According to the American Psychological Association, 64% of Americans struggle with financial stress, to one degree or another. Worries about making enough money, saving for retirement, paying the mortgage or rent are common concerns.
What this statistic boils down to is no small concern as stress can lead to other kinds of problems. Any type of stress, if it occurs over an extended period, can become chronic. Chronic stress can severely impact your health, causing hypertension, gaining weight, or heart disease.
Plus, financial stress strains relationships and is a leading cause of why couples divorce. If you are concerned about financial stress and want help, here are five ways to cope.
1. Bite the Bullet and Make a Budget
Not everyone likes the idea of making a budget. After all, it takes up time and energy that you could be for something else. Plus, frankly, it’s boring. Yet, if you are struggling with financial stress, budgeting is a critical tool for getting a handle on your money.
You can see, in front of you, where you’re spending your money. When it comes to managing your finances, the budgeting approach establishes the groundwork for the next steps.
Most likely, you have only one source of income. But if you have multiple sources, write them down, with the amounts you make each month. Then, write down your expenses and how much you spend on them.
Plenty of software programs and online tools can help you with this. They will help you keep track of your financial progress.
2. Make Choices
Next, it’s time to make some choices. Decide which expenses are necessary (rent, food, etc.) and which are desires. This task can be tricky, as there will be some overlap.
For instance, many consider internet access to be a necessary expense. It only makes sense, as we need the internet to do many things these days. However, do you honestly need that subscription to a streaming service?
If you are having trouble making these decisions, make a list of the pros and cons of each expense. You’ll find that it will help decide for you.
3. Start Saving
Getting a handle on your finances means starting to save. The easiest way to do this is to open both a checking and savings account with your bank. Another idea is to establish an automatic withdrawal so that each pay period a specific amount gets automatically transferred to your savings account.
Start with a small amount (perhaps the equivalent for that streaming service!) and add to that over time. Many experts say to make a goal of saving $1,000 to start. Eventually, build up your savings so that you have between 3-6 months of funds in case of an emergency. Having this safety net will ease financial stress significantly.
4. Consider What You Can Control
Financial stress is so disempowering. You feel like you don’t have any control at all over what’s happening. That’s why it’s helpful to take a step back and think about what it is you do have control over.
For example, if you identify that you need to make more money, think about how to boost your income. Or, if you know that you are in a dead-end job, what steps can you take towards a more fulfilling and financially lucrative career?
Also, it’s helpful to use stress management tools, such as mindfulness, to control stress and anxiety as it surfaces.
5. Ask for Help
It’s hard asking for help. This mindset is especially true if you consider yourself a self-reliant person who has always managed on their own. However, financial stress poses its own set of unique challenges. That’s why it’s useful to ask for help from professionals who understand these issues. For example:
A financial planner for making a budget and getting expenses under control.
Talking with a career advisor for exploring new opportunities
Consulting with a therapist. to discuss the emotional issues involved with your financial stress.
Financial stress can feel debilitating. But it doesn’t have to be. Making a plan and following through with the ideas above will make a big difference. However, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. We want to help you navigate these tough times.