Clinical Psychotherapist and financial expert share their tips for dealing with pre-payday anxiety
As the cost of living crisis continues, research* carried out by Virgin Money Link opens in a new window finds that more than half of working Brits (54%) suffer from anxiety in the week before payday. Of those, a fifth (20%) stated that they always feel anxious in the week before payday.
Alina Jaffer, financial expert at Virgin Money and Clinical Psychotherapist, Dr Jo Gee Link opens in a new window a specialist in anxiety and stress management, explain the phenomenon of ‘pre-payday anxiety’, revealing six ways you might be making yourself feel worse in the run-up to payday and share tips for how to deal with pre-payday anxiety.
What is pre-payday anxiety?
Pre-payday anxiety relates to feelings of stress, nervousness and worry, which are triggered in the run-up to payday.
Dr Jo Gee adds: “We often notice our clients have increased anxiety in the seven days before payday, which can range from mild ‘worry thoughts’, to money fear and even paranoia. The anticipation of payday is enough to pump adrenaline into the bloodstream, which is responsible for many of our anxiety symptoms, such as increased heart rate and feeling jittery.”
According to Virgin Money’s research, more women feel that they struggle financially in the week before payday (66%) compared to men (57%). Out of the survey respondents, 25-34-year-olds felt most affected by pre-payday anxiety with three quarters (75%) saying they struggle financially the week before payday.
The research also reveals the spending habits of working Brits in the first two weeks after being paid compared to spending in the week prior to payday. In the two weeks after being paid, four in 10 Brits are spending £501-£1,000+, a significant proportion of their income given the median monthly wage of Brits is £2,0612. However, in the final week before payday, spending is drastically lower, with the same number (four in 10) of Brits spending just £1-£100 as they wait for their next pay-slip. Men spend more than women in the week ahead of payday, spending an average of £268 pounds compared to £175.
Grace Hall, a 23-year-old marketing exec living in London, struggles with pre-payday anxiety monthly. She says: “It’s nearly always a stretch to make it to payday without using my overdraft. This gets worse when my friends get paid on the last Friday of the month, while I get paid on the last working day. Everyone else's big post-payday weekend is when I’m struggling most but don’t want to miss out.
“I sometimes feel embarrassed to decline activities because I don’t have the money and, when I am the only one saying no, I wonder if it’s just me who is bad with money or if other people keep it quiet. I know I should feel okay being open about these things but it can be hard.
“Lots of people I follow on social media share their big purchases around payday, calling them “payday treats”. This can encourage me to overspend beyond my means because I feel like I should be able to splurge in the same way, when really I should be budgeting from the start of the month to reduce the chance of my struggling later down the line.”
Six habits that could be making your pre-payday anxiety worse
1. Social media scrolling
While a complete social media ban is unattainable for many of us, taking a different approach to how you use your apps can help us get over the dreaded FOMO.
Dr Jo advises: “To manage pre-payday anxiety, we always suggest a social media break. Being bombarded by adverts of what we want, as well as comparing ourselves to peers, can trigger anxious feelings. In the days leading up to payday, try stepping back from social media and refocus on less triggering activities.”
2. Avoiding your bank balance
It’s not uncommon to bury your head in the sand and avoid facing how much money you might have spent last week, but that’s a stress-inducing activity in itself. Logging onto your banking apps regularly eliminates the fear of facing a week's worth of spending sins.
Alina comments: “Taking five or ten minutes every few days to check your bank balance is a simple yet effective way to keep track of your spending while diminishing the fear associated with the amount of money in your account. It’s worth checking every few days so that you’re able to spot any unusual transactions or mischarges too.”
3. Focusing on the bad
The seven days leading up to payday are found to be stressful and can leave us in fight or flight mode. Switching your mindset to set yourself positive challenges for that final week of the month could actually leave you excited. Perhaps you might plan a treat for after payday too.
Dr Jo says: “Once we understand our triggers, we can better manage them, so we often ask our clients to mark seven days before payday on their calendar. People might panic if they sense a feeling of anxiety that they don’t understand, so this awareness can help people accept they might be feeling a short period of increased anxiety.
“Physiologically, excitement and anxiety are almost identical. Studies have shown that when we reappraise anxiety as excitement, we step out of the threat mindset and into the opportunity mindset, which helps us focus on the opportunities that payday might bring.”
4. Ignoring your budget
Budgeting isn’t something you necessarily want to do in the last week before payday. However, this is often the most crucial period.
Alina notes: “Admittedly budgeting isn’t the most exciting activity, but it can transform the way you spend and the health of your current account, helping you to be prepared instead of panicked.
“Set aside an afternoon to go through recent bank statements, household bills, savings and pension contributions. Having an overview of all of these documents will put you in the best position to spend smart without having to find the extra cash for forgotten financial commitments.”
5. Punishing yourself
It can be easy to fall into a spiral of negative feelings towards yourself in that last week before payday, punishing your body and mind by not looking after yourself properly. Pre-payday anxiety doesn’t have to follow you around though, physical distractions and other mindfulness techniques can help rationalise how you’re feeling about your finances.
Dr Jo comments: “Taking a ‘vacation’ from our thoughts can really break the anxiety cycle. The goal is to say no to the anxious thoughts and to step out of the worry for a period of time.
“The best thing about this skill is you can do this in many ways, from simply taking a five-minute breather to focus on your breath, to boxing your worry and placing it on the shelf in your mind for the day.“
6. Thinking you’re alone in your money worries
No one is alone in their money worries. In fact, the research suggests the majority of us feel the same way. So, before branding yourself ‘bad with money’ and falling into a self-fulfilling prophecy, make some small changes to your spending habits and stop punishing yourself.
Alina says: “In the current climate, regularly checking in on your current account and your finances can be daunting but it’s important to remember that it’s not unusual to find yourself feeling anxious or weighed down by money worries, as our research has found.
“Instead of punishing yourself for any financial mishaps, focus on financial recovery and remember you can always seek professional advice if you’re not sure how to start. There are several financial advice services available, whether you’re looking for guidance on managing debt, creating a budget, claiming benefits or any other money concerns. For example, Money Helper Link opens in a new window provide free and impartial advice via phone, live chat and WhatsApp if you’re a Virgin Money customer.”
For more guidance and expert advice on fighting financial fears, visit: Virgin Money Brighter Money – fight financial fear and get control of your current account. Link opens in a new window