9 Stress-Reducing Truths About Money


“Money won’t make you happy, but everybody wants to find out for themselves.” —Zig Ziglar

According to a recent survey, 71% of Americans identify money as a significant cause of stress in their lives. Of course, America is not alone in this regard.

Looking inside the numbers, we get a glimpse as to why the percentage is so high: 76% of households live paycheck-to-paycheck and credit card debt continues to grow. No doubt, these statistics contribute to the problem.

But money-related stress is not entirely a matter of simple dollars and numbers. When 71% of respondents cite money as a cause, the problem clearly extends across socio-economonic classes. Money-related stress is not just about a shortage of dollars. It is more than that.

Instead, the stress stems from the way we think about and interact with money and the solution is not as simple as “just add more.” This may mask the symptoms temporarily, but the anxiety always returns.

Instead, the solution may be as simple (and as difficult) as changing the way we think about money entirely.

If you struggle with financial-related stress, begin thinking different about money by adopting a few of these stress-reducing thoughts. They have each worked for me.

9 Stress-Reducing Truths About Money

1. You need less than you think. Most of the things we think we can’t live without are considered luxuries to most of the world—or even our grandparents. Think: cell phones, microwaves, cars, matching shoes, larger closets, just to name a few. The commercialization of our society has worked hard to stir discontent in our hearts. They have won. They have caused us to redefine their factory-produced items as legitimate needs. And have caused great stress in our lives because of it. Meanwhile, there are wonderful benefits for those who choose to own less.

2. Money won’t make you happy. It is simply an illusion that money will bring you happiness—study after study confirms it, so does experience. Some of the most joyful people I know are far from wealthy and some of the wealthiest people I know are far from joy. Now, certainly, there is a measure of stability and security that arises from having our most basic financial needs met. But we need so much less than we think we need. And the sooner we stop assuming more money will make us happy tomorrow, the sooner we can start finding happiness today.

3. Money is not the greatest goal of your work. Financial compensation does not succeed as a long-term motivator and the association between salary and job satisfaction is routinely shown to be very weak. In other words, a larger paycheck will not improve your satisfaction at work. There is a significant amount of work-related stress that can be removed by simply deciding to be content with your pay (assuming it is fair). Don’t work for the paycheck alone. Work for the sake of contribution and benefit to others. This approach is idealistic, but it is also fulfilling and stress-reducing.

4. Wealth has its own troubles. There are troubles associated with poverty, few of us would debate that fact. But there are also troubles associated with wealth. Unfortunately, we give little thought to them. As a result, we think the presence of money is always good, always a blessing. And we desire it. But money brings troubles of its own: it clouds moral judgement, it distorts empathy, it promotes pride and arrogance, it can become an addiction. Fears of the wealthy include isolation, anxiety, and raising well-adjusted children. In other words, if you are thinking money will solve your troubles, you are mistaken. And once we change our thinking on this, we can stop searching for answers in the wrong places.

5. The desire for riches robs us of life. We have heard the love of money is the root of all evil. But often times, the mere desire for more of it robs us of life as well. The desire for money consumes our time, wastes our energy, compromises our values, and limits our potential. It is wise to remove its desire from our affections. This would reduce our stress. But even better, it would allow true life-giving pursuits to emerge.

6. Boundaries are life-giving. Orson Welles once said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” I agree. And the enemy of life is the absence of boundaries. Whether they be social, financial, or moral, boundaries provide structure and a framework for life. They promote discovery, invention, and ingenuity. Boundaries motivate us to discover happiness in our present circumstance. This is one reason a personal spending plan (budget) is such a helpful tool—the financial boundary forms a helpful framework for life. It allows us to recognize we don’t have to spend more money than we earn to be happy. There is no joy in living beyond your means—only stress. Live within the boundaries of your income. And find more life because of it.

7. There is joy in giving money away. Generosity has wonderful benefits. Generous people are happier, healthier, more admired, more satisfied with life, and have deeper relationships with others. Their lives are filled with less stress. It is important to change our thinking on this topic. One of the most stress-reducing things you can ever do with your money is give some of it away. And generosity is completely achievable today regardless of our current situation.

8. The security found in money/possessions is fleeting at best. Too many of us believe security can be adequately found in possessions. As a result, many of us pursue and collect large stockpiles of possessions in the name of security or happiness. We work long hours to purchase them. We build bigger houses to store them. We spend large amounts of energy maintaining them. The burden of accumulating and maintaining slowly becomes the main focus of our lives. Meanwhile, we lose community, freedom, happiness, and passion. We exchange some of the most basic elements of life for mere possessions. Our search for security and life and joy is essential to being human—we just need to start looking for it in the right places.

9. Money, at its core, is only a tool. At its heart, money is nothing more than a tool to expedite trade. It saves us from making our own clothes, tools, and furniture. Because of money, I spend my days doing what I love and am good at. In exchange, I receive money to trade with someone else who uses their giftedness to create something different than me. That’s it. That is its purpose. And if we have enough to meet our needs, we shouldn’t live in stress trying desperately to acquire more.

Stress has some terrible affects on our bodies. It results in irratability, fatigue, and nervousness. Unfortunately, money consistently ranks as one of the greatest causes of it. But that doesn’t need to be true of us.

Let’s change the way we think about money. And start to enjoy our lives a little more instead. (tweet that)

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Throughout the years, I’ve found that money in general, whether the abundance of or the greediness of it is the case – it only takes my mind off of things that truly matter matter to me, like my perception is smudged and I can’t keep my priorities in perspective. Oddly enough, money has never really been an important priority in my life.
    I especially agree with the eight point. Sure we always need more money, but the false sense of security it provides is awfully misleading on so many levels.
    Thank you for sharing this, I really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Natalie says

    Great article! I agree with the points you made here. While I’m good at a few of them, I still have a ways to go.

    I really enjoy this blog. It’s inspiring.


      • Chleir Hajo says

        There are troubles associated with poverty, few of us would debate that fact. But there are also troubles associated with wealth. Unfortunately, we give little thought to them. As a result, we think the presence of money is always good, always a blessing. And we desire it. But money brings troubles of its own: it clouds moral judgement, it distorts empathy, it promotes pride (Y) and arrogance, it can become an addiction. Fears of the wealthy include isolation, anxiety, and raising well-adjusted children. In other words, if you are thinking money will solve your troubles, you are mistaken. And once we change our thinking on this, we can stop searching for answers in the wrong places.

  3. Alexandre says

    Thank you for helping me change my perspective. Greatly appreciated!
    ”It is wise to remove its desire from our affections. This would reduce our stress. But even better, it would allow true life-giving pursuits to emerge.”

  4. says

    You are just too right! I was just as engrossed in the life of consumerism until a few months ago. Then…I started reading your blog and Zen Habits and “saw the light!” I am now on my own journey towards living a minimalist lifestyle and we just started using many of these concepts you listed above to work on our past horrible spending habits.

    Thanks for all the wonderful advice and sharing your knowledge!

  5. says

    Very inspiring!
    It’s not very easy to stop caring for money. Because you suddenly start to think about health insurances, electricity bills, rents etc. But after a while you realize that you don’t need that car or that shoes which cost way too expensive. In the daily life one might forget this, so these kind of readings are really helpful.
    Thank you.

  6. orswell says

    woow…l dats amazing. u ve really changed somtin abt me. i always tink dat when some has money then das all and natin really matters but i been wrong all along.thanks for the good news.

  7. Ryan says

    Yes its all true. But what about when kids need to go to college, or what if you need to do IVF treatments just to have a baby. Fertility treatments aren’t covered by insurance and can be very costly.
    What about all those major things in life that do require large amounts of cash that you could really only acquire by working hard and being a slave to money?

    What perspective should we have on achieving these things given that all of these things about money are true?

    • joshua becker says

      My parents didn’t have any money when I went off to college. I chose a less expensive, in-state college, worked really hard, and paid for it myself. These things are possible and done all the time—just my experience.

      And certainly, I don’t know enough to speak thoughts about fertility treatments into specific situations. But I do know there are over 400,000 children in the United States alone in the foster care system looking for loving parents. Just a thought.

      Nobody needs to live as a slave to money.

          • lke says

            adoption from foster care is completely free. AND some states will pay a stipend to assist low-income (loving) families to adopt

      • everlearning says

        I think the key here (for me) is #6: Boundaries. We often think that if a thing is available and others have it/do it, then we should be able to have it/do it as well. In MY life (this is not meant to point a finger at Ryan) a lot of this comes down to comparing my life with others, and that is one of the things that causes us to spend money on things and experiences we cannot afford. There is also the problem of believing we deserve to live like everyone around us (or the people we see on TV, movies, commercials, etc.) and we deserve to buy and experience all that’s out there. How many commercials/ads have we seen that tell us we deserve to buy it/own it/experience it? Great marketing tool, but so very destructive if we believe it. Living within our means (boundaries) is essential to not being a slave to money. It takes courage and determination at first, and then it is easy (in my experience). Once I am clear about what I need and don’t need and how much money I can spend on something, that becomes my limit. So I don’t shop for things that are out of my financial boundaries (college, car, home, clothes, vacations, TVs, electronics, etc.). The beautiful irony here which is so often misunderstood or simply ignored is that boundaries in all areas of life create freedom.

        • says

          Well-put, everlearning. I agree about boundaries. For some reason, boundaries have been classified as a bad thing for the new generations – we want to be free. And freedom/independence/uniqueness all are the opposite of boundaries in our books. But, if you analyze deeper as you have, you will realize that boundaries actually create more freedoms for you. For example, the boundaries I created in my life before we left for our 1 year adventure, helped me save up enough money that I do not have to dip too deeply into my savings in order to pay for the trip. It has created the opportunity for freedom in my life. Thanks for your reply.

      • E says

        Nice thought, but I had an ex who stole tens of thousands of dollars from me that I now have to pay back. I’m definitely a slave to money, sadly.

    • Mishi says

      I understand this statement more than others might – I have fertility problems and recently got married to someone that definitely wants children. The choice to adopt/get IVF treatments/whatever is a very personal one and the pros/cons and costs for each are different and yes, the costs are very high for each. However, the desire for children isn’t an innate drive for money – it is a drive to have a family and ensure they have a great education and are set up to have a happy and fulfilling life. Some of this desire will take some money, and some of it will take effort (liiiike, teaching children that money doesn’t make you happy).

      Perhaps the better way to think of this is in the trade offs associated with the money involved with raising and educating a family – “If I want to pay for IVF/my kid’s college/whatever, I need at least $X. How can I cut back spending in other areas to meet this goal in ___ months/years?”

      For us, the easiest place to cut back first was our food budget – less restaurant outings, fast food and otherwise, (down from once/week to once/month), more food cooked/prepped at home (i.e. less “ready to go” freezer/processed meals purchased at the store). Then we took a look at our utility bills – just making a few small changes to how we set our thermostat, what temperature we set our water heater at, how frequently we flush the toilet, and what times of day we run certain appliances saves us several hundred dollars/year. This list of small changes goes on and the savings keep adding up. Right now, the savings are split between “goal/emergency” savings accounts and paying off other debt (i.e. making larger payments than necessarry to get rid of the burden faster). Overall, we are making loads of progress and neither me or my husband feel like slaves. There’s something very liberating about learning how to make great food from scratch and subsequently crossing debt accounts off the list while watching our savings accounts grow.

      For you, the trade offs might be something else, but with each dollar spent, think about the opportunity costs – “What will I not be able to do with this money once I spend it on *this*? And is *this* essential, or is my other desire/want/need (IVF, tuition, etc) more important? And, if *this* is essential, is there a reasonable, less costly alternative?”

  8. says

    Coming from a poor immigrant family, I was always prodded to make more money and save. My parents having lived in poverty all their lives always worry about money and want to ensure we never have to experience poverty in our lives. I understand where they are coming from and I still try to follow the tenets of minimalism, travel, yoga and living my life the way I want on my terms with as little as possible. They don’t like it very much, but I’m happy and that counts.

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I am learning that the points you make are valid truths that I only wish I had learned many, many years ago. It’s never too late as I am now learning but the benefit is that now I can pass these truths to my children so that they will not become enslaved to consumerism as I did for so many years.

  10. says

    hi Josh, great blog, great points about money. i was blessed by marrying a saver-not-spender wife. she changed my life. i was a spender. now, 16 years later, we paid off student loans, paid down our home mortgage principal (as much as we decided to and invested the rest). While the kids were little, my wife could work part time. we’re blessed to have conquered debt and live mostly money-stress free. after paying off all the debt we had, i almost fell into the traps of the wealthy that you mentioned. i was worried about making more, and protecting it and not spoiling my kids. i agree with all our points. money is a blessing and a tool. while we have it, we use it wisely and bless others with how we use it. we don’t obsess about it any more. i talk openly with the kids (tweens now) about it so they have a healthy view on it too.
    thanks for sharing. if you don’t mind, i’ll re-share your thoughts on my blog and send my peeps your direction. thanks, joe.

  11. Reynaldo J. Herrera says

    I ‘m 84 years old and have ” the American Dream ” in my hip pocket. I should be happy, but I feel like something is missing ? It’s the pr ads I am exposed to whenever I turn on TV. The minimalist list has just given me the answer! I will let you know in next reply .

    • Jazzy says

      maybe what’s missing is “charity” – or giving to others. Perhaps you need to devote some of your time to driving people to their cancer treatments or working at a foodbank or hospice shelter – perhaps volunteer at the local thrift shop or Salvation Army or Meals on Wheels.
      Its only in giving to others that we actually give to ourselves….it keeps close to us the idea of how lucky we are to have all our needs met and to be so wealthy that we can share our time to those less fortunate.

  12. says

    Great article! I particularly enjoy point number 9 about money being purely a tool as I think that this is often forgotten. Past generations traded in pigs, we trade in dollars and cents. Amazing how much misery and unhappiness stems from not remembering this simple fact!

  13. Cynthia Cairns says

    What a great read. If only every person was taught these 10 things in school. If these thoughts and realities were instilled in us, could you imagine how different life would be.

  14. says

    All common sense notions of what money is and isn’t. Too bad that a majority of the population get sidetracked into thinking that money, and the pursuit of money is the end all of what is supposed to be the dream we all strive for. Kudos for pointing out that’s not all what living is all about.


  15. says

    I think true freedom is not having to think about money at all! And this freedom is not influenced by how wealthy we are, but rather by our attitude…
    Another inspiring read, thanks for that!

  16. says

    Firstly, I agree with everything written in this blog, and I would love to be able to live my life in this way…but….In the society we have to live in now….money is only important when we don’t have any. I would love to not have to think about money, but I have bills to pay. Yes I could reduce these bills if I changed my life style and go to live in an ashram somewhere….which, sometimes I would like to do….but life is not as easy as that. We have to deal with the life we have and get on with it….and that usually means having to work hard every day to earn just a reasonable standard of living. How do we become free of it?

    • says

      It is really easy to not worry about money when one has enough money to pay essential bills, but what if one earns so little that its difficult to pay even for house rent and food. They simply are forced to live ‘frugally’.

  17. Totoro says

    I came to your site because I my desire to purge even more stuff is leaving me confused for some reason. I wondered if I was actually displaying controlling issues and it wasn’t about minimalism. After reading this I realized it is a little of both. The fact I am going against what society deems as being the norm has left me questioning my actions. I have to accept and embrace the fact I don’t care what the majority of people are doing (including my parents!) and do what I feel is right for me. Thank you for helping me to see this aspect of minimalism. I have been a minimalist for many years, but still learning. Especially about how it is mostly a decluttering of the mind.

  18. says

    During my working days, I always had an addiction for spending – for investments – TFSA, RRSP, non-registered accounts. I just couldn’t spend enough. This excessive spending allowed me to retire at 54. I have since lost the addiction and am now able to enjoy the fruits of my investments without work getting in the way. What a great life!

  19. says

    It’s amazing to think that many of us live far richer than most of the world. In some countries, people are wondering how they will get their next meal. I am grateful to have every need met in abundance. Most of my struggles come from my “wants.”

  20. says

    Minimalism has an affect because of the simplicity it attributes to your life, the less things you have to fix, replace, upgrade or pay off the more time you have to focus on the important things. We tend to view things as good, but if you really look at the time and energy that goes into attaining those things they are rarely worth the money. Great Post! I love living simply! I shared the link on my blog.

    Curtis D


  21. Brett says

    This article could not come at a better time for me. After getting our tax refund, I paid off a loan to my retirement fund. This made the option of another loan available. We decided we needed another vehicle, as we only have one. After stressing and figuring HOW to fit payments and mental juggling, I just let it go!!! I had to pause and ask IF I needed more stuff. I decided to ride my bike to work, take the bus some days. HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. Money does cause trouble!!!!

    Thank you for this article. This confirms what I already figured out.


  22. Flor says

    To me this post makes sense. Just like EVERYTHING in life its all about choice.
    You will know it when you do not need to be a slave to money anymore.
    It’s like spiritual awakening instead of looking at things in 3 dimensions now you see ten dimensions. You will see there is a bigger picture, and nothing will matter anymore.

  23. says

    Great stuff as usual. But one I hadn’t really thought through before is the one about boundaries. You are absolutely correct in that creating and then living by a budget is critical to getting off debt and then living free from the stress–but most of the time we think about boundaries as a limitation rather than an help. When you think about it, a budget (boundary) is more like a nest where you can rest assuredly from outside influences. Thanks for that new thought! ~Kathy

  24. says

    Money won’t make you happy and it doesn’t necessarily make you rich either. A rich and abundant life could come through many different ways with money just being one of them. Doing meaningful work, helping others, living a stress-free life and having quality relationships are different ways to have abundance in our life minus the money.

    I’m all for a healthier approach towards money – putting it in it’s place and not allowing it to be the sole focus of our lives.

  25. Prasad says

    Great article,

    But i would like a little tweak. It is not minimalism but balance which helps you afloat.

    For example, if you try to live in a country like India and you dont have money you life will be rotten.

    You cant imagine the consequences because the sole reason is population and the no. of people who dont have money. Your life will be a extremely uncomfortable ride.

    The air will stink, the clothes will be dirty, mosquitos will leave a little space to scratch, food will greasy and unhygenic, the people will be merciless.

    Minimalism does not work in India or where the population is huge.

  26. says

    I thought point no5 was interesting but a common mis-interpretation of 1Tim 6:10. It is more accurately translated as :

    “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”

    Either way the point you make is still valid! Just thought it was worth mentioning! :)

  27. says

    I view money as a means to accomplish things I want to do in life.
    It does no good to seek money just to be rich. You have to put that money to use to improve your life and help others.
    This is a great list. I am sharing it with my followers @MichaelSaves.

  28. says

    I’m in the same boat you are full-time student in nnrisug school, full-time job, and full-time mommy. Time management works wonders for me. I live by my planner and I make sure to make time just for my son and I (he’s 10 months old), and make time just for myself. In just a couple years you’ll be making plenty of money, so it’s OK to splurge on a once-in-awhile treat for yourself (pedicure, haircut, new outfit, nice dinner, etc.). I feel your pain, and I wish you good luck!

  29. Janet Dickson says

    Love this article. In fact I’d like to use some quotes from it. I’m currently working on a book about Papua New Guinea – the life story of a tribal chief. One of the things that is fascinating me is that it’s so clear that “development” of a nation like this will not work if they are pressed into going down the same pathways as first world nations. The village based society, where people grow their own food and can build their own houses, is much more sound long term than the western type society, which would push people into the cities for jobs that don’t exist. Keep writing!

  30. Susan says

    Thank you for #4 and #7. So often people talk about over-spending but there is a serious illness that involves hoarding money, as well. It can cause pain to family members and close friends beyond belief. It is a form of mental abuse and teaches the people that are involved in the hoarders’ life to believe their own personal value is somehow less than the value of money.

  31. Roger says

    Great article! I have never made much money in my life, so I can relate to wanting more. I was fortunate enough to go into the military and received my education for free. I retired from the Reserves and in a few more months I will have an annuity for life thanks to my sticking with it. The richest person I know also is the most unhappiest person I know. I have come to realize that money does not buy happiness.

  32. Kris says

    Perhaps strangely, I actually enjoy being on a budget, certainly not every minute of every day, but generally I like the feeling being in control. Of looking towards the future and not being terrified. Of being able to generously give when the situation arises. Of knowing what my resources are up to. We actually write down every expenditure . And we live an interesting and content life on $50,000.

  33. PD says

    Hi Josh!

    I totally agree with most of your post, but I wanted to raise a point about one section after having had a bit of a readjustment in my own mindset in regard to money this past year or so.

    You wrote that “money brings troubles of its own: it clouds moral judgement, it distorts empathy, it promotes pride and arrogance, it can become an addiction. Fears of the wealthy include isolation, anxiety, and raising well-adjusted children.”

    In my opinion, “money” doesn’t do any of those things. Just like “calories” don’t make people obese. I see money and food as similar in that way. Food is necessary and (if curated correctly) can be a source of true nourishment — fuel that is not just necessary for survival but a source of replenishment in ways and on levels we don’t even fully understand yet. Of course, high fructose corn syrup, pre-processed junk etc. can become slow poisons to our bodies, even as they pretend to satisfy our hunger.

    By analogy, money is just a tool – a fuel – that need not be viewed as a “necessary evil.” Accumulating it for its own sake can be like gluttony; abusing people or moral goods in its name can certainly lead to all kinds of badness. But on its own, money is just a thing. A tool. A hammer can be used to create beautiful structures, or to hit somebody – doesn’t make the hammer evil.

    And what’s more, money can be used for good. Charities need money. Creative pursuits need money. Travel to experience different cultures, or members of your extended family even, requires money. Doing good, on a larger scale, requires more money, than doing good on a smaller scale.

    For my own self, I have come to believe that disclaiming money altogether as if it were an evil unto itself only empowers those who would misuse it the most, all the more, and is something of an abnegation of responsibility on my part. Money can be a force for good. We just all have to find the kale and pomegranate and quinoa equivalents of its use, and use it to nourish ourselves, our communities, and our world.

    Thank you so much for all your thoughts!

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