Try This 54321 Technique to Reduce Money Anxiety
Managing money can be stressful and overwhelming. It can lead to an onslaught of panic and anxiety. The next time this happens, pause and try “counting down” from five:
- Write down five things you have to spend money on each month – your “five to survive.”
- Look at the four money scripts and find the one you identify with the most at the moment.
- Think about three things you’ve learned about money, whether when growing up or as part of your own experiences.
- Write down two things that you have done with your money that you are proud of.
- Set one achievable money goal.
Let’s talk about why this works. The 54321 grounding technique is used for calming anxiety and helps re-focus your brain on your five senses – shifting away from what is creating anxiety to another task. We can apply this approach to our money anxiety, using each step to shift the focus from generalized worrying about money to thinking about healthy, specific aspects of money management.
Here's an example of how this might play out:
Write down five things you have to spend money on each month – your “five to survive”:
- Internet, and
- Cell phone.
In this step, you’ll likely write down your five highest priorities, because those are front of mind. If you write down more than five, that’s okay, too. This helps you identify the expenses that you must cover for survival and security if your income for the month can only stretch so far.
Look at the four money scripts and find the one you identify with the most at the moment:
- Money vigilance,
- Money avoidance,
- Money worship, and/or
- Money status.
In reflecting on your primary money script(s), you can clarify your own thoughts and beliefs around money, which can help you identify your biases, strengths, and opportunities for behavior modification.
Think about three things you’ve learned about money while growing up or as part of your own experiences:
- Just because it’s on sale doesn't mean it’s a good deal.
- Try to pay off my credit card every month.
- Some costs are worth it if it contributes to my overall wellness.
Congruent with money scripts, identifying three things you’ve learned about money helps you realize what you already know and what might be impacting your spending. Some of the things may not be positive. Maybe you realize that you have a learned money habit that is creating some tension in your financial plan. For example, I learned as a child that if something was on sale, my parents were more likely to buy it for me. As an adult, I love a good sale, but this can sometimes lead to over-purchasing just because I think it’s a good deal. I never would have realized this connection had I not thought about what I learned about money growing up.
Write down two things that you have done with your money that you are proud of:
- Knowing that I could make my own cards at home, I didn’t purchase cards online, which would have been more convenient.
- Instead of going through the drive-through coffee line while running errands, I came home and made a fresh cup of coffee instead, which filled up my space with the luxurious scent of coffee – a double win.
Naming and writing down two things you are proud of regarding your money is my favorite part. This forces you to turn your anxiety into something positive since it’s hard to hold two incongruous thoughts in your mind. By naming two things that you have done with your money that you are proud of, no matter how small, you reinforce that you can manage your money with concrete examples.
Set one achievable money goal:
- I’m going to delete my saved credit card information from my online shopping account to make it a bit harder to purchase things on a whim.
Create a small goal or next step you can accomplish within the next month; this could simply be a next step or habit that supports a longer-term money goal. By making it bite-sized and achievable, you can see the progress you’ve made early on.
Next time you feel stressed about money, try the 54321-grounding technique by walking through these steps for yourself. And the next time you have stress around anything, you can use the original form of the countdown to refocus your senses!
Next Step: Schedule free 30-minute calls with Accredited Financial Counselors from AccessLex Institute through AccessConnex to talk about this and other methods for reducing financial anxiety.