Have you ever had that time when life got too overwhelming? That’s what happened to me in the late part of 2021. As with anything, even budgeting through mental health was getting to me.
At that time, all three of my children, and myself, were in therapy once a week. All of my children have anxiety, and the methods that I used to ground them during times of increased anxiety aren’t the same. My middle is also diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, and depression.
Add to that, I was working through my anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, and cPTSD stemming from being an ACoA (adult child of an alcoholic). Between the four of us, I was in our therapist’s office for four hours a week minimum … for two years!
Personally, it was a lot to deal with. Not including working through my stuff… just the act of keeping the kids balanced and mindful, knowing their signs for when they were being triggered and overwhelmed, and watching for side effects between myself and my middle as our medication was being managed… it was getting to be too much!
So I started taking a LOT of things off of my plate.
And yes, budgeting was one of them. I stopped budgeting entirely.
That doesn’t mean that I stopped paying attention to money in general; I still used cash for our variable expenses. I also paid bills that were solely in my name. And that was about it.
Paying the remaining bills was on Hubs.
Setting up the budget was on Hubs.
Moving money to our sinking funds was on Hubs.
There were a lot of ups and downs during that time. A lot of budget fails, and a lot of lessons learned.
Throughout that experience, the biggest lesson that I learned was that I need a bare-bones type of budget routine. Our budget routine is wonderful, but it’s not ideal for those times when my depression is taking over, my ADHD is overwhelmed, or my anxiety is high.
That’s because during those times, even sticking to a daily routine for my own self–care is hard, let alone sticking to a budget routine that helps me reach my financial goals. But I also did not want to entirely abandon the progress on my financial goals that I had made, as that can be easy to do when your mental health is spiraling.
Here’s what worked for me.
**As with everything on this journey, take what you think will work for you, and modify it. If it doesn’t work, tweak it until you find something that does work for you!**
Set up a Bare Bones Budget Specifically for Overwhelming Times
What your bare-bones budget will look like will depend on what your current financial goals are, but your bare-bones budget can also serve as an outline of what you will focus on. What I’m talking about is also very different from our bare-bones budget.
I want to be clear here. It is very easy to get carried away in the comparison game, especially if you’re part of the debt-free community. But the only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself.
If you’re having a period where your mental health isn’t the best, focus on what you’re doing differently this time that you didn’t do last time. For example, if you just don’t have the energy to prepare food for the entire week, and you need to eat out more often, make sure you’re including that in your new bare-bones budget.
Remember, your budget is an estimation. It needs to flow, and change, with what your focus is for that time. If your focus is to get through your rough patch, that is your focus. You are doing the best you can during this period.
Automate What You Can
Some people prefer to automate as much of their finances as possible. There is nothing wrong with that! However, in times when your mental health is not the greatest, I’m going to suggest you lower any contributions that you’re making and reduce your payments to a minimum that you’ve previously set.
As our budget has changed over the years, our minimum payment towards our debt that’s currently in payoff mode has always been $500. It’s more than the minimum payment on that debt, and it’s an amount that won’t break the bank during times when my mental health has declined.
This ensures that we’re making strides on our debt-free progress, but also taking into account that other things may have slipped under the radar while setting up our budget. After all, a bare-bones budget doesn’t take into account variations from month to month.
Stick To A Cash Budget As Much As Possible
I can always tell that my mental health is declining because I tend to just swipe my debit card without being mindful of what the total is, what category it was from, and how much we have left in that particular category.
When I stick to a cash budget, it takes away all doubt.
While sticking to a cash budget, I would also leave more wiggle room than normal. As you know, when your mental health is not in the best place, you don’t have the energy to meal plan to the best of your ability, making sure that all the items you have on hand are being used up in the best way possible.
To be honest, when I hit that point, I’m looking at the meals that are the least fuss and have minimal effort on my part. That may mean I’m spending more money on pre-shredded mozzarella cheese, rather than buying the blocks that I can shred. It also means that I may be spending more money on preformed beef patties for hamburgers and a smaller back of beef for tacos, than buying the bigger pack of ground beef that I can divvy between burgers and tacos.
Whether I’m making the best choice on purchases for the money I have on hand isn’t something I’m concerned with then. What I am concerned with is sticking to the amount of cash I have on hand.
Create One Small Goal During This Time
Creating one small goal to stick to when your mental health is declining can seem rough. I get it. But, sticking to, and even achieving that goal, can help give you the reward that your body is craving.
That goal can be simple such as eating out only once a week, or sticking to one coffee purchase a week. If you’re prone to impulse purchases, make your goal to have only one impulse purchase that is less than $10 that week.
As with anything, it’s all about finding and fine-tuning that balancing act to help you get back on track.