I have huge issues surrounding spending money. Guilt over purchases. Anxiety over bank account balances. Panic over budgets. Spending money makes me feel sick to my stomach. Adding it up is worse, hence why budgets make me a bit panicky.
Some of it stems from my childhood. We didn’t have a lot of extra money growing up, which is the polite way of saying we were poor. I’m still not sure how Mom did it. Because while I always knew money was tight, I never knew how tight until much later.
A huge part of it came from my final year of grad school. My university had messed up, given me too much money in the fall under the guise of an increased grant. When they realized their mistake, they cut my spring allotment by almost two thousand dollars. Late at night, when I couldn’t sleep, I would add the money in my account up, subtract rent, add this paycheck, subtract that bill, add, subtract, add, subtract around and around in my head. I could do the mental math from January to May and it wasn’t good. I ended up leaving the day after I finished my last test. I made it to my friend’s house with less than 50 dollars free and clear in my name.
I thought I had recovered by just having more money until I got married. We moved overseas and had a joint account for expenses. We both wanted to keep our income separate and just share into an account for groceries and bills. Only problem was that I was unemployed. And I kept having to remind my new husband to put money in so I could bike to the base to buy groceries. The guilt crept in quickly and insidiously latched on to me.
I feel like I should make it clear that my husband has never made me feel guilty over how much or how little I have earned. Nor has he ever done anything to make me feel like I can’t spend money. This is all in my head.
Switching to a fully joint account system made things better. But still, I struggle with feeling guilty over purchasing a swim suit. Or shoes. I had major anxiety when we bought the house over everything money related.
Budgeting has actually been the biggest help. I’ve been able to see how much money we do have for discretionary spending each month. It doesn’t fully dampen the feelings, but it definitely gives me ammunition to launch back at my own brain.
Mostly though? I’m learning to refuse to engage with myself. This is true over a lot of things. Anxiety over what will people think about me? Nope, not happening. Guilt over purchasing those killer shoes? Not today self. Panic over how much money is in the bank? Here’s the spreadsheet brain, fuck off.
It’s empowering. I’m learning. Because frankly? I’m tired of cycling through guilt and needing permission to buy things. I just want to buy the cute dress because I want it and we can afford it. Life isn’t the way it was when I learned my anxiety around money, so it’s time for me to unlearn it.