Setting Financial Boundaries In Relationships Can Be Difficult. Here's How To Make It Easier

Setting boundaries is an important part of prioritizing yourself and putting your well-being first. For some, saying no is much harder than it is for others, especially when it comes to family, friends, or loved ones. Having clear boundaries with your finances is essential to establishing a positive relationship with money, yourself, and with those closest to you. Although it may seem like saying no to someone who is asking you for money can damage a relationship, setting firm boundaries can actually help you preserve those relationships for the long term.

Executive coach and psychologist Dr. Julie Gurner told Martha Stewart, "Navigating financial boundaries can be a complex area where emotions can run high, and knowing your rules in advance makes it far easier to stand by them and have clarity when the time comes." These tips will help you navigate setting financial boundaries in a positive and healthy way.

Map out your spending habits and budget

Before you start setting boundaries around your finances, you might want to do some financial self-care. That is, you need to review your spending habits and set a budget that you're comfortable with. That way, you know how much of your finances, if any, might be available to lend out to others. At any rate, it's a good idea to set financial goals for yourself and ask yourself what budget will best help you achieve those goals. Alexa Von Tobel, founder of LearnVest told Glamour, "It's one comprehensive budget that accounts for your regular fixed expenses, your goals, your non-monthly expenses... and leaves you with one number to spend on everything else." 

Remember that it's okay to have financial priorities that are different from others. And it's totally normal to disagree with your parents and other family members about money. But that doesn't mean that you should change how you handle your finances or the way you spend your money.

Communicate your boundaries

When you're ready, meet with your family or friends in person to communicate your financial boundaries. Prepare what you're going to say beforehand to make sure you communicate your needs clearly and are ready for any questions. You can write out what you're going to say and practice it a few times alone or in front of someone you trust. You can even bring a partner or friend with you to break the tension and help you feel more comfortable.

Communication is essential in strong and healthy relationships. A study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that people often underestimate how much their friends want to hear from them and that friends enjoy being reached out to and communicated with. Although it might be awkward, it's important to have difficult conversations with friends and family to keep the relationships strong and to always keep the line of communication open.

Don't let guilt change your mind

It's completely normal to feel a sense of guilt when someone asks you for financial help and you turn them down. Christine Manley, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Real Simple: "Just because that guilt is there does not mean you're doing something unkind. You're allowed to say 'no' to things that make you uncomfortable." Saying 'yes' may ease the tension of the moment, but it could leave you in a financially stressful situation that burdens and negatively affects you.

Personal finance advisor, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox added, "You can't think you are someone else's financial savior. Or that the worst-case scenario will happen if you don't step in." You're not responsible for saving your friends or family when they experience financial troubles, especially when you don't have the means to help. The guilt won't last forever, and you'll leave the situation knowing you prioritized yourself and protected your boundaries. 

Be kind but stay firm

With boundaries, you need to be firm about where you stand and what your rules and exceptions are. You also need to be comfortable with the possibility of upsetting others with your point of view. It's common for people to get upset when you set boundaries they don't agree with, but none of your relationships should depend on your ability to provide financial support and relief — and any relationship that does is one that may need to be reevaluated.

Remember that your boundaries are about you and your well-being, and shouldn't revolve around the feelings and reactions of others. Licensed therapist Rachel Zar, tells Mind Body Green, "It's about what your action is going to be instead of relying on someone else to do an action that's within your boundary." Rely on yourself to set clear and firm boundaries and if someone doesn't respect those boundaries, it could be time to take some space.

Offer support in other ways

Although you aren't able to help out your friend or family member financially, this doesn't mean you can't provide them with support. There's no question that money is an essential part of life that we all need, and the lack of it can really impact someone's quality of life and mental health. According to a survey released by CreditWise, 73% of respondents labeled their finances as a source of stress.

When you can't offer someone financial help, there are other ways to help them out. When someone you care about is struggling financially, you can help by offering them emotional support. Sometimes being there for someone means providing them with kind words and encouragement. Listen to them when they need to vent about their issues and offer advice that might bring them closer to solving their problems. You can also recommend them a financial advisor or debt counselor who will use their professional knowledge to find valuable solutions.