Your Secret Beliefs about Money (and What’s Holding You Back)

Here’s a secret: I hate money.

I love managing  my money. I love understanding why people make financial decisions. I love tools and gadgets that make personal finance easier.

But I hate money itself. I hate the way it makes me feel. I especially hate the power it has over me.

And I know that it’s holding me back from being truly happy.

Your Secret Beliefs about Money

I asked a few of my friends to share their thoughts about money, their beliefs and what “rich” or “poor” feels like to them. Here are a few beliefs and feelings that stood out to me:

  • Money doesn’t come easily
  • If you want to save, you have to control your money
  • I feel rich when I have “extra” money, but I second guess myself when it comes to spending it
  • Not worrying about my budget makes me feel rich
  • A small savings account makes me feel poor

Do you identify with any of these? I know I do.

Money represents so many emotions for us: power, worry, security (and insecurity). We want to control it, but that tends to make us stress out more.

What’s Holding Me Back

Some of my friends have recognized that they have some unhealthy beliefs about. Others haven’t explored that yet.

I know what my financial demons are, and I have yet to slay them. I’m also not quite sure how to do it.

I feel as if a confession might be a step in the right direction… so here’s my secret belief about money:

I believe that money is hard-earned, precious and finite. I believe once it’s in my possession, it should become instantly earmarked for my budget. Every dollar that comes in goes towards debt or monthly expenses. Any extra money gets shuffled into my savings goals. It’s all allocated and accounted for. I earned it, and I need it.

The consequence: I’m unable to give my money freely to others.

There. I said it. I’m selfish with my money.

It means I can’t treat my friends to a dinner or a drink without feeling like my budget is going to spiral out of control. I can’t splurge on an evening out with my boyfriend and treating him to dinner – knowing that I will love that restaurant, even if it’s a little pricier – without worrying about my checking account balance.

And it’s irrational. I have plenty of money.

My belief stems from my childhood, and the feeling that there wasn’t enough money to do the things I wanted. I’m making up for lost time, but instead of enjoying it, I’m hoarding my money because I feel insecure. And that means skimping out on my friends and my loved ones.

But just because I grew up this way doesn’t mean I have to deal with it the rest of my life.

What do you want to believe in?

Here’s what I’m committed to believing in:

Freedom is greater than money.

If you give freely, you receive freely.

My first step is to stop obsessing over spending categories and tracking every penny I spend. And I’m going to do the previously unthinkable: I’m going to stop using a budget.

Without a budget, I’ll probably spend more money. I’ll probably watch my checking account balance fall below the sacred $1,000 mark.

But you know what? The freedom will be worth it. And so will the ability to buy my friend a cup of coffee without checking my budget first.

What money beliefs are holding you back from feeling rich and making peace with your finances? Parents, what are the beliefs that you are cultivating for your kids?


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8 thoughts on “Your Secret Beliefs about Money (and What’s Holding You Back)

  1. Brandi

    LOVE this post! I used to budget my money so very carefully, but for the past few months I haven’t been able to, no matter how hard I’ve tried. And while I do have some debt, I would have missed out on some phenomenal, life-changing experiences if I had stuck to a budget. Freedom is greater than money, and while I think it’s important not to spend money on stuff you don’t need, I do think it’s important that you feel free to spend money on experiences that will have profound effects on you.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Totally agree. And I think it’s also about trusting yourself to know what is okay to spend money on and what is not. Aligning money with your values is easier said than done, but so important 🙂

  2. Lauren

    This MIGHT be your best post ever!

    I can sooo relate to ALL of this – I feel totally conflicted about money alllll the time. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as disciplined as you are about budgeting, but I do keep close tabs on where my money goes and basically have my budget memorized PLUS I check Mint like every day. I still feel incredibly unsettled/semi-ashamed if I spend more than I think is acceptable in a certain category.

    And I’m definitely selfish with my money too – I kind of feel like a recovering money-hoarder. But, acknowledging my problem is the first step to recovery, right? I want to eventually get to a point where I give more too, not just to friends but to causes I think are important or people I care about etc.

  3. Kathleen

    I definitely feel richer when I don’t budget my money… until a certain point! I think the budgeting, or at least closely watching how you spend, is necessary to get out of debt but once you’re past a certain point, it’s nice to not pay so much attention. I like to look back at my spending each month and note areas that are getting a little out of control, then be more conscious of it in the next month. Like, no more eating lunch at Whole Foods, or WOW I really can’t buy a latte every day.

  4. My Money Design

    I used to obsess about my budget too, but I came to same conclusion as you – it does no good! Now I just set it once a year and use it as a guideline each month. I’m much better off spending the energy trying to make passive income!

  5. Kyle @ Student Loan Killer

    Wow, spot on! I feel like I just read a biography of my own feelings toward money. I love talking about it and working hard to get it (and I love having it), but I don’t like spending it freely. I cut out a lot of potential fun because I’d rather see my savings account grown and my student loan debt shrink.


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