Financial worries can have an impact on many areas of our lives, including our mental health and wellbeing and our relationships.
For some people this can be particularly challenging in January, as the long wait until pay day and the Christmas credit card bills and overspend play on their minds.
Increase in money worries
Our 2023 Mindometer survey revealed that more than half (55 %) of our therapists who work with couples saw an increase in money issues and concerns over the past year.1
Founder and Director of Working Minds, and BACP registered therapist, Simon Coombs, says: “Christmas and the new year is often a time when we see relationships under strain, or even come to an end, as a focus on finances comes to the fore.
“And with the current cost of living crisis this will be increasingly evident as couples feel the bite of increased bills to balance alongside what they’ve spent over the festive period.”
But Simon says that it doesn’t have to be this way, advising that now is a great time to reset and reframe our thoughts and actions for the year ahead.
While useful financial advice can include setting a budget, looking at where you can save money, starting a savings plan and avoiding overspending where possible, our therapists used their expertise to at what else you can do to help ease your financial worries and relationship difficulties.
Face your fears
“I always see a traditional spike in client enquiries after Christmas as a result of increased anxiety related to debt and not knowing what to do.
“So, if you find yourself in this position, you must not bury your head in the sand. If it is literally too much to manage, organisations like debt charity StepChange are there to help.”
Simon advises that if you have overdone your spending there are “always ways of paying this off incrementally”, but it's absolutely essential to take action and not wait for a letter through the door or phone call.
“Take control and make your approach first,” says Simon. “This will help you feel more empowered and less anxious about the situation.”
Speak to your partner
Counsellor and psychotherapist Lindsay George advises that if you have debts that you’re hiding from your partner, as scary as it might feel, telling them about it as soon as you can is the right approach as leaving things will only make matters worse.
“Struggling with money issues can be stressful and isolating, and trying to deal with the situation on your own can often make stress feel worse,” says Lindsay.
“The sooner you have the conversation, the easier it will be to feel more in control of the situation.”
Choose a time when you have no distractions
Lindsay advises to find a time where you have no plans and no distractions. For example, if you’ve got young children, make sure they’re asleep or out, as this will give you plenty of time to go through all the details.
“Think about what your partner is going to want to know when you tell them,” adds Lindsay. “Get all your paperwork ready so they can see the whole situation – and that you’re taking it seriously. Things your partner might ask you could be: why are you in debt? what went wrong? How much debt are you in? what are the interest rates? Who do you owe money to? Are you being chased by creditors? What do you plan to do to sort the debt?
“There’s no point hiding some things – it’s best to get it all over in one conversation as hiding your debts can also have wider implications and could also impact your partner’s credit rating. For example, if you have a joint bank account, mortgage, or credit card, for example, banks and other lenders might look at the financial situation of both people before deciding.”
Lindsay says you can check if you’re linked financially by accessing you credit report, which is free to do.
Address your relationship with money
“Many of the values that inform our attitude to money are shaped when we're young,” adds counsellor Ashley Duncan of Spacious Place Therapy.
Ashley suggests to “try talking with your partner about how money was handled in each of your families as you grew up.” She also recommends being curious about the way your parents handled and spoke about money.
“Explore what your childhood experiences were of money – for example, what you saved for and what you spent your money on. Talking through your experience of money whilst growing up may help you understand yourself, and each other, a little better,” says Ashley.
Dig deeper into spending habits
For those who struggle with impulse buying or comfort-shopping, Ashley suggests:
“For a couple of weeks try making a note of the feelings, thoughts, and experiences that are connected to a desire to over-spend.
“Some people find they spend money to meet an emotional or psychological need, so when you look back on your record, you may notice a pattern. Perhaps the urge to shop strikes when you're feeling stressed and unhappy at work? Or maybe when you're feeling lonely at the weekend? This insight can help you choose alternative, healthier strategies to meet your needs and deal with difficult feelings.”
“The key is to try to prioritize and cultivate a positive and mindful approach to money,” adds Lindsay, who suggests building smart financial habits such as learning to budget, save, and invest wisely. Lindsay also stresses that it’s important to understand the emotional side of financial decisions and to seek help from a trusted financial advisor.
Be kind to yourself
Therapist Simon Coombs suggests that instead of beating yourself up about your mistakes, use this time to reflect and reset your spending:
“For many people, if we can step back for a moment and reflect on what we have, there is always a chance to change and improve things. Even the smallest steps forward can become greater strides in the future, and there lies the hope.”
Create healthier habits by imitating others
And finally, Lindsay George suggests it also helps surround yourself with others who have good relationships with their finances and to imitate what they do.
“What is that they do that you can adopt? It may be that they have set up a saving account for incidentals, or a Christmas fund they start saving for in January,” says Lindsay.
“Whatever it is, however how simple or small, every little positive step that you can take to become more in charge of your spending and financial situation, will make you feel more in control of your life overall and help you develop a better relationship with money.
“Afterall, our emotional wellbeing is based in part to our financial stability, therefore it makes perfect sense to create some healthier habits.”
If you’re struggling with your mental health and wellbeing, find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you by searching our therapist directory.
1. BACP 2023 Mindometer survey of 3,000 members
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Couples counsellors often see a spike in enquiries after Christmas and the new year