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Healthy Financial Boundaries

Healthy Financial Boundaries

If saying “no” is a healthy “yes”, then what else do we need to learn as we heal from financial abuse?  How else are we not setting healthy financial boundaries in our lives?  

What is a financial boundary?  And how do you know when you need to set one?

Let’s address some different scenarios to answer these questions.

If a friend asks to borrow your car and returns it with an empty gas tank, this is a form of financial abuse.

Particularly if you are living on a tight budget and buying gas is a strain.  Since this is an after the fact scenario, there is not a whole lot you can do except ask the friend to please reimburse you for the equivalent of the gas she used.  She may or may not pay you, but I think it is important that you ask.  Setting a boundary in this case is speaking up for yourself.  Letting someone know that you are upset by their actions is important.  If she’s a friend worth having, she’ll apologize and pay up.  If she doesn’t respond positively to your request, then it may be time to let the friendship go.  

Maybe you don’t feel like you can ask after the fact. But you can certainly set the boundary the next time she or anyone else asks to borrow your car.  Make it clear that they need to return it with the gas tank replenished.  Personally, I always return a borrowed vehicle with at least as much gas as it had before if not more.  It is the polite thing to do.

Similarly, if someone asks to borrow money from you, you need to set clear boundaries up front.  When will they return the money, how much interest will they be paying, etc.?  If it’s a small amount, say $20, then maybe you don’t need to charge them interest. But if they want to borrow several hundred then I would suggest charging them the going interest rate. Be sure that you have a written and signed agreement outlining when and how the money will be paid back.

Healthy Financial Boundaries
Healthy Financial Boundaries
Asking for a raise is setting a financial boundary and learning self-respect.  

This one can be challenging.  We are generally raised not to speak up for our own needs and are expected to put others first.  But,when it comes to earning what we’re worth, no one is going to fight for you. You will have to fight for yourself.

When you first apply for a job or when it’s time for a raise, learn to stand up with strength and confidence if you want to be respected.  Most business owners will pay no more than necessary to get good help. If you honor yourself and know your own worth, then you can negotiate from a more powerful position.  

I’m not saying this is easy.  Speaking up for myself was the scariest thing I could imagine for a long time.  And, maybe in some ways it was easier for me to start my own business than it was to live in a world where someone else controlled how much I could make.

That said, do your research, plan, and prepare.  Find out what similar positions in your area pay.  Find out what both men and women in those positions make as it may not be the same amount.  Understand what qualifications are needed and be sure you have as many as possible.  Make sure you have solid evidence to present with your argument. And, practice what you are going to say and how you will say it.  You must stand strong and confident and make the argument fact-based. Don’t whine or make it about what you need.  This is about what you are worth and the value that you bring to the position and the company.  Think of it from their perspective.  Why should they pay you more?  What makes you different?  Show them why you are worth what you are asking for and how they will benefit.

When you are in a relationship and share finances, things can get tricky.  Set the expectation that you are entitled to know when and where money is being spent.

One of the signs of financial abuse is a partner who spends money without your knowledge.  Frequently, this involves overspending, running up debt, and/or gambling the family money away.  Setting financial boundaries is the first step in figuring out what is going on and if it’s a problem.

Start by admitting there may be an issue.  Don’t be an ostrich living with your head in the sand.  It may seem safer, but the reality is your butt is up in the air, exposed to potential disaster.  Learning to face a potential problem is the first step.  If you find out there isn’t a problem then no harm, no foul.  But chances are if your gut is telling you something isn’t right, then it likely isn’t.

If you are facing the reality that there may be financial abuse going on in your relationship, there is likely other abuse going on, too. So you need to tread carefully.  Start by evaluating what you believe is happening.

Then develop a strategy for figuring out if you are right or not.

If you believe he is running up credit card debt because he brushes you off when you ask about the balances or hides the statements from you, then the first step is getting access to the statements.  Not always easy but try to figure out how to get them.  Online access may be the easiest because if you aren’t the primary cardholder, the banks will not talk to you.  But if you can find the account number and know enough info to set up online access then you may be able to set up your own login.

Once you have access, then you can see what is really going on.  If the balances are beyond what you were told, figure out your next step.  If this is the first sign of financial abuse you’ve seen, then likely a candid conversation is all you need.  It doesn’t mean the situation will change, but it is about you standing up and facing the music.

If this is only one of many concerns, or your situation is extremely volatile, then you may have to continue your search for more verification of a problem and then decide how to proceed.  Your safety is always of paramount importance.  When you start to uncover all the areas where finances are not lining up with what he’s telling you, then you start to get a better idea of where you stand and what to do.

Regardless of the scenario, it is important to set financial boundaries. It will benefit your relationships and keep you (and your pocketbook) from getting hurt. 

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at Join our FB group

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