A young person stands alone feeling left out by three friends standing together.

A guide for young people Money and mental health

Money and finances can impact our mental health in lots of ways, and struggling with our mental health can impact our ability to look after our money. This can feel stressful and overwhelming, but help is available. Find out more about what you can do if you are struggling with money and your mental health.

Money can be a really tricky subject. It’s something a lot of us spend time thinking about, but it’s not something we tend to talk about a lot in public, which can make you feel like other people aren’t worried about it. But actually, it’s really common to worry about money.

When you feel in control of your money, it can help you to feel more in control of other areas in your life. It might mean that you feel more independent, have the flexibility to do the things you want and aren’t worried about your spending. But money can also be a source of stress if you’re worried about not having enough money or getting into debt.

Many of us will worry a little bit about money now and then. However, if you find that your anxiety about money are becoming overwhelming, it’s important not to keep this to yourself. It might feel hard reaching out for help, but support is available.

It’s also important to recognise that if you’re struggling with money or feeling worried about it, that isn’t your fault. Some people might have more advantages when it comes to money than others, but how much money someone has is not a reflection of their value as a person. Also, some people might need to spend more than others just to live, especially young people with disabilities or long-term illnesses. This can feel incredibly frustrating and unfair.

Whatever your circumstances, if you’re feeling worried about money or your financial situation, you are not alone. There are some things that you can do to look after your mental health.

close-up-of-a-girl-wearing-black-beanie-looking-worried-with-eyes-looking-down
Struggling with money is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Having conversations with people you trust will build a support network going forward.

How can money affect my mental health?

Money can have a big impact on your mood, in lots of ways. When you’re worried about your finances, it can be hard to think about anything else, and it can start to impact other areas of your life.

Young people have told us that the situations below have affected their mental health:

  • being worried about making enough money, now or in the future
  • moving away to university and looking after their money (maybe for the first time)
  • comparing how much money they have to their friends
  • not knowing if they can pay their bills
  • seeing their household or family members struggling financially
  • overthinking how much they are spending and on what
  • getting into debt
  • feeling guilty about spending money on things they enjoy when there are some people who can’t
  • not being able to keep up with friends
  • young people with disabilities having to spend more money than their friends for their basic needs – if this is something that affects you, Scope have information and advice that can really help

72% of young people
told us they are ‘often’ or ‘always’ worried about money, as part of our Big Young People's Survey in 2021.

Tips if you need urgent help with your finances

If you are struggling to pay bills and unsure about things like housing or buying essentials, this can be incredibly stressful. You may feel like you’re all alone, but you’re not – help is available, and there are people and organisations who can support you.

  • If you're struggling to afford food, find your local food bank

    The Trussell Trust has information on how to find your local foodbank, how to get a food parcel and what to expect from visiting a foodbank. FairShare can also link you up with one of their regional food centres, which can provide you with food based on your needs.

  • If you're worried about housing, speak to Shelter

    The housing charity Shelter have lots of information and advice that can help if you’re worried about housing and paying rent.

  • Get help if you can't afford your energy bills

    Ofgem have information and advice about your options if you can’t afford to pay your energy bills.

  • If you're struggling with debt, speak to StepChange

    StepChange are a national debt charity and can help you if you’re worried about debt – see their website for more information.

Campaign for change

  • At YoungMinds, we believe that no young person should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, whether to choose between heating or eating, or where they will sleep that night. We know from speaking to young people that these are real concerns that can have an enormous impact on your physical and mental health.

    If you want to take action to change this, here are some organisations that campaign on these subjects:

    Crisis – Campaigning to end homelessness for good

    Trussell Trust – Campaigning to create a world where nobody needs to rely on food banks

    Child Poverty Action Group – Campaigning to end child poverty

Mental health tips if you're worried about money

  • Talk to someone you trust

    This can feel really difficult and awkward, but most people have been worried about money at one point or another. They might be able to offer you advice that you hadn’t thought of before.

  • Make a list of what's important to you

    Keep this on your phone or written down close to hand so that when you’re feeling stressed it can help to focus on what you want to spend money on.

  • Prioritise the things that make you happy

    Writing down your longer term goals and what you’re working towards with your money can help you realise what’s most important to you.

  • Think about who you follow online

    It can be really helpful to take a look at who you follow online. Sometimes, you might see people on your feed buying lots of new things, doing ‘hauls’ and showing off their successes. This can make you feel worse about your situation, as though you are not “successful” because you aren’t buying these things. If you are feeling like this, try to focus on following accounts that make you feel positive, and remember that not everything you see on social media is real.

  • If your mood affects how you spend money, plan ahead

    Some young people have told us that their mood can affect how they spend money – especially those who experience mania or hypomania. It can be helpful to plan ahead by putting a spending limit on your account if you know that you sometimes struggle to control your spending. Or you can create a plan for what to do if you notice your mood change in a way that might affect how you spend your money – for example, by thinking of helpful distractions or activities you enjoy that you can do for free, or creating a self-soothe box to ground you in those moments.

  • Ask for help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t struggle alone.
    Lynne
  • Putting aside little bits each month into pots with specific goals helps you keep motivated to save.
    Leigh
  • Be open with your friends about wanting to find ways to hang out that don’t cost anything.
    Katrina
  • You’re not alone right now and I hope you find comfort in that.
    Jasmine
Six young people playing table football in a youth club.
Although working a full-time job as a 20-year-old girl, the cost-of-living crisis has seriously affected me. I'm constantly counting down the days until payday, extending my overdraft (on multiple occasions), requesting an advance on my pay and occasionally have a second job on the side just to get by.

If you're struggling, you are not alone. Many people are struggling right now, so my advice would be to reach out to someone you trust and not to suffer in silence.
Sophie

Supporting a friend who is struggling with money

It can be really difficult to know how to support a friend whose mental health is being impacted by money. Money can feel like quite a taboo subject and can be uncomfortable to talk about. It can also be hard to know what you can do to help if you’ve never been in their situation. But even if you don’t know what to say or do, showing your friend that you care and that you’re there for them can go a long way.

Here are some suggestions on how you can let them know you’re supporting them.

  • Being an active listener is important – let them know that you’re there for them and that they can always come to you if they need support.
  • Direct them to places they can get support – it’s important to recognise that you might not always be the best person to help them, especially when it comes to money. But there are lots of organisations out there who can help them, no matter what they’re going through. See the bottom of this page for organisations you can direct them to.
  • Prepare for conversations with them about money – if you’d like to talk to them about what they’re going through, Money Helper has some advice on how to start those conversations.
  • Plan activities where money is not the focus – changing the focus by going for a walk near where they live or hosting a film night at yours, can take some pressure off of them.
  • Look after yourself – it’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to have all of the answers. For more information and advice on supporting a friend, have a look at our guide to supporting a friend with their mental health.

What to do if your family is struggling financially

A mother and daughter cuddling

When families are under financial pressure, it can often lead to anxiety and arguments between family members. You may feel a responsibility to help out in some way, or blame yourself for the situation. But it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault.

This might feel like a really difficult time for your family, and it can be really hard if you feel like you want to help but don’t know how. However, it’s important that you know it’s not your responsibility to fix it.

If worrying about your family’s situation is having a negative impact on your mental health, don’t keep it to yourself. Speak to your family or another person you trust. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.

Reaching out for help

Understanding more about managing money

When it comes to money, we all face different challenges. We know that even if you’re not struggling to pay your bills, money and finances can be a real source of anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious about money, your feelings are valid – whatever your situation. Below are some tips that can help you to feel more in control of your finances:

  • Use budgeting tools to help you manage your money

    There are loads of apps and websites that can help you budget and keep track of how much you’re spending.

  • Try to use cash instead of cards

    If possible, taking out the cash that you have budgeted for a week can make it easier to track your spending. You can try this for specific expenses – e.g. grocery shopping.

  • Find out if you're entitled to any financial support

    There are benefit calculators online that you can use to find out whether you’re entitled to any financial support, like benefits.

A young person in their bedroom looking at their phone.

Places you can go to learn more

Money and finance can sometimes feel very confusing, and not understanding the language can cause anxiety and stress. There might be terms that you haven’t heard of before or wouldn’t use in other areas of your life. This can feel quite isolating and add to the uncertainty around your money.

If you’d like to find out more, or you have any questions about money, the Citizens Advice Bureau has a lot of information on different topics.

You can also visit the below for more specific advice on money:

Where to get help

  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
  • Turn2us

    Helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other help – online, by phone or face-to-face through partner organisations.

    Opening times:
    Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm
  • National Debtline

    Information and advice on managing bills and debt, including debt management plans and council tax arrears. The charity offers template letters to use when contacting lenders and suppliers as well as a free helpline and webchat service.

    0808 808 4000

    Opening times:
    Monday to Friday 9am - 8pm; Saturday 9:30am - 1pm
  • Shelter

    Provides information and advice about housing and homelessness. 

    Webchat service available 9am - 5pm on weekdays. 

    Access local support and advice.

    Opening times:
    8am - 8pm on weekdays, 9am - 5pm on weekends

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

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