The Financial Therapist: Tackling shame around money

In partnership with NatWest

Posted by for Money

Stylist’s financial therapy series tackles real issues from women about their financial matters. Each week sees a new issue discussed with a financial expert to destigmatise the way women approach money  - this week it’s dealing with feelings of shame…

The problem

“I’d love to feel more empowered about my finances”Elisha Owen, 27, struggles with her relationship with money

“I supported myself throughout uni, then moved to London working odd jobs until I got my first arts admin role. 

Although I’ve climbed the career ladder in the last five years, I still feel on the back foot financially; I’m struggling to clear debt from credit cards and keep hearing friends talking about their savings while I’m living in a house share with no savings and a low credit score.

Money has always been an issue for me. We didn’t have much growing up, so I wasn’t ever given pocket money. I’ve also learnt bad financial habits because I either had no money or if I did, I’d instantly spend it.

I feel like I’ll never get out of debt. I’d like to have a system in place so that when I get paid, I know where my money’s going and how I’m allocating it. 

I just don’t want to live hand-to-mouth any more. This is a priority for me and I’m keen to get to a place where I feel empowered.”

The tips

“You need to explore the emotional and physical feelings you experience when it comes to money” Bari Tessler, financial therapist and author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, offers her advice to Elisha…

“Before we start, well done for putting yourself through school and working hard to create a good career for yourself. 

Let’s begin with your money story – we all grow up with people either having more or less money than us, and it can impact our behavioural patterns. 

But these beliefs are also shaped by personality and learnings from our family and childhood.

Firstly, you need to explore the emotional and physical feelings you experience when it comes to money.

You can overcome this by doing a body check-in every time you pay a bill or worry about finances. 

Check in every time you pay a bill or worry about finances. How are you breathing? What memories are surfacing and are you self-judging? 

Try this over and over again – it will start to help you let go of some of those feelings.

Secondly, do you have a bookkeeping system in place? 

There’s a lot of fear facing what your numbers really are; it can feel overwhelming, especially as you need to be completely honest about your income and debt level. 

Once you’ve done your bookkeeping, make a money map (a chart of your long-term lifestyle expectations and the factors that may help them become a reality).

It should reflect your budget, based on your life phase and priorities. You will have to say yes to some values (clearing debt) and no to others (for now, saving for a home may be just out of reach). 

Ask yourself before purchasing: is what you’re buying valuable to you, and are you OK to spend money to reflect that?

Part of moving forward is hoping things can change. 

Implementing a few simple things – for example, finding other ways to satisfy your needs without spending – can help to make money a source of empowerment for you, which you deserve it to be.”

For more support around financial issues, join A Woman’s Worth Collective - a space created by Stylist and NatWest for women to talk to each other and experts about what they can be doing to improve their financial wellbeing - with no judgments or biases. 

NatWest is the bank that believes ‘we are what we do’. Whatever your financial needs, they’ll do all they can to help keep your relationship with money healthy. Below is NatWest Community Banker Bernita Quagraine’s advice for dealing with how you might feel around money:

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