Personal Finance When You’re Sad

Sometimes when you’re sad, you just don’t care. You don’t care about money. You don’t care about work. You don’t care about blogging.

I’m sad, and I’m finding it hard to care about those things. I’m not depressed. I still care about the important stuff: my family, my faith, my friends. But I am finding it awfully hard to care about anything related to personal finance. It just doesn’t even seem relevant, because no amount of money can fix what I’m sad about.

I haven’t suffered a tragedy. I can’t even imagine being the victim of the recent hurricanes or terrorist attacks, nor am I coping with the death of a loved one. But being sad does have me thinking about ways of coping when you’re sad, and how that affects people’s money.

And it’s making me feel completely unqualified to sit here and tell people what to do with their money. Or even how to think about their money. Because I’m thinking of all the sad people out there, and how completely inane and irrelevant financial advice must sound to them. So today, instead of asking you to change how you think about or handle money, I’m just going to ask you to try to understand other people.

Sometimes sad people spend. That comforting take-out, new outfit, or sleek tablet can take away the sting, at least for a little while. Us bloggers virtually lecture people on how that feeling won’t last, but sometimes when you’re sad enough, you’ll take what fleeting pleasure you can get.

Sometimes sad people treat others. It feels good to make someone else happy, so they’ll buy a round, or treat people to lunch. They’ll buy gifts, even extravagant ones. I have a philosophy of generosity that tends to focus on those in “greatest need” in my view. But maybe sometimes the giver is actually the one most in need. And they just need to give however they want to.

Sometimes sad people don’t think about the future, because it feels too sad. They don’t care how much their 401k will grow if they invest 15% of their income each month. They don’t care when they’ll retire, or get out of debt, or save for their goals. Thinking too far ahead is too overwhelming, too hopeless.

Sometimes people get way too sad and lose their motivation at work. It’s a catch-22, because going to work and contributing to society helps you feel better, but getting that train moving just seems insurmountable.

I’m sure others cope by throwing themselves ever more into their work, goals, or financial improvement. And that can be good or bad, or more likely, both at once.

How is feeling down affecting my finances? To be honest, it’s not. The coping mechanisms I mentioned above just don’t happen to appeal to me. And I’m in a privileged position where my financial state is impervious to my feelings. I don’t take that for granted.

For me, I’m just too sad to write about money. All I can give you this week is a post about people. Because they’re what actually matter. Try to understand them. Try to care about them, and show them you care. If they’re sad, don’t tell them how to manage their money. Don’t tell them to stop spending or start saving or bust out a godforsaken investment calculator on them.

Sometimes when people are sad, an act of love goes so much further than advice. Buy them coffee or lunch or a gift, to give that little glimpse of enjoyment. Or let them buy you coffee or lunch or a gift, so they can feel that spark of joy that giving brings. Spend some time with them. Maybe it’ll light the fire to care about work again. Maybe, just maybe, that spark will light the fire to care about the future.

How do you handle personal finance differently when you’re sad? What have you found most helpful in those times? 

16 Responses to “Personal Finance When You’re Sad”

  1. Tonya says :

    Yes it definitely is a sad day in the world. 🙁 I’ve been reading Braving the Wilderness and I even mentioned it in today’s blog, not knowing what was about to transpire in Vegas last night. Thankfully I am, because it touches on so much of this fear, sadness, and hatred we are all feeling right now. Not just about what happened, but really for years since 9/11, with, I think some instances of calm in the world. It doesn’t help us make sense of tragedies, but it does touch on ways to thrive even in dark days by being a good human. That’s all I got right now…

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I also wrote this before the sad news from Vegas came in, but that only makes it more fitting. That books sounds good. There are no easy answers unfortunately.

  2. Kimberly says :

    Dear Kalie – Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate your compassion and vulnerability in this post. It struck me particularly because I think you’ve captured where one of my dear family members is right now. I’m feeling a bit stuck in how to support her best. On the one hand, I can understand why purchases can be comforting and why it’s hard to think about finances when feeling sad. On the other hand, she’s really struggling and not able to make ends meet. It’s hard to strike a balance between offering acceptance for where someone is at and not wanting the circumstances to get more difficult and depressing if they’re not addressed.

    • Kalie says :

      I completely understand there being a time and place for speaking into someone’s life for their benefit, especially when the problems have been going on for a while. In my experience, people have to be ready and open to input to really hear and grasp on to financial advice. I agree it is a hard balance to show acceptance while also hoping to help them make improvements.

  3. Ann says :

    What an excellent and honest post. I also have experienced a great deal of sadness, especially in the last two years after adopting out a grandson, an adoption that did not go as it was supposed to. It is pretty much impossible to climb out of some pits, no matter your faith, and sometimes you just need someone who will sit in it with you for a bit, eating a sandwich or playing a game of cards. Such people can be rare, though. In time feelings change and things can look brighter and you can get back to caring about issues like economizing or getting some more income or you name it. I hope your sadness passes away soon, but do be patient with it and with yourself. God bless.

    • Kalie says :

      That sounds like a very difficult experience, Ann. I hope you have some people to sit with through it and that healing comes!

  4. Ms Our Next Life says :

    Hi Kalie — My heart is going out to you in a big way! I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time, and I hope you know that what you’re feeling is valid, even if you haven’t experienced any of those particular tragedies.

    One question for you: Are you *sure* you’re not depressed? Most depressed people don’t realize it’s depression the first time… or the second or third time. (I’ve dealt with it on and off for decades, and it often takes me months to realize that it’s happening again, even though it seems like it should be obvious.) A lot of what you describe sounds like it could be depression, so I’d encourage you to consider the possibility, and either way, make sure you have people who you can talk to and who can help support you. I know you’re a rock in your family, but sometimes the rock needs care, too! <3

    Sending lots of love your way! xoxo

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for your care and concern, Mrs. ONL. I have also struggled with depression and not recognized it until hindsight. That said, I only feel apathetic about the blog, and it’s only been for a week or two, so I’m not worried yet. It just got me thinking about how others deal with their feelings. I’ll keep it in mind in the months ahead, though. Thanks for pointing out that concern 🙂

  5. Prudence Debtfree says :

    Lovely post. I’m sorry you are down, but grateful that you are willing to share it. We can all relate. Unlike you, I am drawn to money splurges – usually connected to food treats – when I’m sad. I connect financial health with an absence of depression simply because financial distress triggered a full-on depression for me early in the millennium. So a big part of my motivation towards better finances is an avoidance of that stress – and a draw to the peace that healthy finances makes room for. Still, I know that finances are no guarantee against sadness. All the best, Kalie.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Ruth. That’s interesting how you link absence of depression with financial health. I think it’s so helpful to know what behaviors sadness triggers in us so we can be more self-aware.

  6. Laurie Blank says :

    Sending many, many hugs your way. It’s tough not to be sad when there is so much evil in the world. I spent many years being sad due to a variety of personal tragedies in my life. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only cure I know of, and you’ve got that. Look up, my dear friend. Focus on the author and finisher of your faith.

  7. Ember says :

    I’m a new reader, but this is so encouraging and beautiful. Sadness does makes us all look in, and feel like we can’t do anything. But I definitely agree that when we look out and focus on Christ and being a light to others, if that’s only a smile or a quick text. For me, I have to look at my kids (SAHM here) and try to see God in their sweet, mischievous faces, and remember that He is the only way to be truly happy.

    Love your transparency. It’s so beautiful!

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Ember. So true that a friendly smile or a text can brighten someone’s day as you let them know you’re there and thinking of them. And kids are a great remember of God’s amazing gifts!

  8. David says :

    Thank you for sharing this insightful post. I hope you are able to figure out a way to keep moving. I won’t say “Cheer up!” because a lot of times sadness is valid and appropriate, and trying to just cheer up just ends up burying it. Sometimes it’s even hard to be grateful for your blessings because the sadness seems so overwhelming. It’s always hard to know what to do to help others who are in that type of situation. When I’ve felt deep sadness I also didn’t feel like there was any point planning for the future. People who were able to just give me the gift of their time were often the most helpful thing.

    • Kalie says :

      It is hard to know what to say sometimes. When people try to minimize or “look on the bright side” of sad things to soon it can be hard on the on who is sad (I know I’ve made these mistakes before). It’s true that just being there for people is so important.

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