Credit cringe

‘Credit cringe’: what is it and why are we all feeling it right now?

Does looking at your bank account after spending money make you wince? You could be experiencing ‘credit cringe’. Here’s what it is, and how to fight it this summer.

Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling, much like a hangover, that creeps over you after a day or night out. Did I really spend that much?

Overspending may seem fun at the time when the drinks are flowing, but the aftermath usually follows the same routine: wincing at the sight of your bank statement and vowing to lock your card away for all eternity (or at least until your next pay day), only to be tempted by the group chat’s coos over half-price wine a few days later.

According to salary advance provider borofree, this all-too familiar feeling has a name: ‘credit cringe’. And it seems like we’re experiencing it more than ever before. 

A 2017 study found that 27% of UK adults feel stressed about money every single day and 61% said that money is the thing that causes them the most stress in their lives.

This would have only worsened during the pandemic, where job losses and financial instability were widespread, to the point where the NHS began issuing guidance on coping with money worries and job uncertainty during Covid-19.

However, now that restrictions have been lifted, there is once again so much to see, do and, perhaps more unfortunately, spend money on. 

To a large extent, that’s a good thing. Usually in the summer, but particularly in this one, there is a lot of pressure on people to spend money.

But the return to socialising has undoubtedly been a lifeline for those who experienced lockdown loneliness, and a slightly depleted bank account seems an acceptable price to pay for many. No regrets, right?

Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, and those who are experiencing spender’s remorse have been taking to social media to share their money woes. 

“£100 is behaving like £10 lately and no one is talking about it,” one Twitter user wrote. 

“My bank account is in a pandemic rn,” quipped another viral tweet.

“My bank account watching me plan August while still recovering from June/July spends,” joked one more.

However, as many on social media have noted, it’s currently only July. We still have a few months of summer, and the rest of the year to go – and to budget for.

For many of us, the remainder of the year will reinstate some of the financial responsibilities the pandemic stripped us of. Those returning to the office will once again be spending on their commute, lunches and after work drinks. Weddings and travel are now widely resuming, too, which brings extra costs.

But when it comes to a point later in the year, will we come to regret spending all our hard-earned cash on a summer of fun?

Not everyone thinks so. “I know that I’m buying way too many clothes and going out for lunch or dinner at any opportunity, but I just don’t want to waste the freedom,” Katie, a student, tells Stylist. She shares that she’s concerned about restrictions coming back and wants to make the most of the summer – even if it means depleting her savings account.

However, not being able to afford the summer they want is still a concern for a lot of people. Rachael*, 26, says that she wants to be involved as much as possible, but finds it hard to see the savings she worked hard for disappear. “I don’t want to miss out, but I definitely don’t want to put myself in a difficult position financially just for the sake of a night out.”

So, if we’re not willing to totally curb our spending just yet, how can we deal with the inevitable credit cringe? Dr. Craig Knight, a chartered and registered psychologist at online therapy platform Feelya, shares his expert tips on how to cope with the anxiety caused by money.

How to deal with credit cringe

Track your spending

“Yes, it may be painful to begin with, but it will allow you to have a clearer view of where your money is going,” says Dr Knight.

By putting a plan in place, he states that people are likely to feel greater autonomy over their daily finances and in turn, will feel less anxious about their spending. By accepting the situation you’re in, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Talk to someone you trust

“For many, Covid conditions will have already caused a deterioration in mental health,” Dr Knight continues. 

 “Working from home and a consequent lack of social contact has hit many people hard. It is therefore important that people reach out to others if they are feeling anxious or stressed about money. Being able to talk to those you trust in a safe, non-judgmental environment is key. If people are worried about broaching the topic of their financial struggles, then developing a plan is the best place to start. Once you have an idea of your financial situation, it will be easier for you to turn to a friend or advisor. Remember to be honest and not present your situation as better or worse than it is; the more you conceal, the lonelier the journey.”

Try not to make it personal

“People often feel shame about their money issues, and they will over-personalise problems, assuming too much blame. This can cause people to feel that they are hopeless or that it’s impossible to make their financial situation better, which is almost never the case. We all experience financial worries at some point in our lives, handling such difficulties is part of what makes us human. So having an overly self-critical attitude of your money management skills is likely to put you off making a plan and taking control of your spending.”

Avoid triggering situations

While it’s great to get out and socialise this summer, it’s important that people don’t continually make plans that they can’t afford. 

“If you’re feeling anxious about spending beyond your means, making a plan to head to an expensive, fancy restaurant is going to do you more damage and increase harm to your mental condition in the long-run,” explains Dr Knight.

“Likewise, if you’re worried that you’re going to spend money in the shops, before you head out take a realistic look at your financial situation and budget how much you’re able to spend. Then you can prepare a list of the essential items that you need and it will prevent you from feeling anxious when you shop,” he advises.

Add activities to your life

If you’re feeling stressed or worried, it will help to add activities to your life that you enjoy, advises Dr Knight. Loneliness tends to breed more loneliness because you grow accustomed to it, so instead of suffering in silence, make plans to head out and socialise with others at least once or twice a week.

And remember that these don’t need to cost a lot of money, either. Opt to go round to a friend’s for drinks or a picnic. What matters isn’t what you spend, but what you’re doing. 

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