Exercises to Reduce Money Anxiety

A study by the American Psychological Association found that money is the number one source of stress for Americans. So what can you do to reduce your money anxiety?

Here are 10 tips, tricks, and exercises to reduce your money anxiety.

1. Get clear on your money story and the history behind your money anxiety.

In this money anxiety gif, the main character is nodding and breathing deeply, ready to face what gives her money anxiety.

Your money story is the set of beliefs, emotions and experiences that you have around money. It’s the filter through which you see the world of money and it can be a major source of anxiety for many people. Often, it’s what’s working in the background when we can’t put our thumb on why we have trouble saving, hoard money, or even have a problem with a partner making more than we do.

It’s shaped by your family, your culture and your own personal experiences. Your money story is ultimately a complex web of thoughts, feelings and memories that can be hard to untangle. But it’s worth the effort, because understanding your money story is key to taking control of your finances and your life.

Getting clear on your money story is also an important step in reducing money anxiety. When you know your money story, you can begin to challenge the negative beliefs and emotions that are holding you back.

There are many different ways to get clear on your money story. You can start by exploring your beliefs about money, looking at how you were raised to think about money and reflecting on your own experiences with money.

Journaling can be a helpful way to explore your thoughts and emotions around money.

Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and take a few deep breaths. Then reflect on any pervasive thoughts. Start by thinking about what’s been going on in your life lately, both good and bad. What are some things that have been causing you stress? Once you’re done reflecting on the day, try a money journal prompt.

Answer these journal prompts to getting clear on your money story:

Use the Nav.it money app to schedule worry time, improve your relationship with money, journal and practice mindfulness daily.
Track what’s stressing you out with a daily check-in. With the Nav.it money tracking app you can connect how you feel with what you spend.
  • What do you think of when you hear the word money? Are they positive or negative?
  • Do you feel capable and deserving of having money?
  • If your money was a person, how would you characterize your relationship with it? Do you avoid it? Do you feel guilty? Do you indulge? Does it make you feel happy?
  • What cultural, religious, and family belief systems were you taught about money? How has this impacted your financial life today?
  • What is your attitude toward people with a lot of money? What about people with very little money? How has this impacted your financial life today?
  • Were expectations around money different for males or females? For young versus old? Or different types of professions? How has this impacted your financial life today?
  • Did you ever notice differing expectations resulting from ethnic or racial discrimination? How has this impacted your financial life today?
  • Do you set income ceilings for yourself? What is holding you back from breaking through those ceilings?
  • Do you see a connection between your self-worth and how much money have?
  • When do you feel the most valuable? Why?
  • Imagine someone who believes in you. How would they describe you? What strengths would they say you have?
  • Describe a time you were challenged yet able to accomplish something. What did you learn?
  • Describe a time you feel compensated appropriately. How did that opportunity arise? Did it fall in your lap or did you make it happen?
  • Who makes you feel competitive? How does being competitive help and hurt you?
  • How has collaboration benefited you?
  • Was there ever a time you got defensive about money? How did you use defenses to justify your behaviors or financial decisions?
  • In the past, have you ever blamed anyone when you were unhappy or having setbacks? If so, who?
  • What ways are you responsible with money? What ways aren’t you?
  • What challenges, especially financial, has life dealt you? What are ten blessings or moments of good fortune?
  • What do you want the next five years to look like? What about the next ten?
  • Who or what do you feel is responsible for your current financial situation? How were you impacted? How have you impacted your own finances?
  • Do you have a system to manage money? And does it work well?

Make journaling a regular habit to help reduce your money anxiety

Making journaling a regular habit can be a great way to help reduce stress and anxiety around money. It can also be a helpful tool for exploring your relationship with money and identifying areas you may want to work on.

The most important thing is to be gentle with yourself as you explore your money story. Money anxiety is very common and it can be hard to change the way you think about money. But by getting to know your money story, you can start to make changes that will reduce your anxiety and help you build a more positive relationship with money.

What are the messages you’ve been telling yourself about money? Are they helpful or harmful? Write them down and then reframe them in a more positive light.

2. Identify and dismantle money triggers

Money triggers can be defined as emotional reactions that we have towards money. These reactions can be either positive or negative, caused by something internally or externally, can result in us feeling stressed or anxious about our finances, and can ultimately lead to unwanted spending habits.

Track what’s stressing you out with a daily check-in. With the Nav.it money tracking app you can connect how you feel with what you spend.

What sets off your feelings about money? What makes you spend more or save more? Is it certain spending situations like being out with friends? Or is it scrolling social media? Or in-app purchases? Once you know your triggers, you can start to work on dismantling them.

Why is money one of the most common triggers for anxiety?

One reason is that we tend to associate money with stress. When we think about money, we often think about everything we have to pay for – bills, groceries, and car payments. We forget about all the good things money can do for us.

Another reason is that we often compare ourselves to others regarding money. We see our friends and family members who seem to make new purchases, accomplish big financial milestones, or seem have no financial problems and think, “why can’t I be like that?” We forget that everyone has different circumstances and that just because someone else appears to be doing well financially, doesn’t mean they are. (It also doesn’t mean they’re immune from money anxiety.)

Social media and “TikTok made me buy it”

When it comes to social media, we’re all susceptible to a little spending peer pressure. Whether it’s FOMO, the fear of missing out, or simply seeing our friends post about their latest purchases, we can’t help but feel like we need to keep up. And that’s exactly how social media platforms get us to spend.

Check out this episode of the Nav.it money podcast, where Viv talks keepin’ up with the Joneses.

Here are a few of the most common ways social media is a money trigger and gets us to open our wallets:

1. FOMO

FOMO is the fear of missing out, and it’s a real phenomenon. When we see our friends posting about their amazing vacations or their new cars, we can’t help but feel like we’re missing out. And that feeling can be strong enough to push us to spend money we may not have.

2. The Herd Mentality

The herd mentality is another way social media gets us to spend. When we see everyone else doing something, we feel we need to do it too. Whether buying the latest iPhone or going on a fancy vacation, we can’t help but feel like we’re being left behind if we don’t keep up.

3. Social Proof

Social proof is the idea that we’re more likely to do something if we see others doing it. So, if our friends post about their new designer clothes, we’re more likely to go out and buy some ourselves.

4. The Scarcity Principle

The scarcity principle is the idea that we value something more if it’s scarce. So, when we see a limited edition product or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we’re more likely to spend money on it. Even if we can’t afford it.

5. The Endowment Effect

The endowment effect is the idea that we value something more if we own it. So, when we see our friends with a new car or house, we’re more likely to want those things ourselves. Even if we can’t really afford them.

Lastly, we often have a lot of guilt around money. We feel guilty spending money on ourselves, even when we need or deserve it. We feel guilty asking for help with money, even when we really need it.

All of us have experienced at least one of these money triggers at some point in our lives. And, unfortunately, they can often lead to money anxiety or even financial problems.

If money triggers make you anxious, there are a few ways to dismantle money triggers in order to reduce your money anxiety:

Tune in to your feelings.

Before making a purchase, heading to a shopping mall, or even opening a new tab in the browser, reflect on what you’re feeling. Sad, angry, stressed, bored? Tune into what you’re feeling and then tune into your surroundings. Being grounded in where you are and how you feel can help you overcome the urge to splurge.

The 30-day rule

This rule is a great way to curb impulsive spending. If you want to buy something that isn’t an essential, wait 30 days. If you still want it after 30 days, then you can buy it. This rule gives you time to think about whether you really need or want something, and can help you to save money.

The 10-minute rule

This rule is similar to the 30-day rule, but instead of waiting 30 days, you wait 10 minutes. If you still want the item after 10 minutes, you can buy it. This rule is great for smaller purchases that you may be tempted to make on a whim. If you find yourself still making a lot of purchases that make you feel negatively, try extending the 10-minutes to 24 hours. This rule can help you to save money and to make sure you really want or need something before you buy it.

Make a list

This may seem like a simple tip, but making a list of what you need before you go shopping can save you a lot of money. When you have a list, you are less likely to impulse buy items that you don’t need.

Shop with cash

This tip is similar to making a list. When you limit your shopping to cash, you physically see how much money is going how, and how much you have left.

Lastly, remember that money triggers can be internal or external, and they can vary from person to person.

3. Track your spending to feel less anxious about money.

One of the best, albeit daunting, exercises to overcome money anxiety is tracking your spending, but science proves it’s worth the effort.

Studies have shown that tracking spending can reduce anxiety and improve financial well-being. For example, a study by the University of British Columbia found that people who tracked their spending felt less anxious about their finances and were likelier to stick to their budget.

Another study by Stanford University researchers found that people who tracked their spending were more likely to save money and make better financial decisions.

By knowing where your money is going, you can make better financial decisions and feel more in control of your finances. Hello, financial clarity.

How to track your spending in a way that doesn’t make your money anxiety worse

There are a lot of ways to track your spending, but the simplest way is to use a pencil and paper. Just write down everything you spend for a month, and then add it up at the end. You can also use a spreadsheet or budgeting software to do this, but it’s just as easy (and free) to do it with a pen and paper.

If you want to get a little more sophisticated, you can use a service like Mint or YNAB to track your spending. These basic money apps connect to your bank account and credit cards, and then categorize your spending for you. They can also give you a lot of helpful information about where you’re spending your money.

Or you can take it to the next level. The Nav.it money app actually helps you reflect on how each purchase made you feel. The only money app that helps you reflect on your purchases, you’ll connect what you spent with how it made you feel with transaction swiping.

No matter which method you choose, tracking your spending can be a helpful way to get a handle on your finances and have les money anxiety. It can help you identify areas where you’re spending too much, and it can also help you find ways to save money.

4. Categorize your spending

We often avoid things that make us anxious, so this next exercise may feel counter-intuitive at first. The thing is facing your money and making a plan for spending actually pays off.

Science has shown that categorizing your spending with a budget can have some pretty amazing benefits including reducing your money anxiety. For example, a spending plan and budgeting can help you save money, make better financial decisions, and even improve your mental health.

Here are some of the specific benefits of budgeting according to science:

Saving a source of your money anxiety? Science shows you’ll save more with a budget.

Studies have shown that people who budget tend to save more money than those who don’t. This is likely because budgeting forces you to be more aware of your spending habits and make conscious decisions about where you want to spend your money.

Fear of making bad financial decisions is source of your money anxiety? Budgeting helps with that.

Budgeting can also help you make better financial decisions. This is because budgeting forces you to think about your long-term financial goals and plan for them.

For example, let’s say you want to buy a house in the next five years. When you’re budgeting, you’ll be more likely to consider things like how much you need to save each month to reach your goal. This can help you make financial decisions that align with your long-term goals.

Budgeting helps you be less stressed in general.

Money is a major source of stress for many people, but budgeting can help reduce this stress. One study found that people who use a budget report feeling less stressed about their finances than those who don’t budget.

This likely because budgeting gives you a better understanding of your finances, which can help you feel more in control of your money. When you feel like you’re in control of your finances, it’s natural to feel less stressed.

Having a clear picture of your money can help reduce anxiety around it. Knowing where your money is going and making sure you’re not overspending can give you a sense of control.

How to start budgeting and categorizing your expenses so you can kick money anxiety to the curb

Start by gathering your financial information.

You could use an app like Nav.it to connect all of your online accounts and automate a budget or you can gather your financial statements manually. You’ll need:

  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Student loan balances or statements
  • Other loan information
  • Investment accounts
  • Utility bills including gas, electric, water, cable, and cell phone

Then tally your income.

Determining how much you earned.

Add up your wages along with any stipends (like an internship for example) or supplementary allotments like alimony, child support, disability, etc. If you work in cash, moving forward you’ll have to start tracking the cash flow as well.

Determine how much you spent.

You can do this quickly by looking at your bank statement totals for the entire month.

  • How much did you spend in checking last month?
  • How much did you charge to your credit card?
  • Did you pull anything out of savings?

Looking at these should cover most of your expenses.

(Not into writing it out? Check out Nav.it’s automated and customized budgeting, downloadable at the Google Play and Apple Store. )

Subtract expenses from income.

For example, if you make about $500 per week and spend $1300 in rent, groceries, utilities, and entertainment: $2000-$1300 = $700 leftover at the end of the month.

How did you do? Do you have extra, or did you spend more than you earn?

Though this is an estimate because there’s some variability, this first step will let you know if you need to tighten your belt.

Pro tip: Don’t get stuck in the weeds. You’re more likely to follow through with making (and following) a budget if you keep it simple.

Once you get the hang of it, spend 10 minutes at the end of every month updating your budget. That’s less than a sweat sesh at the gym and just as important for your health.

5. Practice gratitude.

One of the best ways to reduce stress around money is to practice gratitude. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can benefit your mental and physical health.

As it turns out, gratitude can also help reduce your money anxiety and your finances.

Here’s how:

According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, feelings of gratitude can combat a tendency toward instant gratification and impulse spending. In fact, participants in this study showed more patience and self-control when they had higher levels of gratitude.

Gratitude can help you fight lifestyle creep – the increase in spending as income goes up. You’ll stay focused on what brings you satisfaction now versus allowing discretionary spending to inflate.

Gratitude can also help you change from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. When you focus on all the things you’re grateful for, it’s easier to see plenty of good in your life – even if your bank balance isn’t where you want it to be.

Here are some ways to practice gratitude to reduce your anxiety about money:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, write down three things you’re grateful for. They can be big or small – it doesn’t matter. Taking the time to reflect on what you’re grateful for will help shift your focus from what’s lacking to what you already have.

2. Express gratitude. When someone does something nice for you, take the time to express your appreciation. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.

3. Give to others. When you give to others, it not only makes them feel good, but it also feels good to you. Giving can take many forms – it doesn’t have to be money. It could be your time, energy, or resources.

6. Simplify your finances.

Overwhelmed by the number of options? Feel guilty about a missed payment fee, simply because you just forgot? It’s easy to feel money anxiety when managing it is hard

Here are steps you can take to make this money anxiety exercise easier:

One of the best things you can do is to consolidate your debt. If you have multiple debts – credit cards, student loans, etc. – it can be tough to keep track of them all and make sure you’re making your payments on time. By consolidating your debt into one loan, you can make things much simpler and easier to manage.

Another great way to simplify your finances is to automate your payments. If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time, set up automatic payments, so you don’t have to worry about it. This way, you can be sure that your bills are always paid on time, and you won’t have to worry about late fees.

Speaking of automation, automate your saving. Evidence from multiple studies suggests you will save more over the long term by automating your savings. It’s like autopilot for saving, reducing the risk posed by willpower fatigue or the need to exert self-control over your decisions.

Finally, one of the best things you can do for your financial future and reduce your money anxiety around it is to start saving for retirement. It may seem like a long way off, but the sooner you start saving, the better you will feel about it. Even if you can only save a little bit each month, it will add up over time, and you’ll be glad you did when you’re ready to retire.

7. Habit stack to tackle money anxiety

Most of us have routines we go through every day without even thinking about them. We brush our teeth, shower, eat breakfast, and head to work. But what if we could use this daily routine to help us improve our financial health? That’s where habit stacking comes in.

Habit stacking is simply taking a desired behavior (in this case, saving money) and attaching it to an existing habit. So instead of trying to create a new money-saving habit from scratch, you piggyback on something you’re already doing.

For example, let’s say you always check your email first thing in the morning. You can make a habit stack by setting a rule that you can’t check your email until you’ve saved $5. Or, if you’re a coffee drinker, you could make a rule that you have to walk to the coffee shop instead of driving in order to save money on gas.

The key to making habit stacking work is to start small. Don’t try to stack too many new habits onto your existing ones, or you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and give up. Just pick one or two to start with, and then gradually add more as you get comfortable.

So what are some other daily money habits that you can stack to make managing money and your feelings better? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Save your spare change. Every time you get a $5 bill back from the cashier, put it in a jar. At the end of the month, you’ll be surprised how much money you’ve saved!

2. Before scrolling TikTok, review your daily transactions before you go to bed.

3.Before checking your email in the morning, journal. Scheduled worry time helps you manage money anxiety and writing down money worries is an awesome way to process it.

Remember, managing money anxiety with habit stacking is all about linking small, manageable actions into a routine that becomes second nature. According to recent studies, people who have daily money habits are more likely to be financially successful than those who don’t. And the best part is, once you get started, it’s easy to keep going!

8. Talk about money with a trusted friend or partner.

It can be tough to talk about money, especially with the people closest to us. We may feel like we’re being judged, or we may not want to reveal our financial situation to others. However, talking about money is important – it can help us better understand our own finances, and it can also help us make better financial decisions.

Here are some tips for making the money anxiety exercise of talking to your friends and partner about money easier:

1. Be open and honest

The first step is to be open and honest about your financial situation. This doesn’t mean that you have to reveal everything, but it’s important to be truthful about where you stand financially. This will help build trust and understanding.

2. Be respectful

When talking about money, it’s important to be respectful of each other’s financial situation. This means not judging or making assumptions about someone’s finances. Instead, try to focus on the conversation and understand each other’s point of view.

3. Set ground rules

Before you start talking about money, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules. This will help keep the conversation focused and respectful. Some things you might want to consider are:

  • What information you’re comfortable sharing
  • What topics are off-limits
  • How you’ll handle disagreements

4. Listen more than you talk

When talking about money, it’s important to listen more than you talk. This will help you better understand the other person’s point of view. It can also help prevent arguments or misunderstandings.

5. Find a neutral time and place to talk

Try to find a time and place to talk that is neutral and comfortable for both of you. This will help keep the conversation relaxed and focused.

A woman is holding her head, downtrodden because she lost a lot of money investing. Font says "Ask the money coach: I lost a ton of money in crypto. What's next" with a read now button.

9. Check in with a professional.

If your money anxiety is impacting your quality of life, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you work through your money anxiety and develop healthy coping mechanisms if it’s severe.

However, a money coach can help you work through some of the earlier exercises that you may have struggled to get through. Here’s how money coaches can help you reduce your money anxiety:

1. A money coach can help you understand your relationship with money.

If you’re always worrying about money, it’s likely because you have a negative relationship with it. A money coach can help you understand your money triggers and learn to change your thinking around money. This can be a huge relief and help you start to see money in a more positive light.

2. A money coach can help you develop a budget that works for you.

One of the best ways to combat money anxiety is to have a solid budget in place. But not all budgets are created equal! A money coach can help you create a budget that fits your unique circumstances and includes room for your financial goals.

3. A money coach can help you create a plan to get out of debt.

If you’re struggling with debt, it can feel like you’re never going to get ahead. But a money coach can help you develop a realistic plan to pay off your debt and get on the path to financial freedom.

4. A money coach can help you save for your future.

If you’re worried about retirement or other long-term financial goals, a money coach can help you develop a savings plan that will give you peace of mind. They can also help you invest your money wisely so that you can reach your goals sooner.

5. A money coach can help you deal with financial setbacks.

No matter how well you plan, there will always be bumps in the road. But a money coach can help you navigate these setbacks and get back on track quickly. They can also help you develop a plan to avoid future setbacks.

Money anxiety is a real problem, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. By taking some time to work on your relationship with money, you can reduce your stress and live a happier life.

Related Reads

Overcoming Bad Spending Habits

How to Save More Money

How are Habits Formed?

9 Bad Money Habits and Hot to Break Them

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