How mindfulness can help manage your money

In an age of digital distraction, mindfulness has never been more important.

A form of meditation, and a powerful tool that keeps you in the present moment, mindfulness may ease psychological stresses, anxiety, depression and even pain.1 Practice of presence has also been shown to promote a better work ethic, sleep, and even money management skills.2

There is no better time to practice mindfulness from a money management perspective, with slow wage growth and big hikes in the costs of some essential services, putting Australian families under even more financial strain.3 The effects of such financial stress are evident in studies conducted by the Australian Psychological Society in 2015.

Results suggested that personal finances was one of the main sources of stress for Australians, with debts and negative numbers against a person’s name, having a very strong impact on wellbeing. In some cases, anxiety and depression can be linked to financial insecurity.4

The state of deep relaxation that comes with mindfulness, on the other hand, can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, and a reduction of lifestyle stress.5 Here are five simple ways to use this technique when saving, spending and planning.

1. Improve mindfulness: stop living paycheck to paycheck

Reactive money management can be mentally and physically exhausting. When you’re not scrambling to make ends meet, you might be running out of money before the end of the month, which can lead to less resource to better remedy how you budget.  

According to Tim Howard, Technical Consultant at BT6, tracking your expenses is key to getting out of money ruts caused by debt and improve mindfulness.

“You’ve got enough stress in your life without thinking about how the next bill, unexpected or not, will be paid,” Tim says. “In the simplest sense, you need to know where every dollar is coming from, and where every dollar is going. Start with a list, spreadsheet or mind-map on an A3 piece of paper - you’ll be amazed at the financial clarity an exercise like that gives you.”

2. Improve mindfulness: set up an emergency fund

Tim suggests any emergency fund set up by you should have at least three to six months of living expenses in case of an unexpected financial hurdle, such as job loss or sudden illness. Because of this, an emergency fund is a proactive way to deal with any future financial setbacks you may encounter. “An emergency fund is more than just for a rainy day” Tim adds. “A far more fun and positive way to think of it is your ‘future choices’. Such a fund can allow you to take a career break, some time off to work, study, start a business, take a holiday or explore.”

“Even though the reasons which lead you to the choice may be unforeseen, such as a change in health or losing your job, a fund like this gives you more power to choose your response to these events.”

3. Improve mindfulness: pay attention to money habits

Do you like to splurge after a big week at work? Book weekends away on your credit card? Or, are you more likely to limit your spending (which sees you socialising less and staying in more)? Whatever the case, Tim believes it is important to identify bad money habits, when it comes to mindfulness, before seeking ways to change them.

“Finance might not be your favourite topic in the world, however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a basic understanding of where you’re at with yours,” Tim says. “It’s important to remember healthy money management will stretch into many other aspects of your life from a feeling of greater security, to greater choice and knowing when you should and shouldn’t choose to spend (and what on).”

“It’s also important to think about where all your money comes from, plus where it goes. What are the reasons behind what you are buying? Is it giving only short term or long term benefits too?”

4. Improve mindfulness: swap card for cash

Research shows that 83% of people are willing to spend more on their credit card than with cash.7

“Credit cards are great servants but terrible masters,” Tim adds. “If you aren’t able to pay off your credit card in full every month, you are spending beyond your means and someone else is making money from your consumption.”

“A great way to track what you spend is by budgeting cash ahead of time. This doesn’t necessarily mean walking around with a hand full of notes – use savings or debit cards, and then follow your online banking to understand if you are only spending on what you intended to.”

5. Improve mindfulness: stay focused on your financial goals

Tim believes that mindfulness money management can be helped by having your goals where you can see them, and that by doing so you have a more focused attention on what you’re spending or saving, ensuring all financial decisions support your short and long-term targets.    

“Have them written out on the fridge, stick them on your wall or door, and even write them out on the bathroom mirror” Tim says. “Any goal that is in front of you, stay front of mind, so you have the goal in mind when making decisions throughout the day.”

Next: Three money tips your grandchildren will thank you for (and why they work)

1. Corliss, Julie. “Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 3 Oct. 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
2. Goyal, Madhav. “Meditation for Psychological Stress and Well-Being.” JAMA, American Medical Association, 1 Mar. 2014, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754
3. Bagshaw, Eryk. “Electricity Prices Jump 12 per Cent, Six Times the Average Pay Rise.” The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Jan. 2018, www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/electricity-prices-jump-12-per-cent-six-times-the-average-pay-rise-20180131-p4yz4k.html
4. “Feeling Safe, Stable and Secure - Finances.” Head to Healthheadtohealth.gov.au/meaningful-life/feeling-safe-stable-and-secure/finances.
5. “Meditation May Reduce Stress and Improves Health by MedicineNet.com.” 
6. Interview conducted with Tim Howard, Technical Consultant at BT on 23 January 2019
7. Peterson, Bailey. “Credit Card Spending Studies (2018 Report): Why You Spend More When You Pay With a Credit Card.” ValuePenguin, ValuePenguin, 22 Aug. 2018, www.valuepenguin.com/credit-cards/credit-card-spending-studies.

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This information has been prepared by Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL & ACL 233714 (Westpac) and is current as at 24 October 2017.

The information in this article is general information only. It does not constitute any recommendation or financial product advice. It provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness having regard to these factors before acting on it. Before acting on it, you should seek independent financial and tax advice about its appropriateness to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

This information may contain material provided directly by third parties and is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. It should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor relied upon as such. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. ©BT 2017