Emotional Competence

5 Causes of the Money Blues and How to Eliminate Them

5 causes of the money blues and how to eliminate them | www.TheHeavyPurse.comToday I have a very healthy relationship with money, but like most people, it didn’t start that way. When I was a child, there were times where I silently worried about money or didn’t allow myself to buy things I wanted and could afford. Money felt more burdensome than joyful. Thankfully, my father helped me shift my perspective and discover the joy in using money in alignment with my values and goals. Following in his footsteps, I have done the same with my daughters.

It makes me incredibly happy watching them embrace handling their money wisely and joyfully. To slow down and consider what truly makes their hearts happy long-term versus in the moment. However, when I look around, there is so much money unhappiness in both adults and children. People are consumed by money thoughts and fears, which makes it very difficult for us to feel joyful when we spend.

5 Reasons Why We Get the Financial Blues

Let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons why money makes us unhappy and most importantly — how to turn it around and find our money happiness.

#1: Comparing Yourself to Others

We have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes the outcome is positive as it can help motivate us to make needed changes when we see others thriving. Other times, we feel that we are being left behind, so we try to keep up or outdo those around us. This is often known as playing Keep Up with The Joneses. Many people fall into this trap and spend their money to impress others, often on things they don’t really care about or even want.

Eventually this leads to money unhappiness. Beyond any potential credit card debt they accrued in their attempt to keep up, they now also realize how few of their purchases brought them any real joy. They are unable to do what they truly want because they spent all their money on other things.

Your Solution: Focus On What You Want

If you don’t know what you want, then take the time to create authentic goals (see #3). Now you can put your attention and money on building the life you want. Another key to eliminating your keep up desires is gratitude. Instead of feeling jealous or judgmental of how others are using their money, be grateful that you are spending your money wisely. Put your focus back on you, not them.

#2: Too Much Consumer Debt

One of the great ironies about consumer debt is that often times people go into debt because they think credit cards give them freedom. Initially it seems true as you are able to extend your income and potentially do things you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. At some point, the debt becomes heavy and spending money no longer seems fun. It only creates more worry and stress. You realize instead of freedom, you are now a prisoner to your debt.

Your Solution: Eliminate Your Debt

As obvious as the answer is, it is not always easy to eliminate debt. You have to make a real commitment to changing habits and beliefs to successfully pay off debt and not repeat the cycle. First and foremost, you need to understand what caused you to overspend and live beyond your means. Were you playing keep up? Spending emotionally? Did a lack of goals make it too easy to spend? By understanding what causes you to spend, you can address the issue. Now you are in a position to stop overspending and that is where a budget (see #5) comes into play.

#3: Lack of Authentic Goals

You’ve heard me talk about the importance of giving your money purpose. When you don’t have goals and spend mindlessly, it doesn’t feel quite the same. You feel as though there is something missing. And there is — your joy. There is real joy when you spend money on things you know make your heart happy. You feel the pride and satisfaction of achieving your goals, along with the memories you create from experiences or the pleasure of having an item you truly want. Those are potent emotions that linger much longer than any temporary happiness you felt when you purchased things mindlessly.

Your Solution: Set Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

Knowing how you want to use your money is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Now you are in the position to create the life you truly desire because you have a reason to stop playing keep up and to say “no” when other items tempt you to say “yes”. Give yourself the time and space to sit down and really dream. Don’t limit yourself. Write down everything you would like to do and have. Afterwards, start weeding down the list to the things that make you the happiest. Once you have your list, keep it front and center to keep you motivated. Review it regularly to make sure you’re still on track and to adjust goals as needed.

#4: Feeling Unfulfilled or Directionless

We all want to know our place is this world. What we were meant to do and the mark we were meant to leave behind. When we feel unsatisfied in our work or purpose, it tends to influence other areas in our life, including how we spend our money. For some people, they will spend to make themselves feel better. For a short period of time, it may work. Those bursts of happiness will grow shorter and shorter until they eventually disappear, and you are back to feeling dissatisfied. Others will struggle to find joy in spending because nothing seems to make them happy. In some, this could lead to depression, and you should seek the help of a professional to ensure you receive proper medication and support.

Your Solution: Figure Out What Makes You Happy

There is a lot of pressure to finding and living your passion today. I do feel blessed because I love what I do, but there are others in my life who struggle to find their passion. They worry they don’t have one or one that seems “important” enough. I believe everyone has one, but it may not be “glamorous” or something you could build a career around. It may be your kids or your pets. Or a hobby that gives you great joy but doesn’t create income. And that’s okay. Your passions should make you happy and won’t necessarily make you money. Stop comparing your passions with others and spend your time and money on things that make you happy. Once you do this, you’ll find your money happiness (and overall happiness) returning.

#5: Not In Control of Your Money

Many people feel unhappiness towards money because they are not in control of how it’s being spent. Their emotions drive their spending habits. Or they are a prisoner to their debt. They don’t know where their money goes and feel powerless. Money becomes their enemy and they blame it for their unhappiness.

Your Solution: Build a Budget that Gives You Freedom

If you don’t have a budget, it’s hard to know whether you’re spending your money wisely. I know lots of people who swear up and down that they track their spending in their head. After I convince them to track their spending for a week, they are often surprised to see they were spending more than they realized. Budgets are a bad word to many people. I believe it’s because they make them too complicated or worry that they can no longer have fun if they use one. A good budget is one that keeps you honest (and shouldn’t be complicated) and by knowing where your money is going — you can now make sure you’re spending it on the things that truly matter. A good budget gives you freedom.

It’s Your Turn

Tell me what gives you the money blues and how do you get rid of them?


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Leave a Comment


  1. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    My student loans give me the money blues! I decided to take control of them by paying a lot more than I'm required to and putting any extra money on them. That's also what inspired me to start blogging!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      I love you that you took action on your money blues. Student loans can definitely give a person the money blues, but with you facing them head on, you'll eliminate them in no time. And selfishly, I'm glad your money blues inspired you to start blogging, Natalie. You're a great new voice! :)
  2. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    This is a great list Shannon! It can be so easy to fall into that trap of comparing ourselves to others or not having true goals. But I believe going through that exercise of setting up real and authentic goals can be a huge way to counteract that. I think it can also empower us to follow value based spending so we know what we want our money to do for us - do we want it to work for us or do we want stuff. More often than not, I'll want it working for me which is a nice change from the past.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      Comparing ourselves to others is one that catches almost everyone at some point. And it causes so much unhappiness. I agree wholeheartedly having your own goals is the best way to stop comparing yourself to others. Put that energy towards achieving your own goals and living your own life. I'm glad you're in a good place now where you're have your own goals and follow value-based spending. It really makes a huge difference!
  3. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    I used to always compare myself to others, but I have learned that comparing yourself is just wasted time and money. I used to compare myself whenever others would buy something new, whenever I wasn't doing as great financially as another, and so on. It was bad!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      Good for you, Michelle! It's a trap so many of get caught in and it is wasted time and money. It causes a lot of heartache and I'm glad you're no longer doing that to yourself. :)
  4. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    #1 is tough. Not only does it apply to keeping up with the Joneses, but also to comparing yourself to others that are more "successful" than you. Instead of being envious of someone else's success, focus on what you can do to make yourself as successful as you're aiming for.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      Absolutely! One of things that I work with the girls is to feel happy for other people's good fortune and success, instead of comparing themselves. It's not always easy to do, but constantly comparing ourselves to others is often a recipe for trouble.
  5. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    I think people get the money blues because they put all their hope and trust in that source. And we all know that true fulfillment and internal peace doesn't come from money or stuff.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      Excellent point, Brian. We expect money to brings us happiness and make everything better. When it doesn't - our unhappiness grows. My money happiness comes because I spend in alignment with my values and not just to spend or to acquire stuff.
  6. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    For me, a lack of direction caused a great deal of stress and money headaches in my life. It is not fun driving around in a car without a map (at least not for me). When I started building clarity and direction around what I was doing and what I wanted, money decisions lost a lot of the emotional impact they used to have.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      I don't think people realize when they don't feel like they purpose or know what they want, how unhappy that makes them feel, which spills into other areas of their life. I'm glad you found your roadmap and have the clarity you need to create the life you want.
  7. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    I have suffered from 1, 2 and 4 for sure! These are all things I am working to remedy ASAP! Great list and suggestions for fixes Shannon. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      I know you're working hard to remedy your money blues and get back in control of your money, Kayla. And you're doing a tremendous job!
  8. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    Not having money gives me the money blues. I am "between jobs" at the moment, a polite way to say that I am unemployed and not bringing in any income - aside from what paltry pennies I find from various freelance writing gigs. I am finding it very difficult to get work that pays anything near to a living wage. Thus, no money. I am not only blue, but terrified as well. Will the next stop be homelessness?
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      I'm sorry to hear you're in such a tough place right now, Brad. It's probably not much comfort, but I know others who have been in a similar spot and have been able to find their footing and thrive again. I know you can do the same.
  9. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    I think one thing I'm trying to learn to separate is earning a living at something I'm passionate about. As long as I'm video editing, I will probably never be passionate about 95% of the stuff I'm working on, but I can try to find "some" meaning. But…I can pursue passion projects on the outside, like blogging, health, fitness, beach volleyball as hobbies as much as possible, and even earn a little bit of income from one or more of those things. As long as one doesn't overtake the other, I can find balance between the two.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      That's exactly right, Tonya. It's having the outside passion projects that fulfill you, even if you can't earn a living from them. They still bring great joy into your life and probably help make video editing more tolerable too.
  10. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    Too much consumer debt... I can totally relate to that. It really makes you feel horrible about yourself and wonder how everything went wrong. The pf community has really helped me personally, and know that we all can do this and conquer the debt!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      It does make you feel bad and can cause some intense feelings of guilt. It's good to figure out what you did wrong, but beating yourself up - doesn't help. You made honest mistakes and are fixing them - that's what matters. The PF community is great and seeing so many people triumph over their debt is incredibly motivating. I know you'll be joining that crowd, Mackenzie. :)
  11. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    I think comparing myself to others is the thing that gives me the biggest money blues. I have high expectations on what I can achieve in my career (and hopefully, business ownership) and I inevitably end up comparing myself to others my age. It's always a waste of energy and something I've been working on.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 7th, 2014
      I think it does for lots of people, DC. It seems like we can always find someone (and sometimes lots of people) who are doing well and we wonder why we're not at the same place. You're doing great, DC and between our new job and your entrepreneurial skills - you'll be leading the pack in no time. :)
  12. Monday, July 7th, 2014
    I love how you give a problem and offer a solution. I've had all those things in the past but can honestly say I don't get the money blues very often anymore. That's because every dollar we earn has a purpose. Before that it was all disposable, then sad when it was gone.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      Thanks, Kim! Isn't amazing how much of a difference goals can make? When you know what you want to do with your money, it is so much easier to stop comparing or playing keep up.
  13. Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    Not being in control of your money is HUGE. From someone that's had their money completely out of control, I can say from experience that their is NO WAY that you can use your financial resources efficiently unless you are in control and know exactly how you are using your money. Control your money, don't let your money control you!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      You got it, Travis! So many people think they are in control, but they really aren't. You definitely want to be the one in charge and I'm glad you and Vonnie are back in the driver's seat of your finances.
  14. Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    I definitely compared myself to others- to what they had and didn't have. I'm glad that I no longer do that! I just focus on myself and what my family can afford. Keeping up with the Joneses is pointless =/
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      We've all done it, Holly and all it really does is make us unhappy. Focusing on creating the life you want for your family is a much happier way to life. Keeping Up is pointless, but there is always someone else to "keep up" too.
  15. Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    Great post. I'm glad I don't have that money blues. But it can help me to prevent them. Thank you for giving me information. It means a lot.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      You're welcome, Marie. :)
  16. Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    Sometimes when I get a taste of the high life, either from a splurge or a high end party or spending time with people who have tons of money, I get the blues. I just remember to focus on everything I ALREADY have. I'm insanely lucky and I try to remember that each and every day.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      That's the absolute best perspective to have, Stefanie. Focus on what you already have and be grateful for it. Gratitude makes a huge difference in your money happiness and it's one of the many reasons why I practice gratitude every day.
  17. Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    These are great points. Too much of it comes down to caring about what others think to a fault. Too often we care about what all of our broke neighbors think about the car we drive or the things we buy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      We do put so much weight into what other's think about us. And you know what - most of the time they are too busy worrying about what we (and others) think about them to spend much time thinking about us.
  18. Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    In the past I suffered with wanting what others had and that was part of the reason I ended up with a lot of debt. I learned so much about the emotions we direct towards our money and as I sorted through them I was able to get my consumer debt paid that much faster. It feels really good to have a healthy and thriving partnership with my money now :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
      Yeah, Kassandra! Those money emotions can wreak a lot of havoc and it's great that you've developed a happy and thriving relationship with money. It makes a HUGE difference. :)
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan