Money

Spending anxiety: “Am I the only one who gets anxious every time I spend money?”

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Lauren Geall
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As the cost of living crisis continues, one writer contends with the anxiety she feels every time she has to spend money.

When I looked at my phone for the first time yesterday morning, I was met by a notification that sent a familiar jolt of panic through my chest. 

Emblazoned across my home screen was a BBC news alert revealing that prices were rising at the “fastest rate for 40 years”, and that inflation had hit 9.1% in May.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve felt a lot of these ‘jolts’. Whether I’m tapping on to the Tube, buying food in Sainsbury’s or paying a bill, money – and the amount I’m spending – has become a source of daily anxiety.

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Nowadays, I find it hard not to berate myself for spending money in any circumstances, even when it’s essential that I do so. 

It’s not that I’ve stopped spending any money – in fact, in some ways, the anxiety I feel around it has made me kind of reckless when I do start spending – but I can’t escape the little dose of panic I feel every time I reach for my card or look at my bank account.  

Of course, I’m well aware that my ability to pay my bills and stock my fridge is a privilege in and of itself. At a time when the cost of essential things such as food and travel are going up, being able to get around and keep myself fed are two things I don’t take for granted.

However, I know I’m not the only one experiencing this kind of ‘background money anxiety’. According to recent research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), three in four adults (77%) reported feeling very or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living between April and May – and among my friends, lots of us are feeling a sense of dread when it comes to the size of our bank balance.  

In particular, I think my concern over individual transactions is due to the lack of control this ongoing crisis has left us all feeling. Knowing there’s nothing I can do to stop prices rising is an incredibly overwhelming reality to contend with, and the only thing I do feel like I can control is how often I spend. 

As such, every penny that leaves my account feels incredibly heavy – as if the pressure of my financial future rests upon the odd chocolate bar or drink at the pub.

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All in all, it’s a lot to deal with. While this feeling is one that crept up slowly, I’m certainly aware of its presence – and I know it’s probably taking its toll on my mental health, too. However, while there’s nothing I can do to address the cost-of-living crisis (that one’s on you, Boris), I can try to give myself a break and make sure I’m taking care of myself where possible, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

Just like during lockdown, we’re being confronted with a situation that’s out of our control. And if I learnt anything during the pandemic, it’s how important it is to stop blaming ourselves for struggling to cope in the face of such an unprecedented challenge. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and services.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. In a crisis, call 999.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.