People with bipolar disorder struggle to manage their life, let alone their finances. Over 70% of them have reported impulsive spending during their mood episodes. They are also highly likely to face gambling problems & debt issues. The post-spending guilt can worsen depression. Moreover, the financial stress can impact the quality of life, making the mood episodes even more chronic. Hence, taking active protective measures for your finance as a person with bipolar disorder is extremely important.
To protect yourself and your future, here are some easy tips to control your financial independence.
Be self aware
Introspection: to know more about yourself, is the first step. Being aware of your personal habits & current financial situation is highly vital.
Regularly be updated about your current financial situation: the assets (including money in bank) and the liabilities (including credit card debt, loan balances, and so on).
Use money tracking apps such as Mint to get an overview of your actual spendings vs. planned budget.
Know your triggers. When do you get the urge to spend unwisely? Triggers are different for everyone. Knowing your trigger can help you recognise when you might be about to make an impulsive purchase.
Learn what kinds of purchases make you feel guilty after shopping and steer clear of them in the future.
Money management habits
Next step would be to plan and employ good money management habits. We all know it's not easy to control impulses. That is why placing protection measures is useful.
Spend time and efforts planning your budget, your savings plan, your emergency funds plan, and your retirement funds plan.
Place emergency protection plans on your cards. For example, consider lowering the spending limit on the debit cards and withdraw less cash every month.
Place personal price controls. For example, if the object you want to buy is over $20, don't buy it instantly. Come back the next day if you are still thinking about it.
Make credit less accessible. For example, freeze the credit card in water. This way you will get time to control your impulse while the ice block melts.
Remove all overdraft options. Forcing yourself to live on available cash can be the way out of debt cycle.
Don't ignore your bills. It is quite normal to forget to pay your bills during depression or mania phase. By setting up automatic bill payment (auto-debit) from your bank account, you can avoid this. In this manner, your monthly checklist will contain fewer items.
While investing in stock market or cryptocurrency, or while gambling, avoid ‘chasing’ losses. Attempting to recover earlier losses deepens the gambling cycle and debt.
In a digital world, it's easy to spend a lot of money in a short amount of time. But I'm looking to take some precautions to reduce the risk of spending outside my means should I have another manic episode. - Ryan Wangman, Finance journalist with bipolar disorder, 2021.
Leverage your friends & family
It's crucial to communicate your thoughts, feelings, and plans with people you can trust. At times they are the only source of your positive emotions.
Share your finance problems & strategy with your family. They can help you protect yourself from worsening your financial position. They are also the ones who will help you in the time of need.
Keep a trusted person who has ability to authorize transactions. This person should safeguard your savings for your best interests.
It is extremely vital that the person who you confide to and give access to your savings is trusted. Bipolar disorder is often accompanied with poor judgement and hence you should not hasten with this process. Spend some time selecting the person you will entrust with your money.
Poor judgment can also be ruinous. Actress Patty Duke and writer Patricia Cornwall are two successful celebrities with bipolar disorder who have both lost large sums of money because of “business managers” no rational person would have ever engaged or trusted. - Sarah Freeman, 2019.
Access the government aid
You should also be aware about the legal rights, benefits, and support you are eligible to receive.
You are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you cannot work due to your mood episodes.
You can also apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you are unable to work after 28 weeks of leave.
Such time off from work cannot be recorded as 'absence from work' by your employer.
Legally, your employer cannot select you for redundancy just because you have bipolar disorder.
Even a person without bipolar disorder finds it challenging to manage their personal finances. Nobody anticipates you to become an expert on it quickly. It is better to have some control over spending temptations than none at all. Even if you resist impulsively spending that $1, you have already gained some control over your mood episode.
I’ve come to the conclusion that every day is different. I’m accepting that some days will be bad. But I have to remind myself that the next day can always be better. One of the biggest delusions of depression is that you’ve always felt this way and that you will always feel this way. It robs you of the insight that things can and will be different, better. - Melody Moezzi, 2020.
So, the next time you resist an impulsive spend, pat your back. Good personal finance management is a fruit of practice. Practice will make you better at it. Practice will make your future better. So do not give up if one day goes awry, the next day will be better.