It’s easy to get swept up in the pressure to do it all. We catch that infectious 'busy’ mentality – and so many of us (subconsciously or not) associate productivity and busyness with self-worth.

With so much effort spent trying to keep up with the pace of life and exceedingly high expectations of ourselves and those around us ­– it’s no surprise that burnout is on the rise. One study suggests that close to two-thirds of New Zealanders are experiencing symptoms.

Burnout can affect every aspect of our lives – it manifests as stress, distraction, exhaustion and can even negatively affect our decisions with money. We get busy and end up spending money on quick fixes.

Even before COVID-19, this was a common issue. But now more than ever, people are feeling the effects of stress – juggling high expectations with work and family in a global pandemic.

How stress and burnout affects our money

Day to day, life feels full, so we spend on quick fixes

We’re running late so we jump in an Uber instead of taking the bus. We pick up a takeaway for lunch because we haven’t been to the supermarket let alone had time to make something. We’re busy so we’re tired so we order a coffee over the road, for the second time today. We order a pizza for dinner because we’re working through or we’ve got commitments to attend to, people to support.

Last week I slept in and ended up having to buy breakfast, coffee and lunch at work instead of preparing it all at home. What would've cost me $5 at home ended up costing me $20.

Thoughts of next week are difficult, let alone next year, so we lose track of costs

We don’t have time to notice we’re not using that subscription. We don’t check other options for our car insurance so after a premium hike those payments keep coming out.

We don’t have time to read a book or exercise or look at the sky, so we shop for a quick thrill, spend loads on a gym membership without stepping in there after the first week, and scroll until our eyes close because it’s already dark outside.

There’s no time to plan the future because today we’re running on empty, and our money continues to leak down the drain without us even knowing where it goes.

I recently realised I was still paying for a Netflix subscription even though I always use my flatmate's – that's $200 a year I was effectively burning.

Yet when it comes to money worries, you’re not alone

If any of these situations feels close to home, you’re not alone. Life today feels fast, and the demands on our time and energy are many and varied. And they all affect our financial wellbeing on a conscious and subconscious level.

Ways to manage money while coping with burnout

It’s a horrible cycle – we feel burnt out so we overspend, we overspend so we feel stressed, we feel stressed so we get more burned out. There’s a lot to be done to work through the burnout, but let’s start by taking care of managing our money.

Too much retail therapy?

I know sometimes I just stop thinking. Even if I have that moment of, ‘Wait, should I buy this?’ it’s quickly dismissed with competing thoughts of ‘I don’t have the time or energy’, ‘This is the easiest decision’, ‘This is what I work for’, ‘I deserve it’ and all those ‘Whatevs’.

Here’s a solution: factor some spending money into your budget, an amount that you can spend each week or month on whatever you feel like. When those busy days or accidental sleep-ins inevitably happen, you can get that takeaway coffee or buy your lunch at work. Budgeting isn’t just for bills.

Turning to takeaways

If there’s nothing easy in the cupboard, I’ll call for takeaways, even though it takes longer, costs more and I hate the wasteful packaging.

Here’s a solution: have go-to recipes that require only canned or frozen ingredients that you can always have on hand. For me, that’s a stash of canned beans that I can turn into a great southern style situation. If I’ve managed to do a grocery shop that week, I add a couple of tomatoes and in-season fried veges (currently on the zucchini/eggplant vibe).

When it affects our relationships

It can be so hard to talk to a partner about money. Especially when we’re struggling, or when we know they are.

Here’s a solution: this might take practise, but getting on the same page with our people can have a huge impact on our financial wellbeing. Here are some tips for talking about money to help you get started.

If you don’t have a partner or just want to talk things through with someone else, find someone you trust who you can talk to about money plans. Share the motivation, the challenges and the successes!

What if we’re really stressing about money?

Maybe our credit cards are maxed or we have a few too many purchases on pay-later options like Afterpay or Laybuy. At that point, we probably don’t even want to think about money, especially if we’re struggling to keep up with the minimum payments. It can feel insurmountable.

Here’s a solution: if you’re struggling with debt or making ends meet, get in touch with the good people at MoneyTalks. They offer free, confidential (and even anonymous) mentoring and support to help you get on top of your money.

What can we do to overcome burnout?

Even if we’ve managed to get our money under control, it’s important to invest in our wellbeing to recover from burnout, and to try and prevent it in the future.  

We can’t do it all. It’s easier said than done, but sometimes we need to ask for help. It doesn’t matter if that’s from a partner, our kids, a parent, a friend or a professional.

Take a look at All Right? for free resources on mental health and wellbeing. And Lifeline is available 24/7 for free, confidential support. Reach out on 0800 LIFELINE.


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