If you have a mental health condition you may struggle with managing your finances. You might spend a lot of money when you are unwell or make unwise decisions about borrowing money. You might struggle to open your post or make phone calls even though you know it’s important. Below are some tips and ideas which might help you if your mental health makes managing money difficult. For more information on how Codes of Practice and Guidelines affect how you should be treated, see our codes of practice and guidelines section.
If you are prone to overspending when you are unwell try to identify when this occurs and what situations trigger your spending. Some people find it helps to keep a diary of spending and how this relates to their mood. Simply by being aware of when your spending is a problem can help you to manage it better.
Simply by being aware of when your spending is a problem can help you to manage it better.
Day to day spending
- Write a shopping list and stick to it.
- If you want to buy yourself a treat limit yourself to 1 or 2 treats and write these down on your shopping list too.
- Consider leaving debit/credit cards at home and only take a small amount of cash with you in a wallet or purse.
- Ask a trusted family member or friend to go shopping with you who can help you manage your spending
- Try online grocery shopping so you can see the total of your ‘basket’ as you add items, that way you know how much you are spending and don’t get a shock at the till. Some supermarkets have handheld devices in store now that let you scan your shopping as you go so you can also keep track of how much you are spending.
Credit Card Spending
- For some people getting rid of credit cards altogether is a good solution but this doesn’t work for everybody. If you have a number of credit cards then it can be difficult to manage your spending so limiting yourself to 1 credit card might help.
- If you have a friend or family member that you trust you could ask them to look after your cards when you are unwell so they can act as a safeguard and help you avoid overspending.
- Some people put their credit cards in a zip lock water tight bag and place this in a tub of water in the freezer. This can help with impulse spending as you need to wait for the water to defrost before you can use your card.
- If internet shopping is a problem avoid saving card details on websites as this makes it easier to avoid spending money very quickly.
This is a free on-line tool developed with the Money & Mental Health Policy Institute to help people manage online spending. The tool lets you control the opening hours of online shopping sites so you don’t have access when you are at risk of overspending. You can add personal messages that pop-up when you try to access the site when it is closed to remind you of your goals, and you can add a trusted friend in case you need urgent access to the site. Find out more about Shopper Stopper.
Dealing with Phone Calls & Letters
Some people become very anxious and stressed when dealing with money and avoid opening post or making phone calls. If you are feeling down or your mood is low it can be very hard to motivate yourself to sort out your money. If you are taking medication for your mental health you might find it difficult to concentrate and things like bank statements and benefit letters may seem confusing. Here are some ideas which might help you:
Dealing with letters
- If you have an adviser or support worker who is posting you important letters or forms ask them to put a confidential sticker or symbol on the envelope so you know it is from them and okay to open it.
- Set aside a set time when you are going to open your post and keep letters together in a folder. Choose a set time that works best for you. You might prefer to open your post in the morning rather than late at night if it causes you less anxiety.
- Open your post when you have someone around to help you like a trusted friend, relative or support worker.
Making Phone calls
If you’re late with paying a bill or need some information about your benefits or bank account you might need to make a phone call. Or you might get letters asking you to call the bank or electricity company. If you suffer with depression or anxiety or other mental illness making phone calls can be very difficult. Here are some ideas to help:
- Choose a time when it is easier for you to make a call, on a day and time that is best for you. Write down what you want to say before the call and have this with you. Have a pen and paper ready to make notes.
- If you can, try to tell the person you are speaking to about your mental health and how this makes managing money more difficult for you. You might find this difficult, but most organisations who you need to ring about money issues have trained staff and guidelines to help you if you are vulnerable and need more support.
- Some organisations you owe money to are not always sympathetic and supportive when you speak to them on the phone. Ask to speak to a supervisor or ask if there is a policy or specialist team to help people who suffer with mental health problems who might need extra support.
- Send an email or speak to someone using webchat if you don’t like using the phone. If you explain about your mental health and how this makes managing money difficult you should be offered more help and support to deal with your problem.
- Get support from a trusted family member or friend. They can make a phone call on your behalf if you are with them, and help you afterwards if you need to do something else like fill in forms.
- Get advice or support if you don’t feel like you can open your post or make phone calls and you are struggling with your money. If you get advice or support you can stop your situation getting worse.