5 Ways to Feel Rich Even When You're Broke, According to a Financial Therapist

You know the feeling — you had a rough week and all you want to do is treat yourself, be it to a fancy dinner or some online shopping. If you're a recent graduate and have your first job, your first "adult" paycheck might feel like it's burning a hole in your pocket. I mean, you finally have money to spend! But, realistically, there's rent, student loans, and other bills to think about, not to mention saving (gasp). So, how do you handle your money without feeling extremely stressed and still getting to treat yourself once in a while? Amanda Clayman, Financial Therapist and Prudential's Financial Wellness Advocate, has some ideas.

  1. 1. Spend at least one hour a month looking at your finances, instead of putting out fires as bills pop up

    a woman sits at a wooden desk writing in a notebook. there is an imac in front of her.

    Instead of stressing out when you forget to pay a bill or find that too much money has been drawn from your account weeks later, set aside a specific time each month to look over the bills that are due, so you can counter any discrepancies and know what to expect to pay ahead of time.

    “Build a regular practice or routine for life management, instead of ignoring things and then having to put out fires," Clayman says. "So many of my young adult clients only look at money when something is going wrong. This sets up a terrible emotional link that can lead to entrenched money avoidance over time." But when you spend some time with your finances, you'll come to learn what aspects are predictable and reliable. "This make[s] it easier to spot things that need our attention," Clayman adds. "We know the answers to questions that might keep us up at night if they pop into our heads — 'What is my student loan rate again? Did I pay that bill?' Also, we don't have to respond to every errant stressful thought, because we know that we have already set aside time to deal with it next week.”

    Doesn't that sound so much more relaxing in the long run?

  2. 2. Don’t stress splurge now and regret it later  

    Woman with shopping bags

    The last thing you want to be doing come your due dates is scrambling to pull enough money together! “Keep an eye on emotional spending," Cayman advises. "Are you the one who rallies everyone to go out after you've had a tough week at work, and then you regret your supersize bar tab? You may be craving emotional connection with others. Find a way to meet this need by having a good talk with your roommate or going for a run with a friend, instead of linking it to something that will cause you to overspend. Same for buying a new top when you feel nervous about a date, or online shopping when you're stressed or bored. Notice the underlying feelings, feel them, find a healthy way to respond to them instead of spending your way out of a mood.”

  3. 3. Say it with me now: Talk about money

    It's really going to be okay if you do. “Money can seem very taboo, but I know from my clients – and even in my own experience – that most of the time others are really glad when someone else breaks the ice," Cayman says. "Ask your friends if they have budgeting apps or practices that work for them. Gather a group that is interested in fun low-cost outings and have someone plan a new activity each month. You might even start a money book club. Whatever works. The idea is just to identify people in your life who are interested in being financially healthy and bring them together for mutual support.” You should always be able to lean on your friends when you need to!

  4. 4. Be mindful, and you’ll feel more in control of your life

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    While your plan doesn't need to be "frugal or rigid", it's important to have one. "Aligning your financial behavior with your values [and] living intentionally creates a sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem," Cayman adds. "Even when we're dealing with circumstances or obligations (like a much-despised student loan), by mindfully carrying out that responsibility we have the opportunity to work through our feelings, make supporting plans, and feel in control of our lives. Being mindful and creating a plan will help further that control we’re seeking when it comes to our finances.” 

  5. 5. If you want to splurge, do it like this:

    Kellyn Simpkin-Girl Holding Money

    It's not that you can never treat yourself! Cayman suggests building it into your budget. "But even a splurge that busts your budget could still help you learn more about what works (or doesn't) about the way you have your money organized or what your needs really are," she says. "Just make sure to take a square look at the splurge afterward and be honest with yourself without being punitive." And when you run off the rails, you need to take the steps necessary to get back on track.