Do you find yourself avoiding any conversation that has to do with personal finance for fear of having to talk about your own situation? While our society is becoming more open about previously off-limits conversations, one topic that’s still taboo in many circles is money. Your personal finances can get even trickier to talk about when you feel like you’re not making enough money — or when you think you’re making too much. Here’s what money shame looks like, and how you can combat it in your own life.
4 Signs of money shame
Not sure what money shame looks like in your own life? Here are ways a negative approach to your own personal finances can show through in your actions.
1. You avoid talking about money with your friends and family
If you find yourself avoiding conversations about money with family and friends — even close ones — it could be a sign that you feel shame with regards to your personal finances. You might not notice how many conversations that include money make you feel uncomfortable, but when you start becoming more aware you might notice a reaction to topics such as:
- Talking about the price of gas
- Discussing your debt
- Revealing how much you pay in rent or mortgage payments
- Talking about future plans such as a trip or major purchase
- Sharing how much you earn
Avoid conversations like these can really set you back in the long run because often times we rely on the wisdom of our community to help us learn better financial management skills. For example, you might be underpaid at your job and not realize it because you never talk about your earnings with friends who have similar jobs. Sharing information about our finances can be scary but also empowering when done in the right circumstances.
What to do about it: If you notice yourself avoiding discussions about money because you feel a level of money shame, the best thing to do is find a community of women who you do feel comfortable talking with. Starting with a core group that won’t judge you for wherever you are on your financial journey can help you gain the confidence to be more open with other people in your life.
2. You feel uncomfortable teaching your kids about money
The earliest lessons children will learn about money are from their parents. Whether it’s learning how to count money through the game of Monopoly, saving their allowance or watching you pay the bills, children’s first financial foundation is formed at home.
Those who feel money shame can feel uncomfortable talking to their children about money, or unworthy. Sometimes, they don’t want their children to pick up their bad money habits or feel like they have nothing valuable to teach their children when it comes to money.
What to do about it: The truth is, as a mom you definitely do have a lot to teach your children about money. Finding a way to be open with your children about your finances, in an age-appropriate way, can help them gain a realistic understanding of money as they develop their own money values.
If you’re struggling to do this, connecting with other moms who feel the same way can be a good place to start. If that’s too scary, start small by playing games with your children that involve money. For young children this can be a version of “store,” and for older children, board games like Monopoly, Life, Exact Change, or Act Your Wage.
3. You frequently lie about how much things cost
Do you often find yourself telling people in your life that you got an item on sale when really you paid full price? Have you downplayed the cost of an outfit, trip or dinner out? This compulsion to hide how much things cost can be a result of the shame you feel when it comes to money — either because you don’t have enough and are embarrassed that you’re overspending, or you have a surplus and don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable.
What to do about it: Start making small money choices you’re proud of and that you can stand by. If your money decisions are well thought out and fit within your budget, there’s a better chance you’ll feel more comfortable being honest about them if they come up in conversation. Your honesty might even be illuminating and refreshing for people in your life who have their own money shame.
4. You avoid looking at bills or your bank account balance
Money shame can become so overwhelming that some people find it draining even to deal with their finances in private. It’s not uncommon for people suffering under money shame to let unopened bills stack up on the counter or to avoid looking at their bank account. This habit can put a bandaid over the negative feelings about money but in the end will only make your money issues worse.
What to do about it: Set aside dedicated time to create a budget that you can stick to, which takes into account all of your fixed expenses, variable expenses and income. You can use our handy online budget calculator to help or reach out to a professional for personal assistance.