How to Reduce Money Stress
So many of us are living day to day feeling overwhelmed and stressed out about the state of our finances. When an emergency comes up and you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for it…stress. When you want to be saving for your future and retirement but your bank account never has anything extra at the end of the month…stress. When you dream about financial freedom but you’re up to your eyeballs in debt and have no clue where to start…stress. It’s a tough place to be in and it can leave us feeling exhausted and miserable. The good news is, there are actions you can put in place to help minimize your stress levels.
CREATE A PLAN (GOALS & A BUDGET)
You will not make any progress if you’re wandering around aimlessly hoping to move in the right direction. You need a plan. That means you need to set financial goals so that you know what you’re working towards and you know where your focus should be. I recommend following Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps (which as been a life changing journey for my family). If you know that getting out of debt comes before saving for retirement in the plan for your financial goals, you don’t need to stress out about not saving just yet because you know where you stand and you can feel confident in the plan. Along with financial goals, you need to be creating a budget every month and sticking to it. A budget allows you to create a plan for your income each month and actually get back in control of your money. Of course things will come up surprisingly like car repairs or a birthday gift you forgot about, but a budget will help get you to the place where these surprises are no reason for panic.
BREAK UP WITH DEBT
When you’re in debt, your income comes in and goes out like the tides of the ocean. You don’t get to decide what to do with your money because you’re still paying for your decisions in the past. There’s no freedom for spending or saving because your hands (or your income streams) are tied down to debt payments before it even enters your bank account. You will feel stress relief when you release the chains of debt that are holding you down. It’s time to break up with debt. Make a commitment to not take on any more debt and start paying off any existing debt you have. You know what you can do when you don’t have any payments? Anything you want.
Related: Why You Need to Break Up With Debt
HAVE A FULLY FUNDED EMERGENCY FUND
Emergencies will happen, it’s inevitable. The car will need repairs, the house will need repairs, your body will need repairs…basically anything you have ownership over is going to surprise you with an emergency situation one day. Grandma always said to keep a rainy fund but unfortunately many of us haven’t listened to her very well. When you have an emergency fund of savings set aside, it’s amazing how much your stress level will be reduced. Emergencies become little inconveniences. When something comes up, you just pay for it and you move on! This does not include keeping a credit card for emergencies, this means an actually savings of cash to pay for whatever emergency comes your way. The last thing you want to worry about in an emergency situation is the payments and interest that will come with charging emergencies to credit cards. Your emergency fund should be cash savings and it should contain 3-6 months of expenses (not income, just expenses). If something happens and you need to be off work for a while, you don’t have to stress because you have months of savings to take care of your finances while you handle the emergency.
TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE (OR ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER)
You need to be intentional about talking with your spouse about money. If you’re not intentional, the topic will come up sooner or later and it just might be in a fight if neither of you are being up front and honest with each other. You need to tell your spouse how you feel about your financial situation and that you want to make a change AND you need to ask your spouse their feelings AND listen. Money fights are the leading cause of divorce, so it’s time to eliminate that stressor in your marriage. You should be working as a team to set financial goals, create a budget, and be good stewards. Understand what each of your strengths and responsibilities are when it comes to finances and you will both feel a weight lifted from your shoulders. If you’re single, don’t try to fight these battles alone. Talk to a trusted friend or loved one that can be your support system as you face challenges and that can be your dance partner when you reach your financial goals!
LIVE ON LESS THAN YOU MAKE
Trying to continually pay for the lifestyle you “want” with money you don’t have is going to be stressful. If you’re going to reduce stress, you have to stop spreading your finances so thin. Living on less money than you make will set you free. You will have extra money to pay off debt. You will have extra money to save for retirement. You will have extra money to save for that dream vacation. But you’re just burning the candle from both ends if you’re trying to get in control of your finances while still living a lifestyle your paycheck can’t afford. Living on less than you make means not taking on anymore debt. It means sometimes making sacrifices to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. The stress you’re feeling from living above your means (and the type of person it’s making you) is not worth all the “stuff” you think you want.
Related: The Art of Living Below Your Means
IGNORE THE JONESES
You’ve heard it before: comparison is the thief of joy. And it’s true. You have to stop comparing your life to the lives of others and that includes both in real life and on social media. You may have to put on blinders. You may have to unsubscribe from things. But you have to get out of the comparison trap. Your beginning is not going to look like someone else’s middle. And beyond that, you have no idea what their actual life looks like. You don’t know what their finances actually look like…the expensive trip overseas may have all been put on a credit card and they may be paying for it for the next 5 years. And just because people smile in pictures, doesn’t mean every day of their life and every minute of their relationships are perfect. When you stop trying to compare your life to someone else’s, you will feel less stressed and more content. And sometimes, that contentment has to start by looking inward and being grateful for what you have.
SEEK (SELF) EDUCATION
Life has so much more to teach us than just what we learn in a classroom. Most everything I know about personal finance did not come from a classroom but it came from me seeking out information, asking questions, reading and listening to things I care about. If you don’t know how to get out of debt, you need to seek the education to learn. If you don’t know how to start saving money, you need to seek the education to learn. And the beautiful thing is, we have so many opportunities to learn at our fingertips and often times it’s completely free! Watch videos on YouTube, listen to Podcasts, read blogs and books. You can find what you need to know. And, because you’re obviously reading this blog, high five! You’re already making some effort to learn more about getting control over your finances and reduce your money stress.
The stress, fear, and shame of drowning in debt and living paycheck to paycheck can be overwhelming. You may be having some sleepless nights or fights with your spouse. The important thing to keep in mind is you can always turn things around. You start seeking education on your personal finances, making better choices, and putting a plan in place (and sticking to it). You’ll be on your way to financial freedom. Don’t let money stress keep you down any longer. You can start making these changes today.