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Checking Out: Not the Solution to Money Worries

anxiety and moneyAs the holiday weekend has come to a close, perhaps you have a little regret over having indulged in too much food, or spent too much on fireworks or entertainment. We want to address the guilt over too much spending.

We know lots of people whose primary worries and anxieties revolve around money and finances. People worry about saving enough for retirement; they fret over having enough to pay their bills, and they feel anxious about unexpected expenses. But when money anxieties mount, a surprising common response is to simply “check out.”

In other words, when worries start to overwhelm them, many people cope with these concerns by paying absolutely no attention to the inflow and outflow of their money. They have no idea where their money is going and they don’t want to know. You see, actively monitoring their money makes them anxious so they don’t do it.

Avoiding and not thinking about money concerns does, in fact, reduce anxiety a bit on the short term. And over the long haul, this approach inevitably results in a greater drain on families’ finances and problems. That’s because these people are more prone to spend impulsively on dining out, gadgets, and whatever else they want at the moment. Sure, their credit card balances may start to inflate a little, but that too is easily ignored until it goes out of control.

What’s the alternative approach to checking out? Checking in. In other words, even though it may cause some short term anxiety and tension, actively monitoring each and every dollar spent for a few months can lead to some surprising revelations. Some people who do this are shocked to discover that they have been spending hundreds of dollars every month on dining out, unneeded clothes, alcohol, entertainment, and/or doodads. And they realize that as they spend carelessly, their credit card balances steadily climbs to worrisome levels.

By the way, monitoring your spending is simpler than it’s ever been. Apps abound on the Internet for tracking expenses. Some of them are free or nearly so. They are simple and quick to use and it’s difficult to ignore what they show you.

One other helpful item to controlling one’s money lies in vowing to build an emergency fund. Even if it means putting away just $25 or $50 per month, building such a fund can provide peace of mind in the face of unexpected events like a blown tire, a health issue, or home maintenance problem. Failing to have such a fund has caused more than its share of bankruptcies and ruined credit scores.

So our bottom line message is to “check in” on your finances. Monitor your money carefully and slowly build your resources. Perhaps even consider reading a book or two about personal finance issues. In the long run, these strategies will greatly reduce your anxiety about money. They are worth the short term anxiety they cause.

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Checking Out: Not the Solution to Money Worries

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D.

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and a Founding Fellow in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He is also a member of the faculty at Fielding Graduate University. He specializes in the treatment of adolescents and adults with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, anger, depression, and personality disorders. Dr. Elliott is coauthor of: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2nd Ed), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Why Can't I Get What I Want?, Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be?, and Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth. His website is:

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APA Reference
Elliott, C. (2011). Checking Out: Not the Solution to Money Worries. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jul 2011
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