Have you ever cheated someone out of money when you knew it was wrong—or not paid a bill you knew you owed, and then later got cheated out of money yourself? Maybe you didn't 'fess up when a cashier handed you too much change—and then later you were stiffed out of money by a vendor? Well, they do say that what goes around comes around. It can feel like your poor money choices can come back to bite you tenfold in some future transaction.
Whether or not you believe in karma—financial or otherwise—one piece of this philosophy is certainly true: When you act with respect and integrity when it comes to money (yours and that of other people in your life), it will put you in good financial stead for the future.
Here's how should handle your financial karma if:
You didn't pay someone back.
Let's say you borrowed some money and you never paid it back. Now maybe someone wants to borrow money from you, and you remember you didn't handle your debt with integrity in the past. Or you just feel like you can never get ahead with your money. Could this have anything to do with that time you didn't pay back what you owed?
Fix your financial faux pas: If you have the money to pay back the person you owe money to, pay it back.
"You don't have to get into a whole sob story," advises Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, LMSW, who offers financial therapy at Mind Money Balance and is the author of The Financial Anxiety Solution. "Simply saying, 'I know I'm late paying you back. Thanks for being so understanding. It won't happen again,' and Venmo-ing them money or bringing them money is the right thing to do."
Also, if you're a fan of affirmations, you might want to add, "I'm good at honoring my debts," or "my past mistakes with debt do not define me" to your dailies. Repeat these to yourself or write them on a sticky note and hang them in a prominent place like your desk or bathroom mirror.
When it comes to lending money, Bryan-Podvin says to rethink it as a gift: "Loaning more than you can comfortably afford to gift is a recipe for tension, awkwardness, and discomfort." After all, are you still close to the person you owed money to? If you can comfortably gift someone money, go ahead and do it. And if you still want to lend money, get in writing how they'll pay you back, at what interest rate (if any), as well as what penalties they'll incur if they fail to pay you.
You didn't tell the cashier they gave you too much change.
Have you ever noticed that a cashier gave you too much change, and instead of 'fessing up, you pocketed the extra without saying a word? You may find that acting selfishly with money has had overall repercussions on your budget, savings, or financial opportunities.
Fix your financial faux pas: You may need to make amends to cure this karmic debt. Try asking yourself why you didn't tell the cashier about the mistake in the first place: Did you feel like it was a big-box store and no one would notice? Did you think it'd be awkward to mention? Or did you think it was a fortuitous coincidence and you deserved the extra change?
Bryan-Podvin says you can move ahead by paying it forward: "The next time you head to a store, give the cashier the amount you didn't speak up about to pay toward the next customer's goods," she says. You can also try donating that amount to a charity—the next time you see a GoFundMe on your social channels, contribute to it.
You spent frivolously or depleted your emergency savings on a non-emergency.
So you made a regrettable money mistake when you spent way more than you can afford on a new wardrobe—or wiped out your emergency savings to go to Jamaica with friends. Now you're in debt—or starting savings over from scratch—and it feels like the money gods are punishing you.
Fix your financial faux pas: "It's never too late to turn your finances around," says Rachael Burns, CFP, CDFA, CPWA, a women's financial planner at True Worth Financial Planning. "It's normal to feel guilt or shame over past financial mistakes, but what's happened in the past does not define your future," Burns adds. She explains that you need to let go of the emotional baggage you're hanging onto about your money error and use that learning experience to make better financial choices going forward. Use the memory of that credit card statement or empty savings balance to fuel better choices.
Once you realize the only person you hurt with your bad financial karma was yourself, vow to do better next time by delaying that trip until you have the money saved up—or by not going overboard when shopping by sticking to your clothing budget.
You lied to your spouse or partner about spending or debt.
You hid how much you spent or what you owe from a partner—or you lied about what you actually spent. Now what?
Fix your financial faux pas: "'Fess up to your partner ASAP," says Burns. "You'll face an uncomfortable conversation and perhaps some hurt feelings, but you'll limit any further damage to your relationship by putting an end to the dishonesty." The reason most people lie to their partners about spending or debt is fear of being judged or shamed for spending too much—either that or embarrassment, because you know you didn't do the right thing with your money.
But if you want a healthy partnered relationship, you're obligated to come clean about your money and act with integrity rather than lie or hide money missteps. Cleaning this karmic slate will not only unburden your shoulders; it may even bring you closer to your partner and help you understand why you felt you needed to lie or hide about money in the first place.
You've been stingy with your money.
If you've been holding on too tightly to every cent, you may notice that money just doesn't flow to you the way it does to others. How can you open the money flood gates to the benefit of all?
Fix your financial faux pas: There's a fine line between being good with your money and never letting it loose. If you're stingy—if you never give to those less fortunate, if you rarely treat a friend, buy a gift of thanks for someone, or fork over a generous tip for service—you're restricting your overall money flow. Money is energy, and exchanging it to improve other's lives, treat a friend, or compliment service only attracts more money to you in the long haul. Don't be wasteful, of course, but when you do have money, try using it generously now and again and see if more money flows to you in turn.