(WTNH) — Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about money, but our mind often treats our money in different ways, depending on how we got it.

We’re Stretching Your Dollar with how this can have an impact on your financial well-being and what you can do about it.

Say it’s payday at your job and you get your paycheck for the work you did during the past week. Say it’s also your birthday, and someone gives you money as a present. How you think about those two amounts of money you just received is called mental accounting.

“There’s evidence that people spend money that they earn themselves much more deliberately than money, for example, that they’re given as a gift,” Michael Liersch of Wells Fargo said.

Your brain may think about your birthday money as discretionary money — money you can use for something fun like new clothes or a vacation — while you might think of your paycheck as essential money — money to use for things like food and rent.

But in your family budget, all money is the same. Thinking about discretionary money and essential money differently can cause problems.

“So, what people might do is they might spend all their money in their discretionary accounts and then be short in their central ones when they should really cut the budget in the discretionary one and move it more toward the essential one,” Liersch said.

Another example of mental accounting is when you keep money in a low-interest savings account while also keeping an outstanding balance on a credit card with a high interest rate.

So, what can you do to keep mental accounting from becoming a problem? Experts say to take those mental accounts and make them physical.

“Start making lists of all the things you have in your head and the money you have available to spend and start tracking it on an ongoing basis, especially when it comes to the dynamic of those optional things versus those more essential things,” Liersch said.

Valuing all the money you receive the same way can help you think about your finances more clearly and help your bottom line.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your spouse and define discretionary spending so you’re on the same page when it comes to where you can spend that budgeted money.