Money makes us feel all sorts of different emotions. Some experiences are more or less universal – finding a forgotten £20 at the bottom of your bag would brighten up an otherwise grey morning for most of us! But the way we feel looking at our bank balances varies from person to person.
One emotion almost all of us will encounter at one time or another is money guilt. And it can affect us whatever our financial situation might look like to others.
In this blog, we’re going to look at where money guilt comes from, how it might impact your financial wellbeing and how you can start to feel less guilty about your money habits.
So whether you’re wondering “What is money guilt?”, or you’re already searching for ways to deal with it, Loqbox is here to help.
What is money guilt?
Money guilt vs. money shame
We feel guilty when we believe we’ve done something wrong. It’s not a pleasant feeling. But it can be helpful – guilt reminds us of the way we want to live our lives and the values we believe in.
When we feel guilty about money, that feeling can prompt us to make positive choices.
Let’s say you feel guilty for splashing out on a new outfit. That emotion might indicate that it was out of your budget. And you could adjust spending in other areas to make sure you can still cover the essentials. But if it was within budget and you still felt a pang of guilt, you might want to consider working to change your money mindset.
Shame happens when we don’t take action on our feelings of guilt. Guilt tells us, “You did something bad.” But shame goes deeper. We might think, “I did something that goes against my values. So I must be bad.”
Feeling ashamed about money can be overwhelming. And feeling anxious or stressed doesn’t help anyone. It could harm your overall wellbeing and make it harder to approach your money situation practically.
If this all sounds familiar, keep reading. It is possible to break free from the money guilt cycle. But to do that, it helps to work out what it is that makes you feel guilty about money.
Why do I feel guilty about money?
When it comes to our money, many different things can trigger feelings of guilt. That might be not having enough money, spending more money than you think you should, or even having plenty of money in the bank when other people don’t.
Guilt comes up when we believe we’ve gone against our values. So when you notice this feeling, try to remember that the relationship you’ve developed with money over your life could be making you feel guilty when you just don’t need to be.
What causes money guilt?
We all have experiences that have made us the people we are today. They impact everything from our relationships to our career choices. And the same is true when it comes to our beliefs about money.
Guilt is something we feel when we think we’ve gone against our values. So if you’re asking yourself, “Why do I feel guilty about money?”, a good place to start is with your money story.
Your money story
Our money stories start in childhood. And they usually affect the way we feel about money today. You might’ve picked up attitudes about money based on things you heard family members say, what you saw on the news, or what your friends told you.
That all comes together to form your money mindset. If, for example, your family struggled with money when you were a kid you might be more afraid to spend. Or if you grew up with a lot of money, you might find it harder to budget in adulthood.
Why do I feel guilty for having money?
When we have more money than our loved ones
It’s common to think that having more money would solve our money worries. But that’s not always the case. In reality, people often feel guilty about having money, even when they’ve worked hard to earn it.
You might reach a stage in your life where you earn more money than your friends and family. And that can feel really uncomfortable.
Many people are tempted to deal with that feeling by spending lots of money on others. And while being generous is great, giving money away all the time can damage our overall financial wellbeing. You might find that supporting people with your time is a more meaningful way to pay it forward.
It’s often a good idea to set healthy boundaries and prioritise paying off your debts or building an emergency fund. Safeguarding your financial stability could make you more able to help others in the long run. There’s a reason air hosts tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping the person beside you.
Why do I feel guilty for not having money?
When money is short
If you feel guilty because you’re short of money, you’re not alone. We’re facing a particularly tough financial situation in the UK at the moment. And many people are struggling to cover day-to-day expenses.
You might feel guilty if you’ve fallen behind on bills, or if you’re unable to spend money on the things you care about. In times like these, we often have to be more ruthless when spending money on presents or meeting up with friends.
But try to remember that our money doesn’t define us. On an individual level, you can only impact the way you manage your own money. So try not to blame yourself for things that are outside of your control.
You might find it helpful to read our recent blog where we asked wellness experts to share their tips for managing money worries.
Why do I feel guilty for spending money?
A common money fear
Even when we do have money in the bank, it’s easy to feel guilty for spending, particularly if we’re spending money on ourselves. And that guilt might be more intense if you’ve struggled financially in the past.
You might associate spending money now with not having enough money later. Or you might feel like you don’t deserve to spend your own money on yourself.
If you always feel anxious about spending – whatever your circumstances – now might be a good time to reflect on your relationship with money. Most of us wouldn’t want a friend to feel guilty for treating themselves from time to time. So try to treat yourself with the same compassion.
How can I deal with money guilt?
If you’re feeling guilty about money, it can be easy to feel like you’re stuck in a cycle.
You might find that you feel overwhelmed whenever you look at your money. And not having a plan – or feeling like your money situation is out of control – could result in money habits that make you feel even worse.
The good news is that we can work to change our beliefs by being more mindful about money. A good place to start is by working out whether your money guilt is based on facts or unhelpful emotions.
Reflect on your money story
Take some time to think about your money story. (You could even note it down in a journal.) You might identify events in your life that have influenced the way you think about money today. And that can help you overcome feelings of guilt.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you feel guilty because you don’t already own your own home. It might be that your parents were able to get a mortgage soon after they started working. So they might’ve taught you to value home ownership above all else.
But you might have different priorities – or a different financial situation – than your parents had at your age. So you could thank the part of your brain that’s telling you, “Homeownership = financial security”, but tell it, “That’s not a priority for me right now. I’ll think about buying a home if and when the time is right.”
Having a financial plan could help you feel less guilty about money
At the beginning of this blog, we said that guilt is an emotion we feel when we think we’ve done something that goes against our values. So putting together a financial plan that’s in line with your values can help you feel proud of how you handle your money.
Think about the way you want to feel about money in future. You might have goals, dreams or aspirations that relate to money. That could be having enough saved to protect yourself in an emergency, or being able to travel around the world when you retire. Use those goals to guide your budgeting.
Remember to include non-essential spending in your budget. This way, you can calm that inner voice that says, “Don’t buy that new phone case, you can’t afford it!” with a response: “Cheers. But I can afford it this month. It fits my budget, and it will protect my phone.”
And if you’re unsure about where to start, read our blog post – Scared of money? 6 common financial fears and how to conquer them – it should help you feel more confident approaching your finances without fear.