Build a healthier relationship with money

Break away from old patterns to avoid a holiday hangover.

Article published: December 11, 2023

In this article:

  • Money issues often surface this time of year and lead to a new year tinged with regret or anxiety.
  • Issues can be rooted in family concerns, past financial worries or even how money was treated in your childhood.
  • If you’ve been anxious, resentful or otherwise stressed about money, your financial planner can help you get to the bottom of it and make a plan to deal with it.

Ah, the holidays. For many of us, they’re a time of year to focus on family, traditions and fun, and the usual guardrails that keep us from overindulging go out the window. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But when it comes to money, a “holiday hangover” can bring with it guilt, anxiety and regret in January.

If you find yourself falling into financial patterns that leave you feeling down – now or throughout the seasons – the new year is a great time to take a closer look at how money is intersecting with your life and whether you’d like to make some changes.

Use this as an opportunity to talk to your financial planner about how to make the coming year different. Here are some potential areas to explore.

Do you fall into a “spender vs. Saver” dynamic with your spouse or partner?

It’s rare for two people to agree on everything. And money is a deeply sensitive topic, so finances are ripe for disagreement in a marriage or partnership.

Perhaps nowhere are those disagreements more frequent than between a couple where one person is a “spender” and one is a “saver.” And for obvious reasons, that spender-saver dynamic tends to be especially sensitive around the holidays.

You might be part of this dynamic if you often argue over things like: 

  • When it’s appropriate to upgrade or replace items
  • How much time and energy to spend shopping for the best price
  • How to respond to financial challenges like high inflation or an income loss
  • How much transparency each of you owes the other when it comes to spending
  • How much to support family members or charities
  • And, of course, how much to spend on holiday gifts, travel, experiences, decorations, and food


of Americans have fought with their partners about money, according to those surveyed in our Everyday Wealth in America research report.


What’s the solution? Talking about it can help, sometimes quite a lot. 83% of people surveyed say that it helps them resolve disagreements, and 38% say they want to talk about money more.

But your talks need to go beyond we-can’t-afford-this-yes-we-can. Most importantly, you’ll each need to put your judgments aside and understand where the other is coming from in your overall approach to money.

Once you’ve made progress there, you can take actions like agreeing to a spending budget (especially helpful for the holidays), deciding how much you can each spend at will, and aligning on what it will take to reach your financial goals. Learn more about fostering financial intimacy and the benefits of talking about money with your partner.

Tip #1

Talk to your spouse or partner more intentionally about your financial decisions, especially those that have been a source of conflict. And get together with your planner if you need a neutral perspective or help understanding the potential consequences of a decision.

Do you have a “scarcity mindset” when it comes to money?

If your answer is “yes,” the holidays are probably especially stressful for you. But a scarcity mindset can negatively affect your feelings all year long, and you owe it to yourself to get to the bottom of it. 

If you started out with fewer resources, you probably learned to be prudent with your spending. Sometimes these emotions can morph into a scarcity mindset – the belief that your wealth is limited and must be protected. 

People with a scarcity mindset might: 

  • Avoid taking any financial risk for fear of loss 
  • Refuse to spend money on non-necessities, or always choose the “budget” option by default 
  • Prioritize their net worth over personal relationships 
  • Believe they’ll never have enough money for their needs 
  • Obsess over the market’s ups and downs 


Stephen Covey, who developed the idea of a scarcity mindset in his classic bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, argued that this mentality keeps people from achieving their goals because it promotes short-term thinking, a zero-sum worldview and tunnel vision focused on risks instead of opportunities. 

And behavioral scientists Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan found that people who are preoccupied with the idea of financial scarcity do significantly worse on intelligence tests than when they’re not – most likely making decisions differently than they otherwise would. 

If you have a scarcity mindset, you might want to:

  • Have a financial “devil’s advocate” to help you focus equally on risks and opportunities
  • Intentionally practice gratitude for what you’ve been able to accomplish
  • Budget a certain amount that you must spend on things that bring you happiness

Tip #2

Ask your financial planner for a reality check on whether you’re taking the right amount of care with your money – or way too much. They can also be a sounding board to help you reshape your mindset. 

Do you have “limiting beliefs” about money?

Everyone has their own thoughts and beliefs about money and its role in their life. These beliefs aren’t necessarily right or wrong – they’re based on feelings, not facts. And some of them can cause you to make decisions that don’t help you reach your full potential – or to miss out on some of the joy of the holidays. 

Some examples of limiting beliefs might be: 

  • Saving is always better than spending 
  • The future is uncertain so it’s better to spend what you have 
  • I don’t deserve my wealth 
  • Stocks are too risky 
  • People should always financially stand on their own two feet 

All-or-nothing thoughts like these commonly go back to your childhood or to a traumatic financial event, like a job loss. But if you’re making decisions based on these “rules” without actually considering whether they’re true, you could be holding yourself back. 

What to do? Financial therapist Amanda Clayman suggests people who have been negatively affected by money messages in childhood need to “recontextualize” those learned responses in adulthood to conquer financial stress and anxiety.


Tip #3

Talk to someone you trust about how your family handled money and what lessons you took from it. A spouse or partner can listen and offer insight, but a financial planner can also play that role and help you differentiate facts from feelings.

Your wealth should be a blessing, not a curse

The hard work you’ve put into building wealth can enable you to live the life you want, enjoy helping others and reach a level of safety and security you may not have thought attainable. 

But if your money often leaves you feeling upset, stressed or anxious, we’re here for you – 2024 can be different. Edelman Financial Engines planners can give you insight into your thought patterns, help you communicate better with your loved ones and show you the potential impact of your decisions.