According to the APA’s “Stress in America” survey, 72 percent of Americans suffer from money-related stress. Rachel Cruze, best-selling author, and financial expert explains that financial stress “is worry, fear and anxiety about finances. Sometimes, it can even cause physical symptoms like insomnia, headaches, fatigue, and more. And if you’ve ever experienced any form of stress when it comes to your money, you probably know exactly what that feels like.”
In some cases, this may keep you up at night. However, it’s not uncommon for financial stress to come out of nowhere. Either way, when left unchecked, it can snowball into anxiety, depression, social withdraw, and weight gain (or loss). It can also lead to relationship problems (41 percent of couples who have consumer debt reported that money was what they argued about the most) or unhealthy coping methods like substance abuse.
Overall, financial stress is more than just an inconvenience. It can impact every facet of your life. Thankfully, there are ways to help you cope and reduce this burden so that you can live a healthier and happier life.
1. Talk to someone.
“When you’re facing money problems, there’s often a strong temptation to bottle everything up and try to go it alone,” writes Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith, M.A. for HelpGuide. “Many of us even consider money a taboo subject, one not to be discussed with others. You may feel awkward about disclosing the amount you earn or spend, feel shame about any financial mistakes you’ve made, or embarrassed about not being able to provide for your family.”
However, “bottling things up will only make your financial stress worse,” they add. “In the current economy, where many people are struggling through no fault of their own, you’ll likely find others are far more understanding of your problems.”
“Not only is talking face-to-face with a trusted friend or loved one a proven means of stress relief but speaking openly about your financial problems can also help you put things in perspective,” states Robinson and Smith. “Keeping money worries to yourself only amplifies them until they seem insurmountable. The simple act of expressing your problems to someone you trust can make them seem far less intimidating.”
Opening up to your support system, like your best friend, parent, or spouse is a start. They may be able to offer advice, help hold you accountable, or potentially offer some financial assistant.
You may also want to work with a financial expert. In the U.S. there are “organizations that offer free counseling on dealing with financial problems, whether it’s managing debt, creating and sticking to a budget, finding work, communicating with creditors, or claiming benefits or financial assistance,” add the authors. You can find resources on Dealing with Debt, Unemployment Help, and Getting Help with Living Expenses on the U.S. Government Services and Information website.
2. Have a plan.
Via Citizens Bank:
“When life gets hectic, checklists help people stay organized so everything is accounted for. A financial plan acts a lot like your checklist.
Outline your financial goals and budget to develop your financial game plan. How much room is there in the budget for saving? How much do you want to contribute to each savings goal? Having each expense and goal (short and long term) outlined can help you see the full picture and make the appropriate conclusions.
Having a plan also helps you evaluate your savings potential. You can calculate yours by taking your monthly income (after taxes) and subtracting your monthly expenses. Whatever is left over is your savings potential. This helps you gauge your money management success. For example, if you’ve set a savings goal of $1,000 per month but your savings potential is only $800 per month, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Create a plan that works for you and your budget, and stick with it.”
3. Take baby steps.
“Baby steps aren’t just for babies. In fact, the 7 Baby Steps are the best way to get you from broke and broken to building wealth and giving,” states Cruz.
“The Baby Steps cover everything from saving for emergencies, paying off debt, and investing to saving for your kid’s college fund, paying off your home, and building wealth so you can give generously.”
“With each step, you’ll feel the stress and worry fall away as you journey toward financial contentment.”
4. Set up automatic contributions.
Saving money may not be a priority in your day-to-day. What’s more, it can be incredibly easy to spend your money elsewhere. That’s when automatic contributions can come in handy.
The most common example of this would be setting it up where a percentage of your paycheck is automatically deposited into a savings account. This means that before you even think about spending it, it’s already stashed away.
You can also download automatic savings apps like Acorns, Simple, Qapital, or Digit. Most of these apps will round up to the nearest dollar on every transaction that you make and place that spare change into a savings or investment account.
5. Manage your overall stress.
Even if you’ve done all of the above, it’s going to take time to save money and alleviate your financial stress. In the meantime, you can use common stress relief practices to help you cope. These include regular physical activity, breathing exercises, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, spending time with loved ones, and writing in a gratitude journal.