Depression Made Me Buy It: How To Hold Yourself Financially Accountable Even During Emotionally Trying Times

Today I want to talk about depression and how it can affect your finances. For those new to Breaking the Piggy Bank, let me quickly catch you up. I began this website after having hit several financial mishaps that eventually led to me making the decision to file for bankruptcy. The goal is to make money issues less taboo, and to provide a platform for those of us learning to stand on our own financial ground.

What contributed heavily to my financial misadventures? Lack of self-control, a desire for instant gratification, poor money management skills, terrible priorities, an inability to say no to choices that would strain me financially, and (drumroll) my depression. Whether you have clinical depression or not, we all struggle with times when spending money makes you feel better. However, that sort of thinking is not conducive to long-term money goals.

It is one thing to buy yourself a greasy meal as comfort or the videogame that you think is going to help you feel better versus drowning your depression in $100 worth of shots… and boy have I been there! If you have found yourself in a similar situation before, then you should know that there are things you can do to control your depression from taking a toll on your financial goals.

Depression is a lifelong struggle. While it is not constant, there are times in life when it will creep back in and put a hold on a lot of your life including your finances. You may begin to question why working toward that long-term financial goal is worth it. During these times it may be best to remember how you first felt when you began to work on the money goal. Did you feel relief, a sense of accomplishment or pride? Those feelings were genuine and are only gone temporarily. Of course, the length of time that “temporarily” is can vary, but regardless if you persevere even during the bouts of depression or sad moments in life, you’ll come out far better financially.

So, what are specific actions we can take to protect our finances when depression creeps in again or when life is too tough and spending money seems like the easiest thing to do?

  1. Plan ahead: Set up a separate account, whether checking or savings, that you will not have regular access to spend money from. It doesn’t have to have a huge sum of money in it, but ideally during every paycheck or every other paycheck, you want to send some money that way. If you are working toward a specific long-term financial goal, then have this account be where you are setting that money aside. For example, if you like to go camping during the summer and want to have money set aside for that, send it to an external account rather than keeping it in your main account. Not having that money as easily accessible can help make sure that even during a depressive episode, money toward that goal is not affected. I like to use online banks because it makes transferring money back into my main account a hassle to do, even if it is just waiting around a few extra days. That extra step and delayed instant gratification goes a long way when you feel depressed. In my case, I usually end up thinking, “Why bother it won’t make me feel good right now.” My main bank account is with Simple, and my external account is with American Express (yes, they have savings accounts options and have no physical bank branch… so I can’t take money out as easily.)
  2. Allow yourself to spend some money: I’ve allowed myself to spend money on Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream when I feel like hiding from society. Find something small that you’re all right with spending money as a small pick-me-up. Try to avoid large purchases by writing out on paper why you think you want to make that large purchase. This extra step can help clarify in your brain why it seems necessary in the moment. Return to this thought the next day to see if you still feel the same way. Impulse purchases seem like a good idea in the moment when you first think about them, and depression can certainly make them seem alluring. Adding an extra step and returning to it, can help you stray away from money decisions you will later regret.
  3. Evaluate, Reflect & Re-plan: If you end up sabotaging your finances momentarily, it’s OK. Everything we do serves as a moment to review, reflect and then learn from. In doing so, you will be able to figure out a plan for a future instance where you may lean toward not caring about your money goals. Take me for example, I had to take a hard look at the mistakes I made in my past, many of these during years when my depression had taken a hold of my finances. The outcome has only been positive.
  4. Take a break from the finances: Look, it’s no surprise that focusing too much on your finances when you aren’t in the right mind and space for it can result in feelings of despair and/or anxiety. It can make everything that much more overwhelming. It’s OK to take a break from crunching numbers and figuring out how to pay for long-term goals. Sometimes, you will need that space. For instance, I recently became a little too obsessed over how to pay for braces while also going through a rough mental patch. The result? I became more overwhelmed than needed and felt like just giving up on all of my financial goals (not just saving for the braces). I felt a lot better once I took a break from my spreadsheet to focus on other things that would help me mentally. Do the same when you need to. Just be sure to not ignore it completely. Make time to go back to your spreadsheet/notebook/bank app when you are in a calm state.

These are just a few things that might help you avoid falling into the trap that I often slid right into. This trap is known as the “my depression made me buy it”. As always, stay strong. You are in charge of your behavior that leads to your financial wellbeing, and I believe in all of you.

What are some of your strategies for taking care of your finances even when things in life get emotionally rough? Comment below or shoot the Pig an anonymous message with your thoughts.

Parents Getting in Your Financial Business? – Ask The Pig #3

ask the pig

IT’S LIKE AN ADVICE COLUMN,

but not as judgmental or retrograded! Got a question about money? I’ll try to answer it to the best of my ability because we are all on this financial journey together!

SO, GATHER AROUND BECAUSE THE PIG IS IN!

This month’s Ask the Pig focuses on how our financial outlook can be formed by our parents.

Our reader asks:

My mom (and family) is always ragging on for being cheap because I haven’t been on an expensive vacation in 3 years and I don’t buy nice things. She says things like “I’m tired of you talking about being poor. I want to call you one day and hear you’ve bought a Samsung phone for $700 or some new GAP jeans.” The reality is I’m traumatized from my parents’ bankruptcy and I’ve been focused on building a general and baby savings. How can I tell people to keep their noses out of my finances? Or is it better to just take the insults and keep going?

Dear Reader,

Isn’t it great being an adult and dealing with your adult parents? I feel like this issue is not much different from the usual parental snooping into their adult children’s business in the form of: I’d like to hear you have a girlfriend/boyfriend or I’d like to hear that you’re considering kids or I’d like to hear that you are getting a different job. Parents, I tell you! They mean well, but can be aggravating when all we want is for them to not tell us the same thing over and over.

In terms of the financial issue, I can understand how witnessing your parents’ bankruptcy impacted your own financial outlook. Bankruptcy is not an easy process to go through, and the aftermath can be emotionally and financially taxing. I would know. I’m currently about to celebrate my first year post-bankruptcy! One year later, I can tell you that there have been challenges that I am still running into, which I would not want anyone else to take on. Because of the aftermath of a bankruptcy, I think having a handle on your finances is important.

That being said, I also do not see the harm in indulging a little here and there based on what your financial situation can afford. There’s being extremely frugal on one end of the spending spectrum, and there is also being an extreme spender and credit card charger on the other end. There is a safe place in between the two extremes to explore financially.

I know that talking to parents can always be difficult, especially when you may feel that they are insulting your values (in this case money values). However, if these comments from your mom are gnawing at you, then I recommend having a quick conversation about what you value financially with her. Depending on your relationship style with your parents, you can say: “GAP jeans are nice, but I found these other jeans much more comfortable/that I like at a better deal.” The language is still positive, and notice I’m not telling you to tell your mom, “These pants are cheaper”.

If you hold your ground, but open the conversation to why you prefer something over the extravagant items she wants you to buy, it may start to show her that you aren’t just being cheap for the sake of being cheap. Even turning the conversation around to something that you would rather have your money for, can at least demonstrate that you are not about the $700 Samsung Smartphone life.

I used to not open up to my mom about my finances, and it wasn’t until I did that I felt a lot more relief because I didn’t constantly hear about it from her. Telling her “I don’t have money for that” didn’t have the same effect as when I said, “Well, I have to pay _____, ______, and then I might have something left.” Post bankruptcy, my relationship is very different with money than my mom’s relationship with money.

However, if you are not ready to open this topic up with your parents, then I would say it is better to stay silent. At the end of the day, what is more stressful for you? Hearing these constant quips from them or opening a dialogue with them about your money values?

Yours Truly,

The Pig


Don’t forget that you can always submit to Ask the Pig! Go on, get your little internet self over there.