Managing Finances While Having a Mental Illness

April 23, 2024 Michaela Jarvis

Managing finances when you have a mental illness can be complicated. The dreaded "your account is overdrawn" bank email and I were well acquainted while my mental health declined. I felt a heavy sense of guilt when it came to my finances. My reluctance to face my situation and the shame I felt asking for help created a snowball of dread. Mental illness can make managing finances more difficult, but it isn't a hopeless situation, and it shouldn't be a source of shame.

My Finances While Mentally Ill

I was scared of opening bills, checking account balances, and digging into how I spent money. My financial status was unpleasant at best.

For example, mail used to be my enemy. I would leave piles of unopened mail sitting for weeks. It didn't seem like a big deal until I went three months without paying a school loan. Not only did I have to pay three months at once, plus late fees, but my credit took a significant hit.

I routinely missed deadlines, overspent, and maxed out my credit card. I didn't understand finances, and I felt I wasn't smart enough to. I spent money on things that I thought would make me feel better. Maybe that was an expensive coffee or a round of drinks. I felt I had fallen so far behind that I didn't have the energy to care anymore.

My finances while mentally ill were a big problem.

How Mental Illness Impacts Personal Finances

Some people with mental illness struggle with low energy, while others may struggle with the ability to maintain attention. Both can impact the motivation to build a budget, check on account balances, pay bills, or even keep consistent, paying work.

Mental illness can also manifest in one's spending. That may be "retail therapy" in an attempt to cope. Or the money could be funding an addiction as an escape, causing harm to one's mental health and bank account.

On top of emotional stressors and fear, there are extra expenses that come with mental illness. There's the price of medication, doctor visits, specialists, therapy, and even hospital or rehabilitation stays. Mental illness has definitely impacted my finances. Looking back on my journey, I've easily spent over $10,000 on mental health assistance.

Managing Finances with a Mental Illness

When managing mental illness, it can feel like there is so much happening that it's easier to ignore the problem, but that only creates bigger problems.

There are a few things I did to take control of my finances with a mental illness. First, I had to get over my fear. I was embarrassed that I didn't understand how to create a budget, how credit works, interest rates, or debt payment strategies. After joining online groups and being more vocal with my community, I quickly realized I wasn't alone.

I got educated. By listening to podcasts, reading articles, and watching videos, I became less intimidated and more empowered. There are free resources like managing debt webinars and budget templates online. Having these tools made starting a strategy less energy-draining and scary.

I set everything to automatic. Now, I don't have to face the dreaded mail pile or remember a deadline. I also have part of my paycheck automatically put into savings, so I won't be tempted to spend that money unwisely.

Finances can be a stressful and guilt-inducing subject, especially for those with mental illness. Some strategies make managing finances more doable, but it's not easy. There's no shame in asking for help or learning the basics. Some factors can be controlled, and many cannot be, so grace and patience are essential on this journey to stability.

APA Reference
Jarvis, M. (2024, April 23). Managing Finances While Having a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Michaela Jarvis

Michaela Jarvis is continuously on her road to self-improvement while managing bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the life challenges that come with being in your 20s. Find Michaela on Instagram, LinkedIn, and her website.

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