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Money and financial pressures are one of the leading causes of stress today according to a 2015 survey from GfK:
Financial stress is often made up of the feeling of being trapped or stuck in a certain situation with no way out or a way to move forward. If your stress levels are rising because of financial worries please read on. Because the good news is that even with a limited income you can find resources and solutions that enable you to get back control and reduce your stress levels.
There are various reasons why you may be under financial stress. Some of them can be rising healthcare costs, low savings, creditcard debts, student loans, volatile stock markets, job insecurity, high mortage, living in a one income household, low savings (rates), living beyond your means, or living barely within your means. The sad fact is that financial distress may affect your health and happiness in a lot of ways. It may affect your sleep, marriage, work and relationships. It can also contribute to depression and increase the likelihood of stress-related diseases such as adrenal burnout. Improving your finances on the other hand can actually contribute health, wealth and happiness.
If you feel that you are under financial stress, there are things that you can do to combat this and prevent its negative effect in different areas of your life. It may not be easy, but with your decision to commit yourself to getting your finances and financial worries handled, it will get better, one cent at a time.
The first step to managing financial stress is to have an honest look at your situation and to create an overview of your current financial condition. Carve out some time to make a list of all of your financial obligations. First write down those items that cause you the most financial worries. If you have debts, write down the principal amount you owe, the interest rate as well as the minimum amount that needs to be payed. Also track where your money is going by reviewing your bank account and credit card statements. The goal of this first step is not to solve the problem, but rather to assess the scope of your problem and document it. You may find that doing this alone helps reduce your stress levels significantly.
Talk to your spouse or partner if you are managing money with them. Shouldering too much of the financial burden yourself or not shouldering enough can surely contribute to your stress. Perhaps your spouse or partner can take on some of the financial responsibilities so you are not budgetting and paying bills by yourself. It is crucial to be on the same financial page because if you are not this leads to additional stress. Finally your spouse or partner can also be a great source of emotional support which has proven to reduce stress levels. Should you not manage your finances with someone else, maybe a family member or a friend can fill in this role.
Unfortunately personal finance (filing taxes, credit card interest rates, saving for the future etc) is not taught in high schools. And sometimes fear of the unknown can be a cause of stress. If fear of the unknown causes you to stress about finance, get yourself educated on this important subject. For example, if you want to save for retirement but you don’t know where to start, this can cause you to get worried about your future. Or if you are looking for a mortgage loan you could feel very confused if you can’t distinguish between the various types of mortgage loan options.
Reduce your financial stress by educating yourself:
Ignorance is NOT a bliss when it comes to personal finance. By taking matters into your own hands and educating yourself, your financial situation stops being a source of stress and money actually becomes something that you can understand and control.
Now, go back to step 1 and take a look at where you actually spend your money on over the course of a month. Do you see any changes you can make that will free up funds that you can save or use in other areas (such as paying off any creditcard debts or student loan)? For example, go through your subscriptions do you really need premium cable or that magazine subscription? Or do you really need to eat out that often, or could you save money by taking your lunch to work? Small changes can make a difference over the longer run and exerting control over your situation can help alleviate your stress levels. Work your way up to a full spending plan (also known as a budget) where you prioritize, create your spending goals and then stick to these going forward.
Here are some great ideas to save money:
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average family of four spends about $700 to $1,000 a month on food. That’s a lot of cash, especially when you consider that most families waste about 40% of food every month! There is a good chance you may find unnecessary or expensive items on your grocery receipts, which add up to your expenses. Carefully analyze your grocery receipts. Should you find any expensive items, or items that you don’t really need do not buy those items going forward and save some extra money. This doesn’t mean though that you should give up on your favorite healthy foods, there are a few basic but effective methods on how to eat right at a low cost.
The infographic below shows you how to enjoy a healthy diet without going beyond your budget:
The mere thought that unknown events, such as illness, the loss of your job or even a natural disaster could leave you in financial ruins can be a great cause of stress. If you worry about these unknown events it’s a good time to start and emergency fund to cover or offset the expenses of an unforeseen situation. You could start out by saving up just $1,000 and then ideally continue contributing until you have at least 6 month’s worth of living expenses. Knowing that you have a safety net for when financial crises occur can help you sleep much easier at night.
Always remember that you don’t have to handle things on your own. If you can’t turn to your spouse, family or friends for emotional support, their support isn’t enough or you just feel too much stress, you can also talk to a mental health professional or your primary care physician. Scheduling an appointment with a financial advisor can also help ease your fears and at the same time make sure you’re on the right way to reach your financial goals. A financial advisor can be of great help and many offer a no-cost, low-pressure initial first appointment as a way to get to know each other and get a clear view on your financial situation and aspirations.
Nowadays social media is flooded with your friends’ pictures of their new cars, exotic trips, other expensive purchases as well as insignificant personal achievements. For some reason we all like to compare with others in the areas of success, looks and wealth so that we can gauge our position. But constantly comparing yourself to others is not a healthy way to live and can lead to feelings of stress and depression.
The next time you feel the urge to compare your financial situation to that of others, remember the following:
And should you still feel stressed and depressed because a friend just went to Bali, you could always pause your social media accounts until you get back control over those feelings.
Surely worrying constantly about your finances is bad for your wellbeing, but keeping some concern over your finances could actually guard you from making bad spending and investment decisions. For instance, by keeping an eye on your future goals you could get more motivation to start saving more seriously. Likewise, being cautious about sticking to your monthly budget could prevent you from overspending and living beyond your means.
They say fear is never a wise advisor, but it can be helpful when it comes to investments. If you have the feeling that an investment opportunity is risky, it´s always a good idea to discuss with your financial advisor the opportunities for lower risk investments. Also if think about changing jobs and locations and you feel uneasy about it, discuss things with your partner, close friends or parents before you make a rash decision.
“Respect” might actually be a better word for “fear”. Being stressed or anxious is a passive way to deal with your financial future, actively respecting money and being smart about it can help you plan for the future – and being in control of your finances.
Get our free Stress Management Workbook to help you identify and track your stress, and provide you with a variety of proven techniques that you can use to counteract stress. It helps you: