Personal finances can be a very emotional thing, and everyone experiences ups and downs in this area of our lives. If you’ve come out of financial abuse, you may feel even more nervous about spending money.
Maybe you feel you no longer have control over your finances, or that your money is not really your own and that spending money might mean you end up in a worse financial situation.
It’s important to understand that systematic manipulation, gaslighting and control, all common behaviours in financial abusers, are designed to make people feel hopeless or out of control. The good news is, it’s possible to take back the control and start feeling confident about spending your money again.
Here are 4 simple steps you can take to start safely spending your money again.
Start your own bank account
If you’ve previously had a joint bank account, your safest option is to start with your own. Even if you’ve already taken legal action, it’s best to eliminate any chances of someone else accessing your hard-earned money again.
If you visit your bank, they should be able to help you set up a new bank account in your name without having to go through all the initial paperwork again. You can also set up a new bank account online. Here’s some information on starting a new account.
Not only is starting your own account an important step for your safety, but it also helps give you a sense of closure and a confidence boost. You can even call your spending account something empowering, like ‘freedom fund’, so that you feel inspired and powerful every time you look at it!
Show your money some love
This might sound strange, but it’s important that your bank account starts feeling more like a close friend than your enemy. After all, it’s there to help you create the life and independence you want for yourself again — not to cause you grief.
So, rather than ignoring your bank account or burying your head in the sand, try to show it some love and attention daily. This means checking your bank account each day to see what’s going on. Did any money come in? Did anything come out? This is also a great way to keep an eye on your account for suspicious transactions or to check if you’re being abused through bank descriptors attached to transactions. This can be reported to the bank and investigated.
You could even start having a monthly date night with your money to think about spending and saving strategies for the next 3, 6 or 12 months. Put aside some time to check in with where your finances are going; any changes you might want to make and how you’re feeling about money. It’s cheesy, yes — but, it’s a great way to start feeling positive and confident and spending again.
Safeguard your account
Worried about overspending or getting into more debt? There are steps you can take to build in a safety buffer for yourself. For example, if you have a credit card with a limit of $20,000, you can ask your bank to lower your limit to $5000 so that you don’t spend more than you can comfortably pay back. Some products may not include a credit lowering ability. In this case, you may want to cancel the credit card and have a look around for one with a lower limit.
Many banks also allow you to put daily spending and transfer limits on your transaction account, so that you can’t overspend there. Not only can this help you feel more comfortable about spending money, it can help protect you from unauthorised transactions, too. If you visit or call your bank and explain your situation, they will be able to advise how they can best help you.
Have a spending plan
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and afraid, there’s no better antidote than a solid plan. It helps alleviate some of the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, as you know exactly what your next step is. This applies to your finances, too.
If you know exactly what you’re going to be spending your money on each month, it can help you feel far more in control of it. But nobody likes a boring budget. Thinking of it as a spending plan makes it feel far more fun and expansive, rather than rule bound and restrictive.
You can use a budgeting tool to get a bird’s eye view of where your money is going. Then, you can make a new plan that’s more aligned with your values and what you want your life to look like.
You don’t have to go through this process alone. There are a range of free and affordable financial planning services for those in hardship that can help you get back on your feet again. You can check out some of these financial aid resources.
Spending money again after coming out of a tumultuous financial situation can feel daunting. By following these simple steps, you can feel calm, confident and in control of your finances again.
If this article has raised any issues for you and you need support, contact 1800RESPECT.
Call Triple Zero (000) if you are in immediate danger.
Contact your local police if there are threats to your safety or there are threats to your friends or family members.
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.