As the saying goes, money makes the world go round. Living in modern society means that you can’t avoid money, no matter how hard you try. Need to get some food? That costs money. Need to get gas in your car? Swipe your card or fork over a few bills. Virtually every aspect of your life revolves around money - earning it, spending it, and saving it.
For the most part, scrutinizing your money habits is a good thing. You don’t want to constantly worry about where your next paycheck is coming from, or whether you have enough cash to pay for something. However, while a detailed understanding of your money is good, it’s too easy to get carried away.
In this article, we want to dive into the deep end of money obsession. We’ll discuss what it is, how to know whether you’re obsessed, and how you can recover. This article is also helpful if you know someone who might be showing these signs as well. The more you know about it, the better you can mitigate the fallout of money obsession.
For many people, even though money is a regular part of daily life, they don’t think about it unless they have to. You don’t check your bank account unless you need to make sure that you can cover a particular expense. You don’t look at your bills unless there’s a discrepancy.
For the money-obsessed, however, much of their daily life revolves around cash and its impact on their life. Here are a few warning signs that you may be too invested in your money habits.
Unless you’re really struggling to make ends meet, you probably aren’t trying to save every last penny. When comparing prices, are you going to try and save five or ten cents?
While these savings can add up, obsessing over them all the time will only lead to anxiety and worry. If you find yourself scrutinizing the smallest amount and regretting those purchases later, you might be obsessed with your money.
No matter what, we are all human, which means we have needs. Toiletries, food, water, shelter - all of these are crucial for our survival, and each one costs money. While you shouldn’t be wasting cash on frivolous expenses, you should also pay attention if you’re forgoing certain items because of the cost.
Where you can really tell if you’re money-obsessed is if you avoid paying for a basic necessity even though you could afford it. Skipping meals or trying to save on small items like toothbrushes and floss can be a sign of a money-based disorder.
To that end, the expenses don’t even have to be that small. For many people, forgoing health insurance is a way to cut down on monthly costs. After all, if you’re relatively healthy, why pay for something you’re not using?
Unfortunately, you never know what the future holds, and one trip to the emergency room can set you back hundreds or thousands of dollars. It may seem like the smart move right now, but you’re trading short-term benefits for a long-term loss.
Obviously, throwing around a few hundred bucks to go partying every weekend is financially irresponsible. However, going out to eat or to the movies with a friend or partner is a great way to relax and have fun. If you find yourself avoiding these interactions because of the dollar value associated with them, you may be somewhat obsessed.
Again, the real danger is when you aren’t avoiding these social situations because you’re flat broke, but just because you can’t bear to part with a few dollars. If you can afford dinner and a movie but still choose to stay home, that could be a sign of obsession.
As a general rule, saving money regularly is a good habit to have. However, you need to have a reason for it. While this reason doesn’t have to be specific (i.e., trying to buy a new car), it should have some kind of endpoint.
For example, if you’re saving for retirement, you should be able to determine the minimum balance necessary to be stable when you stop working. Or, if you’re saving for a rainy day fund, you should have a target goal to reach.
Overall, having these financial objectives can help you stay on track and enable you to reward yourself from time to time. If you’re trying to save $500 per month and you reach your goal early, then you can afford to go out with some of the excess.
If, on the other hand, saving is the objective and you don’t have a specific amount in mind, then you’re likely starting to get obsessed. Like a dragon hoarding gold it never plans to spend, what’s the point of saving money if you won’t use it?
There is another old saying, “you get what you pay for.” For the money-obsessed, the quality of a particular product is not as critical as the price. In most situations, a cheaper alternative is seen as a better value, even if it doesn’t last as long.
If you find yourself having to replace these products regularly because they keep breaking or wearing down, it’s far better to upgrade to a higher-quality version, even though it costs more.
On the flip side of this, reusing products well after you should is another sign of money obsession. For example, saving single-use packaging or reusing disposable products because you don’t want to pay for new ones can become detrimental over time.
Again, think about how much you’re saving compared to the value or convenience of buying a replacement. Is a few quarters or dollars really worth the hassle?
While we’ve discussed some of the broad strokes of money obsession, some real psychological factors can be at play. Typically speaking, if you are obsessed with money, you likely suffer from one of three different disorders. Let’s dive deeper into each one so you can see how they can impact your life.
The concept of having or spending money is too painful, so you try to avoid it as much as possible. Rather than facing your financial troubles or bills, you ignore them until they start to take over your life.
In most cases, money aversion comes from having too much debt or high bills without enough cash to cover it. Looking at your credit card bill causes too much anxiety, so you don’t look at it at all.
Another form of money aversion can be when you feel bad about having or earning money. In these instances, you believe that money itself creates negative energy, so you don’t want anything to do with it. Often, those with low self-esteem can suffer from this disorder, as they believe that they are not worthy enough to have excess money.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have individuals who love money more than anything else. In many cases, these people want to accrue as much wealth as possible, with no end in sight. Additionally, those who worship money may be willing to go to great lengths, including exploiting themselves or others to obtain even more cash.
Another form of money worship can be excessive overspending. The thrill of buying flashy or high-end products becomes addictive, so you obsess over getting more money to maintain that buyer’s high.
Finally, obsessive gambling can be a sign of money worship. The rush of winning a big (or small) payout is so intoxicating that you will continue to gamble to feel it over and over again. Even when your losses far outweigh your winnings, the excitement of gambling is too much to allow you to stop.
With this disorder, the money itself is not as important as the relationship you have with others. For example, giving money to family members, even if you can’t afford to do so. You feel compelled to offer cash for whatever reason (i.e., guilt), so you put yourself in a bad financial situation as a result.
Another example of relational spending can be lying to a spouse or family member about your money habits. The driving factor could be the thrill of getting caught, or it could be a symptom of a toxic relationship where money affects how you interact with each other.
Finally, financial dependence can be a sign of relational spending and money obsession. Valuing your relationship to another person based on the money that he or she can provide for you is a dangerous path that can lead to arguments, lies, and emotional abuse.
Hopefully, looking at the warning signs of money obsessions should give you an idea of why you need to take a much healthier approach to finances. However, let’s break down the top reasons why you need to recognize your obsession and stop it as soon as possible.
If you’re avoiding going to the doctor because you don’t want to pay for medicine or a copay, you could be getting sicker and sicker. Eventually, you’ll have to go no matter what, but by that time, it may be too late.
Beyond the typical aversion to hospitals and clinics, money obsession could cause you to buy cheaper products and food, which can lead to poorer health. If you’re only eating the most inexpensive meals possible, chances are that you’ll be facing a variety of problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
For most people, money can be a relatively touchy subject. Discussions about how much someone makes and what one spends his or her paycheck on are usually off-limits. For the money-obsessed, however, many conversations can be about money, which can lead to strained relationships.
As we also discussed, if your money obsession is directly correlated to a particular person (i.e., significant other), you could be ruining your relationship by lying about money or withholding funds for personal reasons.
For those suffering from money aversion, their obsession can cause severe depression and/or anxiety. Worrying about your financial situation or scrutinizing every aspect of it will only lead to problems down the road. As we all know, high amounts of stress can literally kill you, so money obsession could be more damaging than you realize.
If your money obsession is causing you to buy things you don’t need, give money to friends when you don’t have it, or gamble too much, these habits will catch up with you eventually. Money obsession can lead to massive debt, which can cause a myriad of problems. If your life is just one missed paycheck away from financial ruin, you need to figure out how to bring yourself back from the brink.
Depending on your particular situation, overcoming an obsession with money is easier said than done. In some cases, you may simply be able to change your mindset and start thinking of money more positively. In other instances, you may have to get professional help. Here are a few of our top suggestions.
Because money is such a sensitive subject for many people, individuals will rather avoid discussing it than addressing the problem and getting through it. In most cases, talking to someone you trust about the situation can provide some fresh perspective. Also, opening up about it can help you alleviate the pressure and stress that comes with money obsession.
If you’re suffering from compulsive behaviors (i.e., excessive gambling), then reaching out to a professional is likely the only solution. Fortunately, there are many hotlines and resources available to help you get back on track. Best of all, you can research them online and reach out whenever you feel comfortable.
In some cases, you may not be able to handle money decisions at all, or at least until you figure out how to manage your obsession. In these situations, finding a trustworthy partner to manage your finances can give you the breathing room you need and help you avoid your worst impulses.
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NextGen Wealth, LLC is a registered Investment Advisor. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities product, service, or investment strategy. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial advisor, tax professional, or attorney before implementing any strategy or recommendation discussed herein.
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