Health & Wellness Articles

Turn Money Problems into Rewarding Solutions

Got Money Problems? Find Peace with Your Paycheck

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Got money problems? These days, when many people earn the equivalent of 4 gallons of gas per hour, who doesn’t?

For many people, money problems go beyond coping with rising prices or tweaking your budget to keep your expenses within your means; they're a way of life. No matter how much money you have, it's never enough to make you feel happy, secure, or satisfied. Dealing with money can become incredibly complex and difficult, too. It’s very easy to want more of it than you truly need; to spend more of it than you have; or to expect it to solve problems that it can't. In fact, it's not just easy to get caught up in problematic spending habits—it's almost expected of us.

The advertising and credit industries have done amazingly well at transforming money (and all the things it can buy) into potent symbols of personal power, status, success, and even personal identity. If you want to be successful, buy a fancier car! As a result, the difference between what we need and what we want has become harder to define. The connection between who we are and the things we have has become much more confusing than it needs to be. And the ability to manage money and spending with simple math and logic is often lost in a sea of strong feelings, needs, and insecurities.

If all of this sounds similar to the issues many people have with body image and emotional eating, that’s because it is.

There’s an old saying about money that you often hear in self-help circles: “If the only problem you have is a money problem, then you don’t have any problems.” What this slogan is pointing out is that most problems with money aren’t really money problems, and you can't solve them by getting your hands on more money. The real problems are the attitudes, expectations, feelings, and assumptions we have about ourselves and the things we desire or think we need.

We don’t make up these problem-causing assumptions ourselves. We pick them up from the people and culture around us. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to pick up the strategies we need to inoculate ourselves against the constant barrage of advertising, easy credit, and social pressures that make it so easy to use money and spending in self-defeating ways. But you can do this for yourself if you’re willing to do a little work.

The feelings and thoughts that lie beneath bad money habits can run the gamut from depression, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and other emotional problems that lead to shopping as "retail therapy,” to some fairly simple and very common “mental errors” we’re all prone to make in the moments when we decide what to spend our money on.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great Article. Will read it through a couple more times. I am on a fixed income and have to budget all my income. - 7/30/2014 9:34:03 PM
  • Great article and also the one on Voluntary Simplicity with a link at the end of this article.

    Last year my brother and I and our families changed homes for 3 weeks. I was amazed at the simplicity of their lives. They have what they NEED and not an overabundance of things. Since then we have been paring back what we have. Good Will likes to see us coming. I'm glad that others can use what we don't. There isn't so many things for us to take care of now. - 5/19/2012 10:51:45 PM
  • Good article, but many of us were raised this way and have maintained frugal spending habits all of our lives. Many families are facing financial trouble right now because of unemployment and underemployment caused be collusion between corrupt bankers and politicians. The cost of everything continues to rise yet wages do not. It is often not a case of foregoing a $400 handbag, but more like choosing between gas for the car or paying the electric bill. At some point the ends no longer meet. - 5/19/2012 9:26:02 PM
  • When I see how old some of the comments on this article are, I'm so surprised I never read it before. It's a wonderful article, and even though I consider myself pretty responsible financially, I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you! - 5/19/2012 6:58:07 PM
  • Thanx for that great article, I definetely can find myself in the article. Especially buying clothing that is on sale, while I'm reluctant to spend a few bucks to replace my broken shoes, because "I can't afford it" ;)

    Two steps that actually helped me:
    -leave the credit card at home, so that I'll be forced to put things on hold if they are expensive

    -keeping a housekeeping book: And yes, I write down every single item I buy.It actually made me see how much I spent on clothes and eating-out. Shock at first but now it helps me to re-think BEFORE I buy things. - 5/19/2012 6:31:23 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    Interesting article, and sadly, most of it is simply common sense. We have become a culture of instant gratification and brand-name idolatry. It boggles my mind to see someone making little more than minimum wage sporting an $800 handbag or designer shoes. Very few people are willing to save up for something because it's too easy to reach for the credit card and worry about paying for it later on. Unfortunately, they don't realize how much extra they are paying for that item due to the compounding interest on the credit card balances.

    My husband and I retired debt free 7 years ago, and built a brand new home that we paid cash for. We have 2 cars, one is 4 years old, one is 2 years old - both paid for. We have money in savings & IRAs. We travel when we want, and live on 2 pensions from work & his Social Security, which total about 25% of our previous combined salaries. We use credit cards, but pay off the balance every month.

    We buy only when things are on sale, and we buy quality items, but we make sure we're really paying for the quality and not the brand name. We actually have a competition to see who can find the lowest prices for big-ticket items.

    A friend of mine has the theory that if he can afford the down payment, he can afford the item. He has a big house with almost no furniture, a fancy car, and lives paycheck to paycheck, praying he won't be laid off from his job. I have several retired neighbors who have huge mortgages, new sportscars - along with the big car payments, and spend money like there's no tomorrow. I just don't get it, because I know they can only afford the minimum payments on their credit cards.

    Sadly, schools don't teach financial responsibility and budgeting, and many people don't learn either from their parents, who are also struggling.

    - 5/19/2012 6:01:23 PM
  • Good article for overspenders. But not for us, who already pinch our pennies hard. A trip through the drive through is less than $9 for our family of 5... $.99 menu or $1.99 happy meal day, split fries, and get water (our toddler doesn't eat much yet). But we try not to do it often because you definitely do pay a price with your health that's not worth it. There are discounted organics available from Publix and Walmart that do fit into the budget, though. Organic salad greens and carrots are suprisingly affordable and widely available (even at Publix now that Greenwise has them). Other produce is sometimes on special. And we don't worry about conventional produce like bananas and watermelon, because the peel/rind do afford some protection against pesticices. - 5/19/2012 2:45:25 PM
  • Wow! Lots to think about! - 5/19/2012 6:39:53 AM
  • thank you for posting this article. i struggle with budgets and this was helpful. i don't have a lot of it to work with as is, but hopefully this will help me learn to make better decisions. - 5/19/2012 1:26:40 AM
  • PIRATEPIP
    I read this article thinking it would be the same old same old, but that first advice-apples to apples, made me stop-THATS SO ME!

    Will keep reading this over and over! - 11/19/2009 11:55:48 AM
  • Man... if it were up to me, all the produce we buy in this household would be locally grown and organic (or just locally grown if I couldn't get organic). I get told that's too expensive. By the guy who thinks nothing of dropping $80 on a fancy sushi dinner. I can think of lots of other people who balk at organics but who drop the difference in amount on a dinner at McDonald's. Then we wonder why both the environment and our health are messed up. It's kind of sad. - 7/30/2009 11:50:26 PM
  • This has been a lifetime problem for me. What a wake up call! Thank you for this important lesson! - 7/4/2009 5:15:48 PM
  • GREAT ARTICLE... I CAN SEE ME READING THIS OVER AND OVER AGAIN !!! - 5/18/2009 3:44:42 PM
  • Great article. - 1/27/2009 7:29:18 PM
  • I can so relate to this article. Thank you for taking the time to write it out. Sometimes it just helps so much to know that someone understands what you are going through and practical solutions that work. Our main problem is the splurging on fast food but that has slowed down a bit, I think with our necessary expenses increasing we have had to make the adjustment. I just want to make it permanent. Now I personally battle with getting stuff I want but don't really need at the store while shopping. I have had to learn to go in with a list and no matter what it is, no matter how much I want it, if I don't have it on the list or need it immediately, I just write it down on the back of the list for another time and keep on walking. Talk about will power! But it works. - 1/27/2009 1:28:44 PM