What is a money script and how does it affect your finances as a woman?

Your daily life runs on habits.

Do you jump right out of bed, or hit snooze a few times? Brush your teeth before or after breakfast?

A lot of the little things you do in a day are things you’re not generally aware of. Not until someone points it out to you.

It’s these preferences and learned behaviours that move you through the world. And they have a great impact on your life.

Researchers found that this same is true for money.

Your views, attitudes and beliefs around money shape how you approach, talk about, and further your own financial vision.

These unwritten rules that dictate your financial life are known as your money script.

Your money scripts demonstrate your belief system about money and illuminate both good and bad financial habits you’ve developed over the years.

Knowing your money script can empower you to make actual tactical changes to your financial life. 

Just because you fall into one of these scripts doesn’t mean the rest of your life is defined by them.

Understanding your money script can help you make intentional improvements in your financial life.

By employing healthy actions, you can assume a new outlook on how money affects your well being. 

What is a money script?

In 2011, financial psychologist Brad Klontz and his research team published a study in the Journal of Financial Therapy about people’s reactions to money-related statements like, “It’s not polite to talk about money,” or “Things would be better if only I had more money.” 

These statements gauged people’s views and biases about money and how it operates in their lives.

What Klontz and his team found was that people held four different systems of belief, which he called money scripts.

Klontz noted that these beliefs are typically unconscious and likely learned during childhood and adolescence. 

Think back to the way your parents or guardians talked about money: 

  • Did they pinch pennies and maintain a frugal lifestyle?
  • Were they stressed about money?
  • How did they approach the topic of money with you, if at all?
  • Did they have disdain for people with either a lot of or very little money?

These questions help you think critically about money beliefs you’ve been internalising for decades. Subconscious beliefs that are correlated with your behaviour and financial wellness.

Looking at Klontz’s four money scripts can help you understand your financial actions.

1. Money avoidance

Does thinking about, talking about, or managing your money cause stress and anxiety?

Do you envy people with more money?

If so, you may fall into the money avoidance category. 

Money avoidance, Klontz found, is a fascinating paradox: someone can assume money is bad or tainted, but still believe money will solve their problems.

Money avoidance suggests that living without money elevates your moral status, which often leads to self-sabotage, doubt, and unhappiness with your wealth. 

Money avoidance may lead to giving away more money than you have (whether to family, friends, or charities) in an unconscious effort to decrease your worth.

Sticking to this script can also lead to not thinking about money, ignoring financial statements, and struggling to create and follow-through with a budget.

What can you do to fix it?

Money avoiders benefit from:

  • Checking-in on your money.
  • Instead of saving your statements for another day, make today the day you look at your credit card bill. 
  • Throw away the budget not working for you and start from scratch. Use a digital platform or app to track your spending habits.
  • Set regular check-in intervals – i.e. weekly, monthly, or quarterly – to bring added structure to your plan. 

Re-define the role money plays in your life: right now you see money as a negative element.

Re-think that space and list ways money can positively affect your life and others, like reaching your goals, eliminating debt, charitable giving, etc. 

Redefine how you value yourself.

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It’s a course with real talk about money, that includes exercises and journaling prompts to help you completely transform how you think and feel, not just about money, but how you measure your own worth.

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2. Money worship

Do these money statements feel true to you?

  • Money is the key to happiness.
  • Money can solve any problem.
  • There will never be enough money. 

If so, you may fall into the category Klontz calls money worship. 

This mindset leads people to believe that money is the end-goal.

In the quest for accumulating wealth as rapidly as possible, you’re left with an empty void since there will never be “enough” money to meet your ever-changing wants.

You may prioritise work over family and other relationships and overspend to maintain your prized status. 

Money worship takes retail therapy to heart constantly buying new things to bring a sense of happiness, purpose, and meaning.

The problem with money worship is that money can’t buy happiness, and this habit ends up leaving you miserable and in debt. 

What can you do to change it?

Money is a tool that allows you to achieve your goals. Money is the means, not the end.

It’s when money takes centre stage that your goals and dreams fall to the wayside.

Bring your goals into focus.

What do you want out of life? What’s at the top of the list of things you’d like to achieve? What do you value?

Once you figure that out, figure out how money can become a tool for you to achieve those things (not the other way around).

Because when you stop giving money all the focus, you make space for other things to take centre stage.

Give with intention.

Building giving and charitable contributions into your plan can structure your finances to support personally meaningful causes and organisations that also help others.

Giving shifts your gaze from chasing money to seeing it work in other’s lives. 

Curb impulse spending.

Shopping can be a thrill, but the novelty quickly wears off and you’re left seeking a new high.

Before you buy something new, think about how that purchase fits in with your goals. Does it further your goals or detract from them?

Why do you want this new item? Do you have a genuine need for it or is it there to satisfy an emotional need?

Training yourself to make better purchase decisions takes a while, but it can be done.

3. Money status

Closely linked to money worship, money status conflates net-worth and self-worth.

This money script epitomises the “Keeping Up with the Joneses” mentality.

You lavishly overspend and maintain a lifestyle you can’t afford to impress those around you.

This leads to lifestyle inflation, which compromises your ability to save for the future.

Klontz’s research suggests a money status script can lead you to believe that if you live a good life, the universe will reward you financially for your good behaviour.

He also found this script can lead to gambling and hiding spending habits from family and friends.

Combating the money status script can be a challenge as the world around you constantly pushes you to buy more, buy bigger, buy now – whether you can afford it or not.

Even worse; phrases the constant purchasing as “self-care”.

But the bottom line is that this kind of mindset doesn’t set you up for future success with money.

What can you do to change it?

This can’t be said enough: money doesn’t define you or your worth as a person.

When you manage your present financial needs with foresight into your future financial needs, you can find a balance between saving for tomorrow and living today.

Strive for financial and emotional health.

In life and in money, there needs to be a balance. It’s critical to find a balance that works for you and aligns with your values and goals

Spend and save with intention.

When you spend with intention, you find you actually spend less.

Before making a purchase, assess how it aligns with your goals and values.

Is this purchase a band-aid or status symbol, or does it actually further your vision and improve your life?

The same idea applies to saving. When you have a goal for saving and investing money, you have more stake in its success.

This brings about a more meaningful savings strategy so you can take that dream holiday, renovate your house, send your kids to college, and retire with the lifestyle you want. 

4. Money vigilance

This script involves approaching your financial life with swift practicality, logic, and thoughtfulness.

Money vigilance means you view money as a by-product of hard work, discipline, and frugality.

When this is your approach to money, you aren’t waiting for a financial windfall or diligently scratching lottery tickets. Instead, you approach money from a tactical perspective.

Unsurprisingly, Klontz views this script as the most financially stable and healthy one in the bunch.

However, money vigilance can sometimes show a fear over one’s financial future, which can lead to anxiety and a lack of balance between spending and saving.

This attitude can also mean you’re private about financial matters and aren’t comfortable talking about money with others. 

Fears over your financial future can lead to anxiety, lack of sleep, and decreased life satisfaction. It’s key to find a balance between spending and saving so you can enjoy your life now and in the future. 

Create a “fun” bucket in your savings account.

This could be for anything you want — a day trip, dinner at your favourite restaurant, trying out a new hobby.

Enjoy the money you save.

While frugality is an excellent trait, spending money on people, places, and experiences that mean something to you can lead to fulfilment and purpose. 

How to rewrite your money script.

Remember, your money script isn’t set in stone, and doesn’t have to define your future actions.

Understanding how you relate to money simply reveals previously undiscovered financial habits that can provide insight into how you view and manage money. 

No matter which category you fall into, note where you are and where you want to be.

Ask yourself:

  • What steps can I take to improve my relationship with money?
  • How can I balance spending and saving?
  • What are my core values and are my current financial habits supporting those values?
  • In what ways can my goals better align with my financial actions?

There’s nothing better than building a life you genuinely love.

It starts by having a healthy relationship with money and using that healthy money outlook to expand your life. Ready to learn more? Read now: Money Mindset Workshop Day 1: Let’s talk about money!