Practicing Financial Self-Care
You’re doing great work with your client caseload, but how is your own self-care going? Social workers, psychologists, and marriage and family therapists spend their days helping others, but in order to serve them well, they also need to support themselves.
One important area of self-care that’s often overlooked is finances. The American Psychological Association recently released a study that money is a top source of stress for Americans. Care providers at all levels of their career need to make sure they’re able to meet their basic needs financially, while having enough left over to enjoy themselves.
Financial self-care is an important step that will make us stronger and better clinicians. To take care of yourself financially and enjoy yourself doing it, take the following steps:
Reframe the money conversation
Research shows that many of us think of money punitively, criticizing ourselves for overspending or other money decisions we regret. Instead of thinking about imperfect financial choices we made in the past, it’s time to move forward more positively into the future. As Reeta Wolfson, the Center for Financial Social Work President recently told US News & World Report:
“Reframe a negative thought into a positive thought. A lot of people get stuck because they’ve made really poor financial decisions. We work on forgiveness and seeing that they’re deserving of better.”
What lifestyle do you dream of having? Envision what it would look like, and estimate what your expenses would look like living your dream life. What kind of money do you need to earn to obtain that life? If you finances are not yet in an ideal place, brainstorm ideas for increasing your income or reducing expenses.
Set a budget, but treat yourself
Now that you have a better idea of your financial goals, set a budget that you can realistically meet on your current income. Along with obvious expenses, such as a rent or mortgage and food, remember unavoidable items like emergencies and student loans. If you haven’t kept a budget in the past, this will be a big lifestyle change. You can start out the first few months by simply tracking your spending and getting a better idea of where your money is going.
Even on a strict budget, it’s still important to allow yourself small treats like that morning latte or that t-shirt on sale you’ve been admiring. Taking out your favorite little life enjoyments will decrease your happiness, and these indulgences will make a minimal dent in your budget. Instead, cut back expenses looking at areas where you’re spending higher amounts and look at where you can reduce there.
Ask for help
Just like the clients we serve, we often need help handling our finances that goes beyond ourselves. To get the support you need, your financial support network might exist of some of the following people:
- Family – If you’re married or cohabitate with a partner, you’ll want to practice financial self-care as a team. Work on identifying joint financial goals and dreams along with individual ones. You can hold each other accountable through mutual care and support.
- Friends – A good friend can provide you with encouragement and change their habits when they spend time with you so that they affirm your financial self-care. For example, they’ll understand if a coffee house gathering picnic in the park is closer to your budget than an expensive restaurant. Most likely, your friends have financial goals as well, so you can work on meeting them together.
- Financial Professionals – Sometimes, good self-care involves bringing in a trained professional. A financial advisor can help you identify strategies for streamlining your budget, increasing your net worth, and putting your saving in the most high-yield arrangement possible. Using a professional will reduce your stress levels and assure you’re in good hands.
No matter where you are in your financial self-care journey, remember that small steps make a big impact. Once you get used to being more financially aware, it’ll become as natural of a process as the work you do for clients.