or when we inherit money from relatives.  ‘Financial infidelity’ is common, when people hide spending details from their partners.


The rise of social media facilitates easy comparisons with others, and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ has become having an ‘Insta-worthy’ life.  Many people to go into cycles of debt to finance a lifestyle that will impress others.


Intense money struggles can lead to overwhelming hopelessness and feeling trapped.

To keep these negative emotions from having a severe impact on wellbeing, we can use some of the following techniques:

Examine your emotions

Ask yourself searching questions about why you feel the way you do.  Why did that recent purchase feel like wasted money?  How have your background and past experiences affected your relationship with money?

Forgive yourself, and others

It is normal to feel frustrated about your financial behaviours.  But to get to a better relationship with money, you need to forgive what has gone before.  Try to recognise where poor decisions were driven by negative emotions, and accept that they are in the past.  Commit to recognising those triggers if they come up again, and have a plan to avoid repeating behaviours that have not served you.

Face your fears

Having a complete understanding of your overall financial picture always helps.  However frightened you may be, identifying all of your assets, liabilities, income and expenditure is an essential first step towards feeling more in control.

Set some goals

Financial goals should be rooted in life goals.  What is most important to you in life?  Security?  Time with loved ones?  Adventure?  Flexibility?  Then look at your current spending.  Is it aligned with your life goals?  How could your finances better reflect the future you desire?  Avoid comparison with others: your goals are unlikely to be the same as theirs.  Seek out a financial coach, to help elaborate your life goals and keep you accountable for taking steps towards them.

Make your goals real

Goals are often long-term, and humans are not great at avoiding short-term impulses for long-term gain!  It is useful to carry a reminder of your goals.  It might be a keyring for your future house keys, a picture of your dream travel destination, or a mini vision board.  When faced with a spending decision, look at this reminder of why you are saving.

Seek help

If your money worries are causing you to feel depressed, seek help.  For free counselling services, Citizens Advice or the StepChange Debt Charity are good places to turn, or the Samaritans if you are struggling to manage your feelings.

Above all, try to be kind to yourself.  Almost everyone has made money mistakes.  By learning from your behaviours and forgiving yourself, you can begin to build a firmer financial footing.

Kate Dellow is a qualified financial life coach, and founder of Figure Out Money