coping with emotional stress saving money

How to Cope with Emotional Stress of Saving Money

While saving money comes naturally to some people, for others the emotional stress of saving money can be a challenge.

As outlined in the early retirement guide, the journey to financial independence can feel long, arduous, and lonely.

It requires a disciplined process of saving money over a decade or two.

It is not easy to continue this frugal behaviour over a number of years if that does not come naturally to you.

And even if you are frugal by nature, the desire to splurge on something can kick in from time to time at any stage of life.

The need to save money versus the desire to spend can lead to emotional fatigue.

You end up wondering if it is worth sacrificing your today for the promise of a better tomorrow.

More so for a retirement day that is 10-20 years out into the future.

You may experience emotional stress when saving money since it rattles your mind every time you decide to spend on anything.

Dealing with the Emotional Stress of Saving Money

If you ever experience emotional fatigue on your financial independence journey know that you are not alone.

What you are experiencing is very normal as you tread this path.

We are all humans buzzing with feelings and desires, not lifeless robots.

Rare is the person who has never felt the pain of making money trade-offs between the short term and the long term.

It is a normal feeling that everyone else is also going through.

Here are a few things you can do to cope with this emotional stress of saving money more effectively.

emotional stress of saving money

Have a Vision for Your Post Financial Independence Life

Saving money becomes much easier when you have a clear goal in mind.

Otherwise, saving money without a purpose does little for your motivation.

Instead of just saving money to build a retirement corpus, visualise the process of saving money to give you the life you desire once you are financially independent.

Do you want to be a chef, coach, volunteer or whatever else once you achieve your corpus?

What will your life look like at that time?

The clearer you are about your vision for tomorrow, the lower the emotional strain you will feel from saving money today.

Striving towards something that is tangible in your imagination can be an immensely powerful tool.

It can help you plough through the boring middle of FIRE.

Make your post-retirement life real in your imagination and you will feel your emotional fatigue slowly fading away.

Stop Underspending

It is common knowledge that most people end up over-spending due to peer pressure.

If all your friends are driving fancy cars, it can be easy to get caught up in the comparison game and spend too much.

A less noticed issue called under-spending can happen too.

This is when you compare yourself with others who are also focussed on saving money.

While under-spending may do wonders for your financial health, it can wreak havoc with your mental wellbeing if you are not true to yourself.

Let us understand how under-spending works with an example.

Suppose you have a weekly routine where you go out with your partner for a date-night every Friday.

You typically watch a movie and follow it up with a nice dinner.

Both of your really appreciate this weekly activity as it allows you to spend quality time together.

Now one day you happen to read about someone who mentions how they have been saving more money by cutting out all outside dining completely.

They eat every meal at home, and this has allowed them to save X amount each month.

Reading this can trigger thoughts in your mind about how you have been “wasting” money on your date nights which could have been saved instead.

Imagine you follow through with this and cancel your date nights.

An activity that used to give you so much joy has now suddenly been stopped.

This is bound to cause an emotional drain for you and your partner.

A date night may have carried no value for the person you are comparing yourself with.

You on the other hand have succumbed to under-spending on something that meant so much to you.

Do not underspend on things you value deeply at a personal level.

Try to Identify Substitutes

Once we fall into certain life routines, we end up thinking that there are only specific ways to go about doing something.

Take a moment to pause and think about the activities where you are forcing yourself to under-spend.

What if you could continue to enjoy the core of that activity itself without spending as much money?

Let us explore this further continuing with our example of spending money on date nights.

If you think about it, what do you really value during your date nights?

Is it the food you are dining on, or the time spent with your partner while pursuing a shared activity?

Is it possible to identify a substitute activity?

Something where you could still get the main benefit of a date night without spending as much?

If you both are the outdoor types how about going on a long walk or hike each weekend?

You still get to spend quality time with each other doing a shared activity that costs nothing.

The emotional fatigue from substituting an activity for a lower cost alternative will be much lesser if you are still able to derive the core benefit from that activity.

Take a Saving Sabbatical

Just like a career sabbatical, consider taking a saving sabbatical.

Given that you are on the path to financial independence, there is a good chance you have your monthly budget, saving and spending targets all worked out.

You save that amount month after month socking it away as per your investment plan.

A saving sabbatical involves taking your set investment amount for a month or two and using it to fulfil any immediate spending desires you have been holding back on.

It could be anything that carries a high personal value for you.

A purchase for self-indulgence, a holiday, or a gift for your loved one.

Anything that you know will bring real joy in your life or in the life of someone else is fair game.

Doing so will allow you to let off some steam without letting the emotional burden get so high that you derail your journey to FI entirely.

Think of it as blowing off some pent-up emotional fatigue so that you can get back your mental wellbeing in the place where you want it.

It is important to give yourself a firm start and end date before you go down this path.

Unrestrained spending can be a slippery slope though.

It can undo the years of saving that you may have already done this till point in your life.

It is always best to do this over a limited period so that you can continue back on your journey once this saving sabbatical ends.

Do not sign up for a recurring expense that will continue as it could eat up into your savings even after your saving sabbatical has ended.

Moderation is Key

If you are on the journey to financial independence, it is likely that you are doing whatever you can to boost your savings rate to 30%, 40% or even higher.

It is normal to want to reach your early retirement date as soon as you can.

Trying to reach there in a hurry, however, can bring its own set of challenges.

You may be subjecting yourself to emotional fatigue that can be avoided by going a little slower.

The very fact you have accepted the idea of financial independence means that you are much better off than most people when it comes to saving money.

There is little value in trying to crank up your savings rate even higher if that means missing things that life has to offer today.

Getting to financial independence is an approach to living your life but it is not a race to getting there.

How and when you get to a financial independence state must make sense for you.

Letting others define success for you is to waste your life living someone else’s life.

Moderation is the key to make sure you enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Take a step back.

Evaluate if your current savings rate is aligned with how you want to split your saving and spending monthly.

You may end up at a much better place emotionally if you take down your savings rate a notch.


As anyone who has walked the path to financial independence will tell you, the journey is not just about saving money.

It is just as much about managing the emotional aspects of your spending and saving decisions.

Each of us experiences moments of emotional elation and despair on this journey given that it typically covers a period of a decade or more.

Knowing that there will be these crests and troughs of emotional fatigue can prepare you to deal with them.

Using the 5 ideas outlined here can help you better manage the emotional stress of saving money.

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