24 Money Habits That are Signs of Financial Trauma

24 Money Habits That are Signs of Financial Trauma


Experiencing severe economic hardship early in life, especially in childhood, can wreak havoc upon one’s ability to manage their finances and make long-term decisions about money. 

Many factors are involved in navigating the challenges of saving, investing, and spending money. Certain individuals who struggle with money may engage in more obvious behaviors, while others may internalize their stress and withdraw socially.

1. Buying Too Much Food or Hoarding Food

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Individuals who have struggled in the past with being able to afford groceries may buy too many items to store away and need help using or consuming the food they buy. They may even create rules around the topics of food preparation and eating.

2. Anxiety Around Spending Money for Any Reason

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Some people don’t have trouble spending too much money and instead struggle to spend money at all. The thought of having to buy something can cause anxiety for some, especially if they’re making a big purchase or an investment that they feel requires extensive research.

3. Compulsive or Reckless Spending

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Overspending is one of the most common and obvious signs of financial trauma or distress. This can be seen as reckless spending on unnecessary purchases or the person’s almost instinctive desire to buy more things when they are already in debt.

4. Avoiding Opening or Paying Bills

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Some people refrain from opening or paying their bills despite knowing it could lead to late fees. Sometimes, this occurs because they don’t have the money. Other times, they may find managing their bills and expenses overwhelming.

5. Avoiding Discussing Financial Matters

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Some folks are so stressed about discussing finances that they will go to great lengths to avoid it. For example, if you ask a loved one whether they can loan you money, how much they make, or inquire about their plans for the future, they could shut down completely. 

6. Constantly Looking for the Best Price

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Looking for a better price is not a sign of financial trauma alone, as price comparison can be a great way to save money. However, some people take this to an extreme and heavily research everything they need to buy, wasting time and energy over an insignificant difference in cents or dollars.

7. Spending as a Method of Self-Soothing

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Similarly to other habits or addictions, many folks with financial trauma turn to spending as a way to self-soothe or feel better during difficult times. For example, they may go shopping after a stressful day or argument with a loved one.

8. Basing Self-Worth on Financial Status

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Many people see their income or financial class as a symbol of their self-worth or status. You may notice someone who constantly brags about how rich they are or how much money they make to impress others. Alternatively, someone may think they are not worthy simply because they don’t make much money. 

9. Working Constantly To Avoid Financial Ruin

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Some individuals have incredible work ethic and feel fulfilled by their job. However, others may become workaholics or overwork themselves because they are worried about what will happen if they lose their jobs or run out of money.

10. Opening Too Many Credit Cards/Lines of Credit 

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Credit cards can help someone build their credit and even learn about responsible spending. However, if a person is given too many opportunities to open credit cards or their credit limit keeps increasing, it can be a temptation to overspend.

11. Buying Multiple Duplicate Items

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Although having a backup can be helpful in some cases, constantly needing multiple copies of the same item can become an issue. This may stem from the fear that a person will be unable to purchase or acquire the item again if something happens to it.

12. Failing To Take Care of Belongings

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Some people who grew up in financial distress may struggle to care for their belongings. This could include letting their car become trashed, throwing things on the floor instead of putting them away, and hoarding seemingly useless items in case they may be needed later. 

13. Being Secretive About Spending Habits

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Shopping and spending money can become an addiction, and a person struggling with addiction may become secretive to avoid getting in trouble or having someone try to correct their behavior. Your loved one may hide their purchases or try to keep you from seeing their credit card statements.

14. Feeling Anxious About Not Spending Money

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Someone who is addicted to shopping or spending money may struggle when they are unable to shop or spend money. This may make them particularly anxious when they can’t leave the house or are banned from shopping online.

15. Ignoring the Consequences of Spending Habits

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Similarly to compulsive spending, if a person cannot consider the consequences of their spending habits, it can cause rifts in their relationship and financial issues. For example, someone might owe their friend money, but they keep making unnecessary purchases, ignoring their debt.

16. Saving Too Much Money for a “Rainy Day”

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Although saving money and being frugal can be an excellent habit, putting your money away for a “rainy day” and not spending it when needed can lead to various issues. This person may seem stingy or like they are always saving money without a firm idea of what they are saving for.

17. Difficulty Managing Finances Long-Term

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The inability to plan or even see far into the future is often a sign of trauma, especially when it comes to financial planning. Although stocks, crypto, and financial investments may not be for everyone, there are other ways to manage money while keeping long-term goals or concerns in mind.

18. Strained Family Dynamics and Conflicts

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Money is one of the topics families argue about most often, especially if one person is constantly in financial distress or asking to borrow money. Some people even cut family members off due to the conflict caused by financial discussions.

19. Self-Destructive or Addictive Behaviors

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A person who struggles with money may also have other personal issues they’re dealing with, including drug and alcohol addiction or similar self-destructive behaviors. Often, people in financial distress turn to methods of escape when they cannot remedy their financial problems.

20. Difficulty Enjoying Vacations or Activities

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Regardless of their financial status, some people need help staying in the moment and enjoying activities that should be fun for them. For example, you may go on vacation with a loved one you carefully planned. However, you are still worrying about being able to afford it after it’s been paid for. 

21. Experiencing Paranoia About Debt

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Some individuals are very nervous about circumstances that may remind them of their debt or financial situation, such as debt collector calls. They may send all calls to voicemail or seem nervous and jittery. 

22. Difficulty Holding Down a Job

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One less commonly discussed symptom of financial trauma is a person’s inability to keep a job. Although you might think that someone who’s struggled with money would be determined to keep any job they can get, the opposite is often true. They are often so worried about money that it can cause them to be irritable or irresponsible.

23. Experiencing Physical and Emotional Symptoms

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Financial trauma, especially long-term, can wreak havoc on a person’s emotions, cognitive ability, and even physical well-being. Some may struggle to sleep, leading to insomnia, or have constant thoughts about the economy and environment, making it difficult for them to focus on other topics.

24. Engaging in Habits Like Stealing or Shoplifting 

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Regardless of whether the person is currently in financial distress, folks who have endured poverty or economic instability may shoplift or steal from others around them to make ends meet or engage in shopping compulsions. 

If you struggle with mental health issues as a result of financial strain, you’re not alone. Seek the guidance of a professional therapist or contact 988 for help and support. 

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