Ignoring Your Budget: Worse for your Mental Health than Sleep Loss

Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to cross something off of your list? 

There’s a psychological principle, known as the “Zeigarnik effect,” named for its discoveress Bluma Zeigarnik, that comes close to addressing why. You see, we tend to remember things we need to do better than things we’ve already done.

So even if you’ve crossed four of five items off the list, your brain focuses on the one you have left. 

Meaning if you have a physical list, with items written and crossed through when finished, the brain can rest easier once it’s reminded: “Hey. Buddy. Look how much we’ve already done! Just this one more.”

Which may be the reason so many people set their budgets and forget them. It feels great to cross “making a budget” off the list, than making it a recurring task — like showering, or cleaning, or composting — seems like a headache waiting to happen.

But think about this… can you remember the last time an unexpected event totally unseated you? Or checked your bank balance and realized that you only have $50 left? Or you dipped into your dwindling savings to cover a bill or a social event?

According to Bankrate, 78% of American adults toss and turn worrying about retirement, the cost of healthcare, and daily expenses. Money issues come out ahead of jobs, relationships, and health, says PwC, professional auditing firm.

Mismanaging your money leads to debt, high interest, late fees, low savings, and you guessed it, stress. We all know what kind of impact stress has on the human mind and body

  • Loss of sleep (no change to regenerate)
  • Poor diet decisions (binging or abstaining entirely)
  • Isolation (40% of Americans don’t discuss their debt with family or friends)
  • Reduced function of capacities (slowed reactions, mental retention, and energy)

What if reexamining your budget at four crucial moments could save you from all of those issues, and clawing your way out defeated physical and mental health, as well as financial?

Here are four occasions when adjusting your budget can make all the difference: 

When You Get a Raise

Sometimes it can be tempting to adjust your lifestyle when you find yourself bringing in more income regularly. Before you start upgrading your winter coats this year, adjust your budget! Make your debt payments bigger. Allocate more money to savings and retirement (look into Socially Responsible Investments within your company’s retirement plan too.) 

And if you decide to treat yourself, remember: vote with your dollar. Think twice before dropping big dime on a company wreaking havoc on the environment, or investing their funds unethically. 

Whenever You Get Into/Out of A Relationship

Surprisingly, these two events can really rock your spending habits. People tend to spend more when getting into a relationship: think events, trips to restaurants, vacations, nicer clothes, etc. In fact, 69% of Americans say they spend more in relationships than when they’re single. If you notice you’re doing that, get ahead of it. Reexamine your budget! It may not be romantic, but it is responsible — which is the strongest aphrodisiac of all in America’s 2019 economy. 

Conversely, you may find your budget is more elastic getting out of a relationship. See above. 

Whenever You Come Into Money

Did you find some old Bar Mitzvah money you thought was long gone? Did you inherit from a relative, or make a sweet commission check at work? 

THINK TWICE. Check your existing budget. How much are you actually putting away for emergencies? If your car breaks down, do you have the means to fix it? 

What about your vacation fund? If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a trip, and Istanbul is still on your bucket list… A lump of cash can juice a neglected area of your budget, freeing up future funds that you can regularly contribute to debt relief, savings, and paying bills ahead of time.

When the Inevitable Setback Happens

Car break down? Husband lose his job? Break a bone in America? These things happen. The reality is, a $400 emergency would break around 40% of Americans. Most cost more than $400. 

So when catastrophe strikes, most people do what they have to do — borrow money, dip into savings, ask mom and dad, put it on their credit cards. And continue to spend indiscriminately.

Instead, pay for the disaster. Then reexamine your budget and trim what you can (maybe less for the vacation fund, or a lower grocery allotment) to get yourself back on track as soon as possible.

Budgeting can actually be a stress relief tool, and not a source of it! 

We know as human beings we certainly can’t control everything. But we also know about the wonderful things that can happen to our bodies, minds and spirits when we control what we can.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.