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How to tackle your bank-xiety

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Bank-xiety, a term coined to describe the worry felt when checking your bank balances, is on the rise.

While it may sound playful – after all, bank-xiety isn’t a word you’ll find in official dictionaries – the reality is anything but. Statistics from the Money And Pensions Service reveal that almost half of UK adults regularly worry about money. So, if checking your account balances leaves you stricken with fear, what can you do about it?

Tactics to tackle bank-xiety

Often, a significant portion of bank-xiety comes from dreading the unknown, and can play out as either completely avoiding checking your balances at all (because ignorance is bliss, right?) or checking them too often, so that you’re never surprised.

We’ve found five tactics that can help you establish good habits that mean checking your account balances is no longer a cause for concern.

Of course, for some people, experiencing bank-xiety is bound up with other issues they’re dealing with. Money worries may be the driving force behind the problems they’re facing, or they could be a side effect of other issues. While these tactics may still be useful if you’re in this situation, they’re not designed for you and are no substitute for medical advice and treatment.

Facing your fears

If you’re someone who avoids checking your balances for fear of what they might be, then it may be time to bite the bullet. It’s well-documented that facing your fears can be key to overcoming them. So, checking your account balances for the first time is a crucial first step to tackling bank-xiety. Then, getting into the habit of checking them regularly should make them less scary as time goes on.

There are many ways you can check your balance, from using your bank’s app or online banking, to telephone banking and even checking at an ATM or in-branch. If you choose to use mobile, online or telephone banking to check your balances, you can easily make it part of your routine.

As you build this habit and implement more tactics to help your bank-xiety, the fear you felt before should start to fade. This is partly because you’ll know more about what you’re spending day-to-day, so can better predict what your balance will be and spot any transactions you don’t recognise. And, it’s also partly because you’ll be so used to checking your balances, it simply won’t have the same effect on you anymore.

Sign up to notifications

On the flip side, bank-xiety can also manifest itself as incessantly checking your balances out of worry, rather than being afraid to look. You may even find you experience a bit of both – sometimes scared to see what your balance is, and other times checking it so often you have your balance memorised, down to the penny. If you think you do this, then the notifications offered by many banks and account providers these days could help. These notifications give you visibility of your accounts, without you having to check yourself, risking perpetuating habits that may not be good for you.

The alerts available range from letting you know about every transaction on your account, to weekly account updates, to sending you a text if your balance drops below a certain level. Opting in to receive some or all of these – if your account providers offer them – can give you a bit of peace of mind. If something happens that you need to know about, you’ll know. Otherwise, you can go about your day and try to put your money out of your mind.

Review your expenses

As well as knowing how much money you have left on any given day, it’s important to look at where your money is going, too. In particular, look at the “invisible” purchases you make. These are things that cost so little on their own that you barely register the money you’re spending. But, when bought often, the overall cost can really add up. A few years ago, research by Aviva found that the average person spends £948 a year on these “invisible” purchases – it’s likely even more now!

By categorising your spending, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’re paying out for different things, including those “invisible” purchases. Many banks and credit accounts have tools built into their online account offerings to help you do this and take all the legwork out of it, which is ideal. 

Once you know where your money is going, having this awareness might be all you need to feel less anxious about your money. But you may want to use this knowledge as an opportunity to find places to cut your spending in certain areas. Maybe you’re still paying for subscriptions that you stopped using and forgot about. Or maybe you could save on your daily takeaway coffee by making your own in a reusable cup.

Work on your money mindset

There’s still a lot of stigma attached to the way we talk and think about money. If we feel worried or stressed about money, it’s easy to also feel like we’re doing something wrong.  Unpicking and overhauling the reasons we feel like this can take a long time. But, like so many things, it often helps to start small:

  • Forgive yourself if you check your bank balance and it’s lower than you thought. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, focus on understanding how this happened, and if there’s anything you can do to stop it from happening again.
  • Remember, it’s good to treat yourself and even buy something on impulse every now and then. But it’s also good to be disciplined, so if you find you’re spending a lot on impulse purchases and treats, then it may be useful for you to look at why, and how you can balance this out a bit better (while forgiving yourself for having done it in the past!).
  • Likewise, it’s OK to dip into savings when you need to, as long as it’s only occasionally. Using them to top up your bank account regularly could be a sign that you need to rethink how much you’re spending and/or saving each month. But every now and then to get you through an unusually expensive month, it’s OK!
  • Give yourself a pat on the back when you reach a milestone! Whether that’s the first time you notice your heart rate doesn’t spike when you log into your online banking or hitting your savings goal, every achievement deserves to be celebrated.  

Know when to ask for help

We all need some help, advice, or just a little bit of guidance sometimes - and money is no exception to that.

If your money worries are affecting your mental health, or likewise if your mental health is affecting your ability to handle your money, help is out there. This list of organisations could be a good starting point:

Looking for more? Try these self-care tips for anxiety. Or, learn more about these free apps for mental health support.

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

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Young man using laptop while having breakfast Young man using laptop while having breakfast