Was 2020 a stressful money year for you? Yeah, us, too. Nothing like taking a pandemic and throwing a global recession right on top of it. But the truth is that even without all of the last year’s incredible external pressures, money is one of the top stressors in the United States with 72% of Americans saying they feel stressed about money at least some of the time, according to the American Psychological Association.
“In our offices, we see people who are stressed about money to the degree that it impacts their mental health,” says Brittany Schank, LCSW, owner of Solace Counseling. “People have identified it as impacting their relationships, their sleep, and their social functioning. Finding stress management practices in order to reduce anxiety, worry, and stress can be extremely beneficial to your physical and mental health.”
But we’re smart. We know stress isn’t good for us, and if given a choice, we’d all flip a magic switch that could inspire us to worry about it less… so what do we do?
“It’s important to try to keep stress under control because you want to be able to make rational decisions and be as healthy as you can be at a time like this,” says Choncé Maddox, founder of My Debt Epiphany. “I recommend people focus on the things they can control right now instead of what’s going on in the world that is outside their control.”
She’s onto something. Here’s a look at our favorite ways to stop money stress in our lives once and for all.
1. Look at your spending and set a realistic budget
Do you know where your money goes? If you’re not tracking it, you might be surprised. This year, start tracking your expenses and see what might need to be reined in a little bit. There are countless ways to do this. You can find some of HerMoney’s favorite budgeting apps here, and listen to our interview with founder and CEO of Tiller Money (an awesome budgeting spreadsheet program) here.
“Make sure you make the most of your money,” says Howard Dvorkin, CPA & chairman of Debt.com. “Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.”
Sticking to your budget can keep you from overspending, and you may come out with some extra money each month. Knowing your numbers can definitely help with stopping your money stress level. And if what you set doesn’t work, you can always re-adjust — that’s part of why we experiment with budgeting, so we can find the method that works best for us!
2. Communicate more with your partner and get on the same financial page
“The number one reason for divorce is financial pressure,” Dvorkin says. Take the extra time needed to communicate more often about your financial stresses and goals. Have regular finance dates or budget meetings and get on the same page. Having conversations ahead of time can prevent the financial and relationship stress that come from unexpected issues. Truly, communication is key — before you have your next financial discussion with your partner, take a look at the 8 best ways to stop money fights in their tracks.
3. Find an accountability partner
Find someone in your life with similar goals or who needs help in the same way you do and make a pat to encourage each other to get your money back on track. This works well whether you’re single or you have a partner. Sometimes, you just need a little extra help to stop your money stress, and it’s nice to have a sounding board, and to be accountable to someone else. Having a sister-in-arms can also help alleviate some of the added stress you may have around feeling like you’re the only one struggling right now. You. Are. Not. Alone.
4. De-goal your financial life for a little while
Financial goals are great, but given the year we’ve been through, that might mean taking a step back from a big goal – like paying off $10,000 in debt – and instead committing to making sure the minimum payments are made.
“A lot of people’s financial goals for these past 12 months have been to just get a paycheck and cover living expenses and that’s okay,” Maddox says. “Free yourself from the burden of trying to perfect your financial situation during such a stressful and trying time.”
5. Get off social media and stop comparing yourself to others
It’s possible that some of your financial stress could be a result of comparison syndrome, says Maddox. If you’re struggling to pay your bills right now, you don’t need to be worried about trying to keep up with a brand new spring wardrobe or kitchen renovations that your friend is spending money on. If you struggle with this, take a little social media break to avoid unrealistic comparisons, and practice gratitude instead. (We love the idea of a gratitude journal!)
6. Make sure you have your “why” identified
Schank says that when you’re looking to become more financially responsible, it can be helpful to focus on your “why.” This can be having better mental health overall, getting yourself in a position to buy a home, leaving a legacy for your children or any other big reason. She recommends taking the time to remember your “why” to help you persevere when it feels too hard to keep pushing towards your financial goal.
7. Reward yourself
When you get to the end of a given month or quarter and find that you were successful at staying within your budget or paying off a debt, reward yourself! You could treat yourself to a movie night with a friend or perhaps get that new coat you’ve had your eye on and now have the money for. Just don’t go crazy and let your reward undo all your hard work.
Focusing on your financial health can help you cut back on financial stress, but taking small steps is the key, according to Dvorkin. “You can’t make big steps without taking small steps first,” he adds. Be realistic about how long the process to stop money stress may take and do what you can, but you’ve got to do something. It won’t happen on its own.
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- Could 2021 Be The Year You Start — And Stick To — A Budget?
- HerMoney Podcast Episode 248: How To Budget (Even If You’ve Never Budgeted Before)
- How to Stick to a Budget When You Have SAD
- 5 Simple Tips to Help You Save for Retirement on Any Budget
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