Many who see the word “finances” immediately shrink away from it. Heart rates may go up, or a feeling of panic might take hold at the thought of reviewing bills, checking the balance of a savings account, or thinking of large looming purchases. According to a study run by GFLEC and FINRA last year, 60% of adults in the US experienced stress just thinking about their finances. In comparison, 50% admitted to feeling stress while discussing personal financial matters.
This data came from 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic: a time of economic growth supported by an all-time low unemployment rate. If this was a significant source of stress for us previously, it’s no wonder staying on top of our finances makes us want to crawl into a hole NOW.
There are many ways to take back financial control and alleviate some of that stress. Let’s break them down.
Know the Source of Your Stress
With any emotional response, the first place we have to look at is the cause. Once we identify the source of stress, we can outline a game plan on where to start picking apart the knot that has been sitting in our stomachs for years. Of course, there may be more than one source.
Lack of Knowledge
Even with managing money, we fear what we don’t understand. Many Americans have never been shown how to have a healthy relationship with money or had the tools to manage their finances effectively. Because of this, a fear of the unknown can keep this cycle going for generations!
Unfortunately, those with more money are not immune to this, as studies show financial illiteracy can cross over to all income levels. If you see this as a source of your stress surrounding money matters, find reputable and easy-to-understand resources and arm yourself with knowledge!
Things Outside of Your Control
A glance at the news can send us into a spiral of worry and stress. This year, the American Psychological Association released a study on Stress in America, revealing that 87% of us are concerned about inflation, gas prices, energy bills, and food costs that continue to rise.
We don’t need a study to tell us that countless things are outside our control. Perhaps unknowingly, many of us turn to coping mechanisms tied to money to ride out the roller coaster of emotions. Our finances can take a hit as a result. By spending money while we’re stressed, we can put a strain on our budget and contribute to more stress linked to our money. This vicious cycle is hard to break.
Practice Money Mindfulness
If you just can’t shake the cycle of stress and spending, start by tracking your moods for a month and then compare them with your spending habits during the same period. Perhaps a promotion corresponds with a large purchase at your favorite clothing store. Did you spend more than usual on takeout for a week after hearing something disturbing on the news?
Our mood directly impacts spending, especially given all the online stores and delivery services at our fingertips. Practicing mindfulness with our money can help break the cycle and alleviate stress!
Know What is Happening in Your Bank Account – But Don’t Obsess Over It
Have you ever avoided checking your mobile banking app because you were afraid to see the balance? Ironically, what we think will help us avoid stress can turn into the cause of it. By avoiding what stresses us out, we only push that stress into an immense mountain that eventually collapses around us. Don’t let it get to that point!
Ignorance is Not Bliss!
The more you’re aware of what is happening with your money, the less stress you’ll experience from unexpected transactions, overdraft fees, or a diminished balance from some late-night emotional shopping. Find a budgeting app that helps you keep track of every purchase you make throughout the week. Itemize every type of purchase and withdrawal to see where all of your money goes.
- Impulse Purchases
Once you know what happens in your bank account and have identified poor money habits, you can create a roadmap of where you want to take your money instead of letting it drive you!
With a plan, you can create a manageable budget. Focus on the word “manageable.” Often small, sustainable changes are more effective in retraining your habits around money. Using banking features such as automatic savings can make it easier to save more and stress less by automating practices that have been hard to stick with in the past.
Set It and (Sort Of) Forget It
Once you have a handle on your budget and spending habits, resist the temptation to obsess over it! This can also be a source of stress for some who impulsively open their banking app multiple times a day. It’s wise to keep tabs on your funds, but try customizing your notifications to reduce the urge to log in 10+ times a day.
You could also build worry time into your schedule. During this time, take a moment to reflect on everything that’s stressing you out. Once you are done, tell yourself to let go of those thoughts until your next designated worry time.
Diversify Your Income
Creating a buffer between your bills and your monthly income can help alleviate stress and give you some financial breathing room. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many, but many opportunities exist to boost your monthly balance.
This topic is covered by hundreds of sites, videos, classes, tutorials, and ebooks. Due to the explosion of hybrid or fully remote jobs, many of us have more time outside our 9-5 to earn supplemental income from a hobby or skill related to our careers.
If starting a side hustle interests you, make sure to do your research on legitimate and sustainable side hustles that don’t add to your stress. It could end up being a lucrative outlet that provides some active or passive income and gives you a chance to stretch some creative muscles you wouldn’t usually get to use!
Investing can be a scary topic for many of us, especially if we have never learned how investments work in school or as adults. However, the same principle of financial literacy applies here! If in doubt, learn as much as you can about risks, diversification, and returns. The days of making an appointment with a financial advisor to start a portfolio are over! Thousands of resources are available online to help you learn how to invest in stocks properly. Many can point you to apps that manage your investments with just a few clicks.
Remember that investing can become a source of stress when you don’t have a balanced portfolio. Set budgets and caps around how much you are willing to dedicate to investments, and remind yourself of the risks involved in any speculative investment.
Schedule Money Checkups
Just like annual physicals, monthly physical therapy, or regular visits to a therapist, your money needs a check-up. On top of taking the temperature of your finances once a month with budget reviews on the micro-level, it’s a good idea to get a bigger picture with a financial advisor or money coach.
They can give insight on how to utilize your savings best, what to get in order if you plan on buying a house soon, or what you need to do to raise your credit score. It’s always good to have an unbiased person that occasionally checks in and can give you a “diagnosis” to ease your mind, help you set realistic goals, and alleviate stress over your finances.
Celebrate Your Growth
There’s no point in setting a financial goal if you can’t celebrate hitting your milestones! Every time you create a benchmark for yourself, include a reward. Sometimes, your goal may be the reward – like saving for a vacation. But if your goal is to stick to your budget for a month, schedule something fun to do afterward! Rewards don’t have to mean spending money; just build them into your budget if you want them to!
Take Back Your Power
It’s important to remember that your money doesn’t own you. You own it! Once we learn that there is no shame in asking for help and altering the course of how we spend in small ways, we can start to chip away at the mountain of stress surrounding our money.
How Tracking Your Money Can Help You Reduce Stress