The When and How of Financial Medication

This term came to me recently during quiet time. I am financially medicating when I’m spending money for some reason other than to procure an object or experience. I hold it as a neutral term. As we know, sometimes medicating can be helpful. Also, sometimes medicating can be irresponsible and add to an existing problem. Let’s look at some possible scenarios.

I have social anxiety. (This is not hypothetical. I wish it was.) Even the thought of going out with a group of people free-form can bring on the queasy. It’s been that way my whole life. There are things that have helped, but it’s still there. (When I learned that Paul McCartney still gets stage fright after all this time, that helped me find peace with it. It’s just something we go through, me and Paul.)

So looking ahead, I see an event in mid-November that looks interesting. It’s also medium-skurry to me (aka scary). I have options for financial medication…

a) Buy the discounted early-bird ticket. On the one hand, I definitely like getting a deal. That sense of relief might help mitigate some of the nervousness. On the other hand, can I tell you how many times I have ambitiously bought the early bird discounted tickets well in advance, and then bailed at the last minute when sh*t got real and it was time to get ready to actually go? I have “donated” so many unattended tickets that I don’t think it makes sense anymore. Just thinking it through like this is so helpful. As soon as I read about the event on Facebook, my heart started racing and I wanted to rush and buy that cheaper tickie. I think I’m more likely to go if I make a different choice this time.

b) Offer to buy a ticket for a friend to ensure they will come with me. Yep, done this one a lot, too. If I suggest the event, I have a habit of feeling like I owe it to someone to cover their entry fee. Sure, sometimes, that’s appropriate. But if I’m doing it to try and financially medicate, it’s not a guarantee enough that the desired effect will actually happen. The other person is now even less tied than I am to actually going, have nothing on the line, and are probably even more likely to flake than I am.  So when I analyze it that way, I don’t need to go that route and try to buy relief when it seems more likely to lead to resentment and disappointment. Playing it forward through the different scenarios can really help. This is a small example, but the principles of it scale well.

c) Shop online immediately for something new to wear, hoping to build my confidence to get me out of the house that night. Ooh! This one is soooo tempting! Can I actually just buy a cutout of the lady wearing what I think will build my confidence, and then tie the lifesize cutout to my front for that evening?  What, that wouldn’t work or be authentic or get me the experience I want? Dang, you’re probably right.   Shopping on the webz is a slippery slope for me. Yes, time is precious, as is money. So sometimes I can get a deal online, save time, they’ll ship for free right to my door. BUT am I really just trying to purchase clothing? Or am I trying to change how I feel about myself? I love and highly recommend these reality checks.

Some tips for getting clarity in your own financial medication scenarios:

a) Ask yourself, is there room for this purchase in my spending plan?  There is no right or wrong answer, per se, but this is basically a clean yes or no question. Extra credit for this one is noticing if you are begging in your mind for it like a kid wants a puppy at Christmas. “I promise I’ll go out that night if I can just get this pantsuit and I’ll wear it so much and it practically will pay for itself and I promise to not go over my clothes budget again next month, honest Abe!!”

b) Have I talked this through with a trusted friend? I might leave my non-judgmental girlfriend a WhatsApp message and say, “Hey I found this pantsuit online and I think it’s gonna guarantee I have a great time at this event in a few weeks. I don’t think I can have a great time without this pantsuit so if I don’t buy it, I may as well plan to not go, right?”  I just like to get the foolishness out of my system. I don’t have to be mad at my mind, or emotions, or wherever the squirrely thoughts are coming from. I need and want people in my life (including myself) that can accept a broad spectrum of honesty, and that know that sometimes I will want feedback and sometimes I just need to vent it out.

c) Journaling. It’s so awesome to get it on paper, or even send an email to one of those nonjudgmental folks. I might tap in to what I’m expecting for the evening, and get as specific as possible. As we say in 12 Step, “expectations are premeditated resentments”. It’s like weeding a garden to get the specific expectations out. And, yes, fans of The Secret, what I think is very important for creating my perception of reality. I’m not talking about going desireless…I’m talking about using these purchasing decisions as a way to weed my proverbial garden of when and how I’m trying to dominate reality itself.

Above all, I invite you to be kind with yourself and others around this stuff. I never know why someone is acting the way they are. Especially for couples, it can be tender to let the other person in if I’m feeling shame or family of origin wounds are triggered. Remembering that we’re all together on Team Human sometimes helps decrease the sting.

Holiday Offerings

I feel so passionate about people having as much peace and sanity through the holidays as they desire. It can be such a mixed blessing over the next couple of months. Peace to us all.

I’m offering a unique workshop to support this.

Holistic Holiday Budgeting: Sanity Strategy Session
Sat. Nov 5th
San Francisco

Register here:

An hour and a half of focused exercises that will help you customize your holidays so that your spending (both money and time) are sane and grounded.



This article is handy for anyone helping those of another generation with financial matters…

“This article discusses informal methods of assisting elder relatives with their financial affairs — including figuring out what kind of help is needed, broaching the subject with your relative, and how you can provide assistance yourself.”