When my husband, Chris, and I got married in our early 20s, we didn’t have a lot of money. We also didn’t have many reasons to worry about money. It was just the two of us in a cheap apartment with a tiny grocery bill.
It was when we began to seriously consider growing our family that financial anxiety crept in. We were looking to buy a home and trying to get pregnant at the same time. Then Chris was laid off.
That was the moment we realized anything could change in a single day.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Chris was employed again. A year later, we were moving forward with our plans to buy a home, and I was in the second trimester of my first pregnancy. During that time, however, we started stressing about our finances. I would often lay awake at night wondering how we would manage if one of us lost our jobs or something unexpected and expensive came up. And my husband? He became anxious about spending money at all, even if it was on something we had planned for.
Seven years later, a lot has changed. Our careers and incomes have grown. We now have three children and more expenses, but we’re comfortable in our finances.
I assumed time would erase our old habits of stressing out about money, but that hasn’t been the case. So instead of stewing in the stress, Chris and I have been working to break this old and unnecessary habit. Here’s how we’re learning to let go of financial stress.
We practice gratitude
One of the first practices we’re working on may seem unrelated, but it really does help quite a bit. We’re working on practicing gratitude — especially when we’re stressed. This often means reframing expenses as opportunities for our family.
For example, I used to feel a lot of worry when our grocery bill crossed a certain threshold in the checkout lane. I still feel that panic now, even though that number is no longer problematic for our budget. Now, instead of stressing, I’m working to verbalize to myself, my children and my husband how thankful I am that we have what we need to feed our family well.
We plan for our future
Before, we worried about the future because we didn’t have the resources to create an emergency fund or bolster our retirement savings. Now, we’ve put away three months of income for emergency savings and continue to add the that monthly. We’ve also changed how we plan for retirement, increasing both of our monthly contributions.
Although it feels like there is no “enough” when you’re saving for the future, knowing we’re working toward a goal has put both of our minds at ease. We remind each other of that when worry creeps into our everyday conversations.
Worrying about money doesn’t help our family — but having confidence in a secure financial plan does.
We face the stress head-on
Lastly, I’m learning to recognize when my worry isn’t really based in reality, but rather some lingering fear of the financial unknown. Instead of laying awake in bed, I’ll get up and write down my concerns. Then I correct that concern with the reality that we do have savings, or that we do have family who loves us and would care for us in an emergency — and then I try to move on.
Some nights this means I’m able to get back in bed and fall asleep, while other nights I pull out a book to distract myself until I’m tired again. Chris now knows that spending isn’t a bad thing, and that we can afford to use our money for more than just saving for the future.
For many, like Chris and me, worrying about money isn’t just circumstantial; it’s a habit that’s been passed on from our parents and their parents before that. For us, it’s important to learn to live our lives free from unfounded anxiety. Not only do we want to enjoy our life and respond with gratitude, but we also want to set a healthier example for our own children. After all, worrying about money doesn’t help our family — but having confidence in a secure financial plan does.