Mental Health and Money Management

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A topic often ignored about the reality of living with mental illness is money. It can be difficult to admit that you can’t manage your finances on your own or that you need to have a system in place to protect you from yourself.

In fact, there is a close correlation between money and mental health, both during mental health episodes and during the aftermath. Many people who experience money issues and people with poor mental health do not have peer support, families or employment.

According to the World Health Organization, mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety can relate to poor money and money management skills. Poverty increases the risk of getting mental disorder while having mental disorders such as bipolar disorder increases the risk of being poor.

People suffering from bipolar disorder experience mood changes which can last for weeks or months. They include manic feelings of extreme happiness and productivity and feelings of intense depression. Others battling addiction or depression might have trouble keeping a job.

During manic episodes, bipolar disorder can lead to impulsive spending sprees. One may reach a financial decision that seems sensible at the moment but in retrospect is not. This can include buying extravagant gifts for friends and family, luxurious plane tickets and hotel bookings, pouring money into a hobby, investment or new business idea. I have done all of these things, and it was only when I ended up with a mountain of credit card debt that I really took a look back and realized what had been going on. Bipolar patients are more likely to be debt-ridden than the general population. These financial troubles can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide among those with mental disorders.

Debt has left many people with mental disorders with nowhere to turn. Thousands are struggling to make money to cater to their basic needs. This can become a dangerous cycle if people turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling or other behaviors when they are stressed about money.

Here are some money management tips that can help you manage your finances and get out of debt. Setting up a plan ahead of time when you feel at your best can prepare you for times when you feel your worst.


Manage your personal finances

Managing finances used to mean making spreadsheets and trying to be diligent about looking at them. Creating the lifestyle you desire and managing your income and expenses is just as much about psychology, habits, relationships and values as it is about numbers. Luckily there are new tools out there to make budgeting simple and fun and to help you stay in the right mindset.


Arguably the best tool out there for keeping track of your money and spending. Mint integrates with all of your accounts, from banking and stocks to investing and donations. It lets you set up a personalized budget and goals and keeps you informed of how well you’re sticking to it throughout the month. You can check your credit score, apply for better credit cards and more all within the application. Use it on your desktop and on your phone. And it’s all free!

Personal Capital

Similar to Mint, Personal Capital is a newer financial tool which allows you to link all of your accounts and manage your budget. I have not tried it but have heard that it does a better job than Mint at breaking down your spending and showing you how to improve. Also free.

You Need A Budget

Creating the best budget and financial plan is all about looking ahead and planning for the future, not about looking behind you at what’s already done. YNAB specializes in this by introducing a set of four rules.

Give Every Dollar a Job (ie. zero based budgeting), Embrace Your True Expenses, Roll With The Punches, and Age Your Money

Changing your mindset about your money can drastically improve your spending habits.

YNAB has a $5 monthly fee ($50 if you pay annually) after an initial 34-day free trial.


If you prefer tracking your expenses yourself using good ole spreadsheets, Wally can be a great help. It lets you take pictures of all your receipts so you don’t have to hold on to physical copies of them and go through them all at the end of each month.


Create passive income

There is no such thing as creating 100% passive income. Creating a passive income is not easy and usually requires a significant amount of time and energy to get going, but once it’s up and running you can spend less time on it and just focus on improving it. Being able to generate passive income depends on your determination and how you want to spend your time.

Wealthy Affiliate

The best way I have found to make passive income is by writing about topics I know about and referring people to great products. There are many different ways you can make money by running a blog or website. Wealthy Affiliate provides in-depth training to help you get up and running and start making income this way within weeks. It takes some time to get started, but I truly enjoy it and after awhile you can spend just a couple hours a week on it.


If your apartment or house has an extra room in it, or you have space to set up a fun yurt in the backyard, you can make great money by renting it out on AirBnb! Travelers are always looking for a unique place to spend the night, and there are many ways to automate the experience to save you time, such as a coded door entry. It’s always fun to meet new people and show them around your city, so it never feels like work.


Turo is like Airbnb for your car. List your car, or buy up a few used cars and rent them all out. The only time it will take you is setting up your account, handing off the cars to renters and making sure they are all clean and running properly.

Start a Blog

Although it will take a number of months to get traffic and start making income, starting a blog can be a great way to build an online business with very little startup cost. Writing about topics you know and care about can also be therapeutic. You can make money from a blog through ads, affiliate marketing, selling products and more. I highly recommend going through the training on Wealthy Affiliate, you can get your first blog site up and running within minutes and gain access to a support network to help you along the way.

Write an EBook

Creating a longer form digital book about a topic you are interested in can lead to a great passive source of income. EBooks also require little to no upfront investment.

Teach an Online Course

If you know how to do a specific skill, you can create videos of yourself teaching it and make money from them on sites such as Udemy or YouTube.

Sell Your Photography

If you’re a good photographer, you can upload your images to sites like istockphoto and then make passive income when they sell.


Find ways to save

There are many ways to save some money from your monthly expenses. Start by going through your credit card statements and your PayPal subscriptions and canceling anything you don’t really need or use. That $10/month here and there can really add up.


Truebill goes through all of your bills, finds subscriptions and recurring charges and lets you cancel them with one click. A great way to find hidden or forgotten expenses.


Earn cash back from purchases you already make online. Tons of great deals and ways to save through Ebates.


Invest as little as $20 in the same portfolios as billionaires, selectively chosen stocks and funds. Not only will you be putting your own money aside as savings, but you will earn a percentage on your investment. Get $5 to start out if you use this link to join!


This is a great plugin that I use all the time. Honey detects when you are going through an online checkout, and scans through hundreds of recent coupon codes to see if any of them will work for your purchase. They also find cash back opportunities all the time.

Lending Club

Although I’ve read some negative reviews about Lending Club, personally I have been using it for the past couple years and have had a really great experience with it. Lending Club provides loans to borrowers using your invested money, and gives you returns on them based on factors you choose. You can earn anywhere from 1%-12% per year. It’s also a great way to automatically transfer some of your income to savings each month. I see it as more of a long term investment as I won’t be withdrawing any of my funds for some time.

Improve your Credit Card Use

You can call your bank and ask them for a lower rate. You can also apply for a lower or zero % interest rate credit card, or transfer your existing balance onto a zero interest rate card. Getting a credit card with a limit is also a great idea for those with mental health issues, as it prevents you from making choices you might regret later.

Adjust your Lifestyle

Although it might seem at first like downsizing your home, moving to a less expensive area or finding a less stressful job are all lifestyle downgrades, the reality is that these choices can make you healthier, happier and more financially satisfied. I found that living in a big city made me more stressed out and also tempted me to spend more money. I was always walking past shops, going out to eat and keeping up a social life which required me to have certain clothes, a nicer car, a fresh haircut and more. When I moved to a small town I began spending more time outdoors, found myself more relaxed and with fewer reasons to spend money.


Accountability and Help


I have found that by tracking my levels of anxiety, depression and sleep each day help me realize when I might be heading towards a period of time when I need to be very careful about my spending. Moodtracker is a great tool for this as you can also keep short journal entries and share it with family.

Talk to your Family or Friends

Whether you want to have a joint account with a family member, have them track your monthly expenses or make sure you show up for work each day, being open and honest with your family and friends is crucial.

Power of Attorney – If, because of your condition, you are unable to manage your affairs, you can give other people the ability to exercise some or all of your actions in your name, including financial actions, through a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document which needs to be notarized. The more specific and limited a power of attorney is, the better. For example, a good power of attorney might authorize Jane Doe to make withdrawals from your bank account to pay your utility and rent bills only. A more broad power of attorney allowing Jane Doe to make withdrawals from your bank account could cause more problems.

Representative Payee – If you are receiving disability income from the Social Security Administration and you are a minor or cannot manage your money, you may be assigned a representative payee. The representative payee, which could be a person or an organization, will receive your check and spend it on your behalf. The payee must spend the money for your benefit, save any unspent money for you, and make reports to the Social Security Administration. Unless they have been appointed as your guardian, the representative payee does not have a power of attorney to conduct legal transactions for you. You can read more about rep payees at

You should always enter any of these relationships with extreme caution.

  • Turning over your financial information will give another person access to your private information-what you’ve bought, where you’ve been.
  • Once you turn over financial decision making power or authority to another person either willingly or as part of a prescribed plan, you may have a very difficult time getting your autonomy back.
  • You should not turn over decision-making power to anyone who could profit by you, such as a landlord who owns the place you rent or a doctor who is in charge of arranging appointments. No matter how much you trust those people, it places you and them in a challenging situation.
  • If someone spends your money on something you don’t want, you may have a hard time proving that fact.



Setting up a lifestyle and plan that works for you is crucial to your long-term well being.

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  1. Eric July 14, 2017 8:27 pm

    I found this just okay, mental health and money management made me think of other things. And many things mentioned I have no use for and don’t see working for my own mental health situation. I have never had a problem spending too much it was always about the getting of the money.
    I often turned to drinking to deal with my own problem which meant I wouldn’t show up to keep a job either. These methods sound more for a compulsive shopper addicted to not caring about money.
    My question for you is what will keep me on track besides not drinking to keep the money I earn and succeed?

    • Laurel July 14, 2017 8:35 pm

      Thank you for your response, and I will work on editing this article to include more information which might be of use to you. I can only speak of my own experience with mental health which does not relate to addiction or not showing up to a job. However, I did mention being accountable to a family member or friend, which seems like it would be a useful tool for anyone who has trouble keeping a job. In addition, creating passive income and savings that build over time would be good solutions for a person struggling with showing up to work or keeping their paycheck, as there would still be money coming in to pay for rent and bills. I mentioned various ways to make passive income as well as ways to automate savings.

  2. Charlie July 14, 2017 8:55 pm

    Your post is so dead on! I feel like somedays I am on the brink of depression, always worrying about my credit card debt, rent, and other bills. Week after week, month after monther, year after year, sometimes it feels like there’s no hope! They say money can’t buy happiness, but tell that to someone living on the streets. People with money only say things like that. I will definitely have to check out some of the programs you have recommended. Every little bit can help!

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