Intentional financial wellness: An important aspect of self-care

March 06, 2023
A man smiling as he sits at his home desk with a laptop

“Self-care” is a bit of a buzzword these days. Everyone’s looking to become calmer, more grounded, less stressed. And it’s no wonder; there are many demands on our time and emotional resources, and we need time to refresh, to recharge, and to just generally be good to ourselves.

Self-care, at its core, means prioritizing our mental health and personal needs rather than succumbing to the stresses, pressures, and challenges life throws at us all. But not everyone stops to consider the role your finances play in your overall well-being. What’s more, your financial wellness can suffer if self-care is practiced at the expense (pun intended) of your financial future. Self-care doesn’t have to be synonymous with self-indulgence any more than being financially savvy should be synonymous with self-denial. When you consider financial wellness among your self-care musts, it’s easy to tailor your financial wellness to support self-care.

A better way to live

Questis defines financial wellness as “effectively managing your economic life.” That really means simply knowing what you have and where you’re going financially — regardless of the amount of money you make or have. The intentional practice of financial wellness is adaptable and attainable for everyone. It shouldn’t get in the way of (realistic) self-care, nor should it exacerbate the need for it.

Have a healthy mindset

Care for yourself by not comparing yourself to others — period. Not in the workplace, not in your social circle, and definitely not on social media. By seeing mostly highlights/triumphs in people’s lives and not the struggles, it can be easy to feel you’re falling short, which leads to increased self-doubt and maybe over (or under) spending. If you attempt to eat cereal 24/7 to afford that trip to Monaco, or put it on credit cards you’re not sure you can pay off, you’ll be more in need of financial self-care than ever.

To help you stay out of the comparison trap, start by defining your core values. This will allow you to spend more intentionally and make trade-offs more easily. Recognize which uses of your resources (time, energy, money) truly bring you joy or make you feel refreshed. Now determine what’s important to your financial future. It may be owning your own home, being able to travel the world, or living a nomadic lifestyle, 100% debt-free. This big-picture framework will help determine your priorities when it comes to donating and investing, as well.

Finally, take inventory of what you have, and focus on goals and growth. You’ve got this , and you’re going places. A simple shift in your financial mindset from scarcity (where everyone gets a piece from the same pie) to abundance (where there’s enough pie for everyone) will go a long way toward keeping you on a financially healthy path.

Have a plan

Most of us only have so much money to work with at any given time. Your basic obligations are usually pretty straightforward, but it can be difficult to decide how to prioritize everything that comes after, wants and needs can get blurred, and savings can take a back seat when financial stress sets in. Not to worry, that’s what planning is for! We’ll get to budgeting in a sec, but for now, you’ll want to map out broad long-term goals, such as paying off high-interest student loans, saving toward a home, planning an exotic vacation, or treating your family to a great experience. Don’t forget your working self in those goals, either — maybe you want to launch a business, or retire early. Now, find realistic milestones you can attain monthly. Write down your goals so they become tangible and can remind you of what you need to accomplish. We made a handy worksheet to help you write your goals out. By identifying those core values and objectives, you’re well on the way to caring for yourself, while caring for your money.

A word on cleaning up financial shrapnel before attacking new goals: You may have large credit card balances, high-interest student loans, past-due payments on accounts, charge-offs, or other issues to address. There’s no shame in these things. They’re real-life money issues that happen to real people — even people you know; they just don’t usually show up on their social media feeds. In this situation, practicing financial self-care means removing this albatross so you can swim toward greater financial health (and you can reward yourself with small self-care indulgences as you reach your milestones).

Budgeting is self-care

We know that the word “budget” can sometimes feel intimidating — but the idea that budgets are hard to use or somehow restrictive may be holding you back. A realistic budget that works for you, built with your values in mind, gives you permission to spend your money the way you want (within reason, of course). That puts you in the financial driver’s seat, exuding all the confidence that comes from knowing you’re on track to meet your goals. We’ve got plenty of great resources to help you get started, too, including budgeting how-tos and tips for proactive budgeting.

Care for yourself by setting money aside for things you enjoy, and by not letting overspending elsewhere put that (or your long-term goals) at risk. Keep your spending plan disciplined by keeping track of all your bills, an emergency fund, general savings, long-term goals, and your self-care priorities, so you’re responsibly moving toward the future while enjoying the present. 

Be kind to future you, too

So, back to the budget for a moment — we mentioned savings. You’ll want to care for your future self by saving now, in both a savings account for regular savings and in an investment account for your emergency fund (check out this great article to learn the difference). Speaking of investments, this is the time to start working toward opening a retirement account, too — either through your employer or local bank. By using automatic payroll deductions, automatic account transfer, and savings tricks like UBT’s RoundUp automatic savings tool, thinking about the future should become second nature.

Your future self will need good credit to achieve their goals. That means keeping an eye on your credit score and doing things that make a positive impact on your credit: putting your accounts and utilities in your own name, paying everything on time, and using credit wisely. To that end, setting up automatic payments on your credit cards is a must, because late payments can do a number on your credit.

If a look at future you means revisiting your budget, no problem! It’s supposed to be a work in progress. Realigning goals and avoiding financial stressors is a key part of effectively managing your money.

Maintain your financial health

Monitor your money by checking your bank accounts just like you check your social media apps. This will help you keep tabs on your saving and spending much better than making estimates in your head or just not paying attention at all. Using an app or online budgeting tool can also make tracking your purchases easier. Visualizing how you spend and save can help you identify your strengths as well as areas for potential improvement (and remember, we’re going for progress, not perfection).

To recap, self-care is taking the time to look inward and understand what habits work for you. Feeling confident and in control of your finances means having attainable goals, a plan to get there, and being as prepared as possible for things that are outside of your control. Allowing for self-care expenses while treating financial wellness as self-care is the ultimate in healthy empowerment. That sounds like an investment in long-term happiness to us.

Ready to get started on the road to financial well-being? We’re here to help! Check out our online resources for more helpful pointers on how to successfully manage your money.

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