When we think about money management, what comes to mind? Budgets, spreadsheets, cold hard numbers right? But we need to go deeper, we need to understand WHY we’re showing up with money the way we are today. As a daughter of immigrant parents myself, my relationship with money stems from my upbringing – and yours might too.
My experience of anxious attachment to money
Growing up, my parents were always working to provide for us. I, therefore, was responsible as the eldest daughter to care for my younger siblings. Rarely would someone be there to take care of me, I was always there for others. I developed an anxious attachment style within my personal relationships growing up as I yearned for someone to care for me first, something I still struggle with today.
What is an anxious attachment style?
An anxious attachment style is categorized as fear of abandonment, insecurities, and having a hard time trusting that others will be there.
Then it dawned on me that it also bleeds into how we manage our finances, not just relationships.
How anxious attachment with relationships translates to money
Someone who has this style within their relationships may also have similar tendencies with money management when money isn’t as accessible to them.
Fear of abandonment translates into fear of not having enough money and constantly chasing for more.
Insecurities within a relationship translate to a lack of confidence and perceived capability for someone with anxious attachment to get better with their finances on their own.
And lack of trust in others being there for them translates into a lack of trust that money is secure and will always be there to support them.
Ways people with anxious attachment style behave with their money
People with anxious attachment may experience workaholism, excessive frugality or compulsive spending.
Since there’s a fear of not having enough money, overworking to earn more or having anxiety letting go of their money (such as with spending money on themselves, paying bills etc.) is a common behaviour.
This in turn leads to burn out, the idea that having money equals more happiness and missing paying bills on time with the fear of letting go.
Lacking trust in money
Because of the lack of trust for money to always be there for someone, overspending each paycheck can be another form of anxious attachment behaviour in action. The idea that no one else will be able to provide or that money may disappear so YOLO – is an inherent narrative. They might also lie or hide purchases from loved ones as they don’t feel comfortable discussing their purchases.
The need to create change
Lastly, due to insecurities that they are not smart or good enough to get better with money, people may remain stuck in the same place (the same amount of debt, same number of savings in their bank account). This lack of financial progression is demotivating but comes from a place of lacking trust within oneself to be able to create change for themselves.
How to work with anxious attachment & improve your finances
I recommend first identifying which anxious attachment money behaviours relate to you (i.e. do you have a hard time letting go of your money? Or paying bills on time?).
Highlight actions and their effects
Once you identify some behaviours, ask yourself in what ways does doing X action benefit or serve me? Asking this question gives you insight into how this behavior is either protecting or enabling you within your comfort zone, it’s important to highlight this.
Create a list of actions
Next, create a list of small actions you can take today to start improving your financial habits. If you have a hard time letting go of your money, set up automatic payments for your bills or an automatic transfer to a charity in need. This way, you start getting used to the idea of money flowing in and out of your bank account.
If you struggle with overspending because you fear money won’t be there anyways, list out in what ways money has shown up for you in the past when you needed it. In addition, do some reflection work to understand what else is driving your impulse purchases (free resource here). You also might be interested in finding out more about therapy, view our How Therapy Works page for more info.