How Do You Handle Big Unexpected Money Curveballs?

written by Bari Tessler November 18, 2023

Dear Money Adventurer,

I have a quick question for you: what do you do when life throws a money curve ball at you? Not a ball of money (which would be nice), but a financial challenge, one you never saw coming until it hit you by surprise in the middle of an otherwise unremarkable afternoon.

No matter what your money story looks like, we all encounter unexpected money curveballs in life. Today’s Money Mocha I’ve just brewed up fresh for you is all about how to deal with these money curveballs. Let’s dive in…

When life throws an unexpected, challenging financial situation at you, do you currently have a plan in place to deal with it?

Do you have the resources you need to manage the personal and emotional challenges alongside the practical steps of navigating a difficult money situation?

Do you have any tools to help you find your way through financial uncertainty to the other side?

If you don’t have a financial back up plan in your money toolbox, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Most people don’t. But today? I’m going to give you both a toolbox and a plan for how to use some new tools.

Unexpected, Challenging Financial Situations: aka, Money Curveballs.

What would you do if a menacing-looking envelope from the IRS shows up on the kitchen table, announcing that you’re about to be audited, and that if you don’t comply they’re going to take your home? Hyperventilating is a very real option, but it’s not helpful. Trust me. I know this because that’s exactly what I did when this very same thing happened to us some years ago. Curious about how my husband and I handled that money curveball?

Or how about this one: What do you do if you’ve built your business using a business model that becomes unsustainable after you have a child? When you need the income from the business, but you just can’t run it the way you’ve been running it anymore? That kind of major curveball packs a lot of stress on top of an already big life transition. In today’s mocha, you’ll learn the tools I’ve used to handle my own big unexpected curveballs like this.

Or what if you’re going through a divorce that has drastically shifted the financial landscape of your life and your plans for the future? How do you find a way to cope so you can get your feet on solid financial ground and move forward?

Here’s the thing about money curveballs: they’re totally normal. They’re stressful and challenging, but they happen to everyone. And the hard part is that no amount of planning can really stop money them from happening.

But…you can make it through them if you have some helpful tools and practices to support you. Today’s Money Mocha is seasoned with money wisdom, personal encouragement, and gentle curiosity to equip you with the resources you need to move through the money curveballs life throws your way.

You’ll learn:

  • 7 steps to help you work through your money curveballs with compassion.
  • What I did when I was faced with large money curveballs of my own.
  • How to work with the challenging emotions that come with financial stress.
  • Simple ways to get grounded and give yourself some soothing body-based support.
  • How setting intentions can help you uncover unexpected opportunities and creative solutions to cope with your money curve ball.

Hit play below (or read the transcript) for today’s fresh-brewed cup of money help. I made it just for you.


Bari How to work with money curve balls. What do you do when life throws you a major money curveball? No, really? What do you actually do? How can you sort through all of the emotions that come up – fear and shock – so you can start to see clearly? How do you soothe your body and heart when you’re in money panic mode? What do you actually do in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon when you’ve suddenly realized that you’ve received a money curveball?

You see, it doesn’t matter how long we do our money work. Life can still throw us big money curveballs, and it will. I’ve been doing deep, emotional, and practical money work for decades, but life still throws me surprises at times. I still have emotional reactions to sort through and new practical solutions to learn. The point of money work isn’t to avoid every financial stress and situation in life. That’s impossible. The point is to give ourselves the tools and resources to deal more consciously and compassionately with money situations when they inevitably arise. We all go through ebbs and flows in life and in money. No matter how well we plan, we will still experience curveballs.

For example, the time when I found out I was pregnant and my husband was laid off of his amazing tech job. Right after, when I gave birth to my son, in order to have time to recover, I completely shifted my business model and let go of my entire team. I simplified to a one woman show again, and at the same time, my husband was in his first year of a new online business. It was a tongue twister, curveball money challenge that we needed to figure out.

The other time, when we found out we were getting audited by the IRS. It took us five full months of sending in so much documentation to see if they would accept our original numbers and tax filing or if we had to pay more. That was another money curveball/money challenge.

I could name a few more big ones. This is really normal and part of being human. While every year brings it’s challenges and beauty, this year has been a doozy for so many. I have heard everything from being laid off and going on unemployment to a family member dying of COVID to a family member dying and receiving sudden inheritance to divorce to a business gratefully receiving PPL moneys to a career field seeing a significant dip in revenue while others are seeing a really big increase in their services and revenues. I’m certainly seeing all sides of the spectrum and they all come with their own challenges, gifts and responsibilities.

Today, I wanted to share a simple framework and some tools to help you work through some of your own money curveballs.

Number one, name what’s happening. There’s something magical and healing about putting words to a situation. Even when we don’t know how to change it in the moment yet. When I say to myself, “I’m in the middle of a tough situation,” or, I’m in the middle of a new money curveball or riddle that I can’t figure out yet,” or, “I’m in the middle of having a fight, flight, freeze moment to this money challenge,” just naming it is a huge relief. The simple act of naming what’s happening allows us to put it to the side – even just a little bit – and start being less overwhelmed by it.

You might notice a fear response or you might simply say to yourself, “I’m in a big money conundrum right now,” or, “Wow. I’m in a big cash flow dip,” or, “Hey, self. I’m clearly in a big life transition right now and it’s impacting my money relationship.”

Number two, notice what your emotions are. As many of you know, I love teaching you all the body check-in, which is simply inviting you all to check in with your body on a physical level, on a sensation level, on an emotional level, on a breathing level. What feelings am I experiencing right now?

I notice every time I give myself a few moments to check in, be curious – there’s no right or wrong way to check in. There’s no right or wrong emotions. Just simply letting yourself check in, notice what the emotions or sensations are, name them, sit with them without judgement or trying to change anything. Just simply noticing and naming makes such a difference in the moment.

Number three: Name your thoughts. What memories are you having in this moment? What thoughts are going across my screen? What does this remind me of? In the middle of checking in with what our emotions are and in the middle of naming that you’re in the middle of a big transition or you’re realizing you’re having a big money challenge in this moment, take a moment to let yourself notice and check in with what it reminds me of. Is it reminding me of anything? What memories are coming up from my past? Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Number Four: Give your body some soothing support. When we’re financially or emotionally stressed, our bodies can be stressed too. Give your body some love. It could be a bath, in the middle of the day, warm water. Recently, I’m doing hot showers and then cold showers and then going back and forth. That’s helping calm my nervous system. It could be adding in a cozy blanket. It could be the smell of oils or incense. It could be doing a little massage or asking your honey to give you a massage. It could be getting out in the sun for some vitamin D. It could be hydrating yourself and drinking some water.

Listen to what your body would find comforting in this moment. Try not to rush. Our bodies move at a slower pace than our minds and our quick thoughts sometimes. This is a lovely way to help slow you down.

Number Five: Start to ask some new questions. When we ask new questions, instead of swirling in the same old unhelpful ones like, “Why did this happen? What did I do to create this?” I don’t believe any of that. That’s not a wonderful question. If we can ask ourselves new and different questions, new ideas, new solutions, new creative ideas can come to the surface. New questions can lead to new insights.

Before you know it, things can feel a little more hopeful and manageable. Start to ask yourself new creative questions. Ask, how can I do this differently? Ask, what additional type of support do I need? Depending on what the money issue or money curveball/problem/riddle is, I love to ask people to come up with their own set of questions in the moment. Creating the questions, asking the questions and meditating on the questions or living the questions is part of the journey here.

Once I was having a particular struggle with a current biz model. My current business model was I was teaching my program over three months and it felt like a struggle. It wasn’t working. You can tell when you’re pushing the river and something doesn’t feel right. I didn’t know how to do anything new or what other options were in that moment. I just knew I was stuck in a money challenge/riddle.

I started asking some new questions. For example: How can I be more generous with my content while growing my community? Is that even possible? Do I need to lower the price point instead of raising it? How can this next business phase feel more like an opening instead of this intense push?

Those were just a few of the questions that I came up with on the spot. I hadn’t thought of them before, but in the moment when I asked myself, “What are some new questions that I’ve never asked before? Can I ask right now?” and just wrote them down. I was able to come up with a new solution, a new creative idea. Which was offering a year long program instead of a three month program. It was a flash of insight, but that’s what comes from asking some new questions and being willing to ask some questions in different ways and seeing what new ideas come from that. I was able to offer my year long program. Of course, it took a little bit of time to map it all out, but I had the content and the guest teachers and all the questions that I was asking lead me to offering this program and lowering the price point. When I opened it up, we had so many more people who signed up. It grew my community and it grew my revenue.

I encourage folks to make up their own questions based on whatever money situation/challenge/riddle/curveball you are currently in. There are no right questions. See if you can ask yourself questions in a different way than you ever have before. Ask anything that pops into your mind.

Part of coming up with the new questions is a form of setting intentions. Part of the process of coming to a new creative solution and new ideas that you had not previously thought of before. Ask new questions. Walk with the questions. Hike with the questions. Take a shower with the questions. Live your questions. Bring your questions to a friend.

Number Six: Make sure you ask what type of additional support you need right now. What kind of additional help do you need? Do you need help with student loan debt? Do you need help with credit card debt? Do you need help with relief from a mortgage or what do in a cash flow dip and how to bring in additional income? Or bring on a new tax person? Please make sure to ask this question: What type of additional support do I need right now? Then, please seek that out.

Number Seven, the final one, is acknowledged that this is a temporary transition state. It is not forever. Remind yourself that we all go through ebbs and flows, ups and downs and curveballs in life and in money. While we do not know how long it will take to move through this current challenge – it may take weeks, it may take months – this transition is a process that will continue to unfold. Read up on transition times and liminal states and how to work with them. Honor that this is an unknown time. While you may have never been here before, you have been in unknown times before. We all have. Remind yourself, lovingly, that you will eventually make it through this challenge and curveball and come up with a new creative solution that you may not be able to see yet. But you will. I believe in you. I’ve been through this personally so many times. I have seen and witnessed and supported and loved so many hundreds and hundreds of students who have all gone through their own money curveballs and life transitions. One after one, I’ve seen them gently go through this framework and go through these steps. It just helps so much during whatever money curveball they are going through.

A simple framework for prompts and then we will complete this little money mocha teaching. One, to recap: Acknowledge you are in a tough spot. Take a moment here to name your feelings, feel your feelings, move your feelings, befriend your feelings.

Number Two: Start to ask questions – new questions. Ask new questions. Walk with your questions. Hike with your questions. Bring your questions to a friend, to a new person on your financial support team and please ask, “What additional type of support do you need?”

Number Three: Honor that this is a temporary transition. It’s not forever. This will shift at some point.

Okay, everyone! That’s my little money mocha teaching today on how to work with money curveballs. We all get them, we will all have some in the future. I hope this is helpful.

I hope these power tools help you the next time life throws a money curveball at you!

With my dearest wishes,

P.S. If you like these little Money Mochas, know that they’re teensy taste test of the kind of tools and support we offer in the full Art of Money program, which is open for registration for a few more days.

During this registration period, we’re bringing back something by popular demand: you can join the program with a buddy and then the two of you can split the cost.

Your buddy could be your sister, your mother, or your best friend from Spain…it could be anyone that you want to share this journey and do the program with. So if you want to join my year-long money school at the lowest price point it’s ever been offered for, now’s the time to grab a buddy and join us in the Art of Money community.

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