Letting Go of Financial Embarassment

So Todd and I have been doing this whole budgeting thing for nearly three months now, and it’s been going really well. Our system of using cash for variable expenses has been working. We’re paying off our bills. We’re sticking to the budget. We’re building our savings. We’re more aware of our financial choices and are focused on making smarter ones. By all accounts, all is going pretty darn good.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout this whole thing is that there is a certain amount of embarrassment attached to financial matters. Not just mine, but for other people as well. I’ve quickly learned, however, that this embarrassment is simply something that one has to shove to the side if you’re going to be successful at this budgeting/financial responsibility game.

I admit that when we first started using the cash system I felt a little bit embarrassed when I counted out my money at the cash register, particularly when I was spending a larger amount of money, like at the grocery store. I mean — cash? Seriously? WHO USES CASH ANYMORE??? I’m sure I saw a cashier or two roll her eyes as I dug around in my bag looking for change. Cash is just so…90s, isn’t it? I mean…plastic is totally where it’s at.

Except plastic is the reason why there are a lot of people in financial trouble, and certainly one of the reasons why Todd and I needed to make some major adjustments. So I’ve been working hard to let go of that embarrassment. I mean, shouldn’t it be MORE embarrassing to pay for a pack of gum with a credit card than cold, hard cash?

It all came to a head for me over the Christmas holidays. For New Year’s Eve, Todd and I planned a board game and home made sushi night with our three girls. I’d budgeted for the sushi supplies and we hit up the grocery store. The only thing we couldn’t get at our chosen store was smoked salmon…everyone’s favourite sushi ingredient.

We decided to head to a different store to see if we could get what we needed. I mentally noted that I only had 8-ish dollars left in my grocery budget. Of course, we had other money, it’s not like it was our last $8.00 in the world, but I’m committed to this whole sticking within my budget thing, dang it. Of course, truth be told, I was perfectly willing to go over budget and chip in some of my own personal spending money for this sushi venture; after all, it was a special occasion.

So without paying much attention to the price of the smoked salmon, I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the cash register.

Imagine how tickled I was to discover that the salmon came to exactly $7.99! And then I remembered — sure, I’ve got the exact amount I need, but it’s all in change. Small change at that. I pulled my handful of change out of my bag and started counting, albeit with some discomfort. Todd and I often joke around a lot when we’re waiting in lineups and such, and this was no exception. While I kept counting, he feigned impatience, cracking jokes in an attempt to embarrass me. I noticed that the gentleman waiting in line behind us was showing some signs of true impatience. I cringed inside more than a teensy bit.

As I finished counting the very last of my change, equaling precisely $8.00, I turned to the somewhat grouchy gentleman behind me, giggled, and said “Exact change! It was meant to be.” Todd and I skipped off, laughing together at how this random guy likely thought this crazy chick was spending the very last of all of her money on smoked salmon, of all things.

Financial embarrassment? Ain’t nobody got time for that.






I’d love to hear if anyone else out there have experienced any moments of financial embarrassment, and if so, what you’ve done to move past them.

Until next time,



6 thoughts on “Letting Go of Financial Embarassment

  1. Here’s one for you… When we were pushing to pay off our house we dropped cable. The cleaning man came into my husband’s nice office with a fancy desk and windows and said “Catching the big game this weekend?” To which Mr Fancy Desk had to say “Um, we don’t have cable…”


    • It’s funny how there are certain expectations there about what people are “supposed” to have. I lived a big chunk of my adult life without cable and I can honestly say I didn’t really miss it! It’s interesting the things we sometimes get embarrassed about in our society… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So I am one of those cashless people, it has been over a month since I last handled real money. That being said I always feel embarrassed buying items that are only a dollar or two with credit card. In some cases I just won’t bother, which is good because it is usually a chocolate bar or something, but in most cases I end up buying a couple other items to eliminate the guilt or embarrassment. It is like I have been brainwashed with point rewards and if I don’t use my plastic I am missing out. This Christmas I took it to another level and didn’t step into a single store, instead I was able to purchase my gifts online using the good old credit card, it’s a good thing I married an accountant.


    • I guess there’s embarrassment there on both sides of the coin. Now that you mention it, when I was a cashless person I remember being embarrassed buying something small with my credit card, too, and like you, I’d always grab a few more things just so it didn’t look “so bad”. Personally, though, now that we’re using a cash system for a lot of things, I have to say that we’re spending a lot less and we’re a lot more aware of our purchases…cold hard cash makes it feel a lot more “real”.


  3. It’s so funny – I’ve been contemplating writing a post about financial embarrassment and how it kept me in debt. 🙂

    Through years of depression, I had always felt poor but had managed to keep my debt pretty low. But when I finally decided to do the work to move beyond depression, suddenly my debt skyrocketed. In the space of a couple years, I was suddenly $30,000 in debt.

    There were a number of reasons – spending the time on doing my internal work to get better meant that I didn’t have the normal amount of time to go scrounge up extra income.
    During the worst of my depression, I moved back in with my mom and didn’t have to pay rent. One of the steps of moving into a better head space was moving into my own apartment and suddenly having to come up with an extra $600 a month.
    But the biggest expense was the program I chose to actually move through my shit. It was an intensive two-year program that required tuition, monthly airfare, hotel rooms, meals, and car rentals. It was, all told, about $10,000 a year.

    When I looked at the debt as $30,000, it seemed totally insurmountable. I’d finally gotten my head on straight, but I was drowning in debt and felt like a failure. I couldn’t seem to make ANY headway in paying it off.

    And then one day I had a really scary conversation with the man I was dating about exactly how much my debt was. I was afraid he’d reject me and tell me that I was too irresponsible to be in a relationship. Instead he said, “That debt saved your life. It made you into the woman I love today. I’m grateful for that debt.”

    And in that moment, everything shifted internally. I started to look at the debt the way he did – it was the money that had saved my life.

    And within a few months, everything shifted externally. Suddenly I found freelance jobs that paid well. I started keeping a really strict budget and discovered that I could pay off more each month than I had imagined. Within 18 months, I had paid off $20,000.

    There’s still about $8000 left. Things have stalled in the pay-down department over the last year as my family has been dealing with health issues that have taken my attention. But even in the face of publishing a new book and getting a new car, I haven’t incurred any new debt.

    It was all in the embarrassment and fear – as long as I was afraid to look at the specific numbers, I couldn’t make a dent in it. And as long as I thought of myself as a failure and irresponsible, there was no getting out from under what I had created. But as soon as I saw my financial situation as a side note of the most important thing I’d ever done, it no longer felt like a noose around my neck.

    So there’s my blog post, which I may or may not resurrect from this comment onto my blog at some point. 🙂


  4. Pingback: Letting go of financial embarrassment | Leah Carey

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