The emotional side of financial pitfalls

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I talk a lot on this blog about frugal strategies, saving money and financial independence, but there is another aspect, no less important, of financial difficulties – the emotional side of the matter. It isn’t enough to say, “OK, so we’ll tighten the belts and get over it”. Often financial challenges come with a heavy emotional baggage that needs to be dealt with.

Insecurity. The feeling of walking on rotten ice. Will things ever stabilize? What will happen tomorrow, in a year, or two, or ten?

Fears, some of them totally irrational and/or with little base in current reality. What if the washing machine breaks down tomorrow? What if the house needs repairs we can’t afford? How are we going to contribute towards our children’s future education/weddings?

Anger and resentment, towards all those people who can just walk into a store and buy whatever they need, without thinking about money.

You might end up in an emotional state that really warrants therapy, but the trouble is, if you’re really in the financial trenches, you probably won’t be able to afford it, and you might hold back from talking about your troubles with friends so that you won’t be taken for someone negative, or worse, someone who is indirectly asking for financial support.

Self-care is imperative. Eat as well as you can, keep up your personal hygiene, exercise (walking and running don’t cost anything), keep up hobbies and activities that make you feel good and don’t cost money. For me, this is usually writing, or finding a creative recycling project I can do at no cost, such as making candles out of old wax or soap out of old oil.

Keep a lookout towards the future. When things are at their low, it’s sometimes easy to forget all the many ways the situation can improve over time: a new job, a business opportunity, inheritance you can reasonably look forward to, ways to reduce one’s dependence on the money economy altogether. It really is tough to look ahead and think you are always going to be stuck when the cold season comes and you don’t have enough money to buy shoes, that you will never be able to afford good-quality, varied food in abundance (true, sardines and bone broth go a long way, but sometimes you really crave an expensive steak). Don’t think this way, because there’s no rational basis to it. Sometimes one really has to live day to day.

And, as a believer, I always keep my eyes on G-d and His divine guidance, which has never forsaken us so far. Indeed, we have experienced many small miracles, from unexpected gifts of furniture to finding a bag of almost-new children’s clothes just when we needed them most.

If you become depressed, you might miss out on opportunities to improve your situation as you wallow in misery and don’t dare to look up from the ground. So keep an eye on that. Whenever getting out of bed or tackling daily routines seems difficult, do all you can to get help and support, because this isn’t normal.

It’s tougher when you have children depending on you. I’ve sometimes found it hard to strike a balance between being open and honest, and not overburdening little children with circumstances beyond their control. I know my children are aware of the value of money, because we aren’t ashamed to say, “We won’t buy this because we can’t afford it.” They don’t seem traumatized or worried. But avoid making it seem as though the family is on the brink of disaster, because children can be extremely sensitive and become prone to anxiety.

Financial difficulties aren’t a picnic, but with wise strategy and cautious optimism, you can pull through towards a better future.

9 thoughts on “The emotional side of financial pitfalls

  1. The times when we lived day to day, looking back from further down the road, are when I learned to truly depend on the G-d, as we were blessed with what we actually needed, not what we thought we needed.

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  2. I can sympathize with this post. We live in a very expensive area, and in spite of my husband’s good job and the extra I make working part time we feel pinched. it’s mostly due to unavoidable debt. We had to take out a big loan from a family member in order to repair a failure on our house that would have made it uninhabitable (septic!). Cars are a necessity in our rural area if one wants to be employed, and without the cash to buy one we now have a car payment in addition to our mortgage. So a lot of money goes out every month to pay back debt.
    It can be so stressful, and I get the resentment aspect of it too. All of our friends can do more for their children than we can. Skiing, music lessons, extra coats and boots, nice play equipment, their own rooms…. the list goes on. Sometimes friends will invite us to events that are expensive, and we have to try to say no without talking about money (it’s a real conversation killer around here!) We recently accepted an invitation to a ballet. It took up half of our Christmas budget to buy the tickets, but we wanted our kids to have the experience. Most of our friends would not have even batted an eye at the cost.
    Budgeting has been so helpful. Like as in budgeting every single dollar. My husband and I give ourselves a small “allowance” every month so that we have something to spend guilt free. Even if it’s just enough for a cup of coffee, it’s so nice to feel like you have that luxury of a little bit of money to spend as you wish. The rest is strictly allocated.

    Best to you and your family! I appreciate these posts where you talk about money. I don’t think it should be a shameful topic.

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    • Thank you so much for your input. It’s so nice to feel not alone! Our area is expensive too, in the way of local taxes that are strangling us, and we have said no to many a wedding because around here people expect gifts from guests to cover the costs.

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  3. Anna and Anna,
    God bless you. Hang in there. It does get better, sometimes when you least expect it. Several years ago, right after Christmas, there was a knock on our door. By the time I got the door, all that was there was a decorated coffee can with a bow on top. Inside, within the tinsel and tissue paper was over $100 in cash and about $100 in gift cards. Finances were very tight, although we weren’t in danger of losing our home or anything. It had to have come from a collection taken up from our parish for individuals and families who needed something extra at Christmas. It brought real Christmas joy to our home that someone cared about us. It was about the sharing that is part of the Christian faith and part of the Jewish faith. Last year, we were blessed to receive a generous income tax refund. When our priest announced that a family needed a certain amount of money to remain in their home, we more than returned that generosity.

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  4. […] Keep looking for ways out! Don’t let the present suck you in like a permanent sluggish murky bog with no prospects. This has been my mistake for a long time, just looking at nothing beyond daily survival – no matter how good you get at saving, pinching pennies and doing without, sometimes you just have to stop and think of ways to make a radical change and take a different turn. Always look forward with hope for change, and see your present strait as something that will pass. […]

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