Financial Emergencies Always Lead Me To Bad Money Decisions

Financial emergencies always send me into a mental tailspin. When things are going well in my life, or even just going ahead normally, I’m able to think clearly about money. I embrace an abundance mindset combined with strategic financial planning. However, financial emergencies always send me into a scarcity mindset. I start operating from fear instead of from forethought.

Financial Emergencies Cause Me Fear

I have been doing great with my 2019 finances. However, I just tumbled into a financial stressor. Due to serious tooth pain, I finally faced the fear of going to the dentist. I learned that I have $26000 of work that needs to be done ASAP. That’s the cost of a car! It’s the down payment on a house (albeit not in San Francisco where I live.) That’s so many other things.

Immediately, I’ve gone into a mental tailspin. Financial emergencies always do this to me. It’s as though my ability to think clearly is overtaken by pure fear.

Tailspin Thoughts in Financial Emergencies

Here are just a few of the thoughts and feelings that I’ve grappled with as I’ve dealt with this financial blow:

  • Shame that I didn’t deal with my dental situation sooner so that it didn’t get to this point
  • “I can’t afford this.”
  • “Now I need to cancel all of my plans so that I can spend every waking minute working extra hard to earn back this money.”
  • Doubts about whether I should even get the work done, irrational fears that I’m being scammed
  • “I need to apply for every loan out there right now so I can build up a cash cushion so that I feel better.”

Despite knowing better, I am embarrassed to say that I started doing the latter. I applied for a bunch of new credit cards and personal loans. Obviously, this isn’t a smart choice. It doesn’t look good for my credit score. Moreover, I don’t actually need this cash immediately. I just wanted it on hand (no matter the exorbitant interest rate) in order to emotionally soothe my fears.

Fact: This Isn’t A True Financial Emergency

Financial emergencies are terrifying. The first step in this instance is to remind myself that this is not actually one of my true financial emergencies. Yes, it’s a stressor.  Yes, it’s a lot of money. However, I have set myself up well in order to be able to take these financial hits.

I have an emergency fund. I have savings that I can pull from if I need to. In fact, I have plenty of credit on my existing credit cards (without having to apply for new ones) that if push comes to shove I can cover this. There is no reason for me to panic. Taking care of my finances in the past has positioned me to be able to weather these storms.

The problem isn’t the money (even though it’s a lot of money.) The problem is that I have a whole history of patterns related to my feelings about money. I panic. Then I make terrible choices. I start applying for side jobs that offer low pay and high stress because I just want the comfort of making money. I start seeking high interest loans to make a cash cushion to give me the feeling, however false, that if I fall financially it will catch me. These are all bad money choices. They all come from fear.

Counteracting the Negative Thoughts to Move Forward in a Healthy Way

Financial emergencies, big or small, spur this fear. However, I do not have to give in to it. I’ve done a lot of therapy and self-improvement work over the years. I can operate out of my authentic self instead of from my place of fear. It’s just a matter of remembering that and getting back to it.

So here’s what I’ve done so far to help myself:

  • Meditated and breathed so that I can get centered
  • Listed the facts about my finances
  • Journaled about the fears and asked myself about each one, “is this true?” and “what’s the worst that can happen?”
  • Talked to people in my support network who can help me get back to my true self
  • Researched my options so that I can move forward in a healthy financial way
  • Asked others for help – financial and emotional

What I know from psychology is that during times of stress we naturally revert to our oldest coping mechanisms. For most of us, certainly for me, certainly around money, those are not healthy responses. However, we can learn to override those initial fears and operate from a place of mental wellness. It’s a process. I’m not perfect at it. However, I’m learning.

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