Negative Emotions Around Money And How to Handle Them

Negative emotions around money

Save, budget, pay off debt, plan for retirement. It's easy to talk about the things we should be doing with our money without really focusing on the emotional aspect. We often treat money like many other things in life — simply a tool, a means to an end. 

However, money has a huge impact on how people get to live their lives. And as a result, it's natural that we tend to attach a great deal of emotion to it. Oftentimes these emotions can be negative and can even impact your mental health.

If your financial situation has you in a mood, know that you’re not alone. Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress Study found that while 68% of Americans good about their financial situation, a substantial amount of people also reported these feeling negative emotions regularly:

Money is also the dominant source of stress, more than personal relationships and having a job or career. 

But financial stress can come about in other ways, too. In a Kansas State study about disordered financial behaviors, 36% of respondents admitted they participated in avoidant behaviors when it came to their finances. Financial denial is a defense mechanism that may come with feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem. If unaddressed, this can keep you from achieving your financial goals, or worse.

If you’re feeling anxiety or shame or other negative emotions, maybe it’s time you explore what’s going on and put those feelings at ease. Here are some of the most common emotions about money, along with some tactics to help you cope.

Anxiety and fear

Having anxiety or fear of money is all too common. Remember, more than half of Americans feel anxious about their money on a regular basis!

You know your inner dialogue best. You worry about how you'll earn enough of it and how you’ll pay your bills. You worry that you'll lose what you have. You worry that you can't manage it well enough. You worry so much about your financial situation that it becomes stressful and avoid your finances altogether.

What to do 

When you start feeling anxious or fearful about your money, instead of staying stuck, ask yourself, What can I do to get past this?

If you’re worried about not being about to pay your bills, work with what you can control and create a plan. Worried about forgetting to pay your bills? Automate your finances. If you’re wondering where all your money is going every month, create a budget and set financial goals.

If it’s all just too overwhelming, talk to an accountability partner or money expert or consider taking one of our free personal finance courses.

 Don't allow yourself to stay stuck. Make yourself take action.

Anger and regret

These are the shoulda, woulda, coulda emotions. You wish you hadn't spent that much. You wish you had saved more. You wish you hadn't given away that money. You wish you never opened that credit card. You wish you never racked up that much debt.

You hold on to so much regret. And then there's the anger. You get mad at yourself for being so irresponsible. You get mad at your parents for not teaching you about money. You get mad at the world for your situation.

The thing is, what's done is done.

What to do

Instead of regret, think forgiveness. 

Forgive yourself for your past financial mistakes and keep it moving. Ever heard the saying "There's no use crying over spilled milk?" Well, there's no point in regret because it gets you nowhere. 

It's ok to get mad, but channel those angry feelings into good use. Get so mad that your mindset becomes one of "never again." Get so mad that you create a solid budget and strategy that ensures you never fall back into your ways of poorly managing your finances. Don't hold on to regret and anger. Let them out, let them go, and keep moving forward.

Shame and embarrassment

When it comes to money mistakes, shame and embarrassment are all too common. We’re ashamed that other people will judge us for our money mistakes, and we’re embarrassed to admit we've made mistakes.

We want to look good in front of our friends and family. We don't want to admit our money situation isn’t that great especially when society is telling us that by a certain age, we’re supposed to have accomplished certain things financially. 

The good news is that everyone has made mistakes, even the smartest and wealthiest people in the world, and believe me when I say they've made several. Just do a Google search on your favorite successful people. Anyone who tells you they've never made a mistake with their money just hasn't made one yet.

What to do

Similar to anger and regret, forgive yourself for your past money mistakes and then realize you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. It's time to let go of the shame and self-judgment and instead find your inner strength to take the lessons you've learned and move forward.


The grass always looks greener on the other side until you get to the other side and realize things aren't what they seem. Jealousy also comes in a milder form known as “keeping up with the Joneses.”

The trouble is, when people try to keep up, they end up living beyond their means, getting into debt and pushing themselves much further away from their financial goals. According to Experian’s 2018 Consumer Debt Study, credit card debt, mortgage debt, student loan debt, and auto loans reached an all-time high last year. 

What to do

Practice gratitude and contentment instead. 

Take time out every day to remind yourself of the things you wanted in the past that you now have. Start a gratitude journal or list, or download an app. Free yourself of jealousy, and instead channel those feelings into motivation to work harder, to fine-tune your financial goals, and to do better within your means. And always remember, there are things you have, that someone else is praying for.

In closing

It's human nature to feel emotion, but what matters is how we channel our emotions and how we put them to use. When it comes to our finances, it's about not giving up. We take the lessons we've learned from our money mistakes and apply them to our next steps.

{Updated by Cristy S. Lynch}

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