If so, you’re not alone. Money anxiety tops the list as the most commonly cited source of stress, according to the APA’s Stress in America report—ahead of relationships, family, health, and job stability.
Financial distress is also a common theme in the therapy room.
Life is not meant to be stressful.
And money (or lack thereof) is not the enemy.
Money is neutral. How you attach importance to money, how you view it, save or spend it is entirely up to you.
There are three basic mental habits + 14 practical tips successful money handlers do over time to ensure they’ll continually improve their finances, and sleep soundly at night.
I know from experience.
In my 20′s, credit card companies took up serious real estate in my mailbox. Their reps practically accosted me on college campuses. It was as easy as filling out a one page application in the quad as I rushed to Psychology 101. Not to mention the cool swag just for signing on the dotted line.
It was all good until I maxed out that $5,000.00 limit within 24 months.
And that was undergrad.
Luckily, when I started my Master’s program I got a financial ass kicking when I realized that two-day beach getaway took fourteen months to pay off. And I was paying the college tuition of the VISA executives’ kids–Ouch!
I did a 360, and became that gal counting coins and budgeting to the dime every month. I had cash envelopes allotted for rent, food, gas, etc.
I could have lived in a monastery.
There was one problem: I was miserable. I knew there had to be a better way.
Fortunately, I found the financial middle ground and it’s made all the difference in the world.
I hope you find the same light.
The first step is understanding the origins of your relationship with money. (AKA where Freud enters your financial house):
- How was money handled as a kid?
- Were your parents generous with cash, or were you made to know exactly how much you cost them?
- Was money earned as a reward for meeting goals, or was it showered upon you freely?
- Do you ever forgo material pleasures because you feel like you’re not worth it?
- Do you spend in order to satisfy a different hunger–think food, clothes, sex, status-seeking, luxury items, etc.
- If you’re in debt, do you know why?
- Do you take responsibility for your relationship to money or do you blame your parents, your spouse, your partner or your kids?
Okay, time to really shake things up.
17 Practical Tips to reduce financial stress
You’re probably familiar with many of these tips, but if you’re awake at 3:00 a.m., you’re not doing enough of them.
1. Change your money mentality. Sure you used to pick up the dinner tab without so much as glancing at the amount. That was yesterday. You can still dine out, but you’ll need to scale back.
2. Be smart about where you cut back. Spending less on non-essentials is the first step towards financial independence. Be realistic about where to trim the fat, but don’t overdo it. Going from one extreme to the other will only leave you angry, resentful and prone to over-spending.
3. Fund a luxury. As long as you’re willing to be financially prudent in most areas of your life, you can and should spend money on quality purchases like hiking gear, technology or a quality gym membership. And definitely invest in organic fruits and vegetables from the local farmer’s market.
Sure organic’s more expensive, but so are the doctor bills when your asthma and allergies flare up.
4. Track your daily spending for at least two months. You have to know what’s going out and what’s coming in…
5. Ask yourself if every credit card purchase + interest is a worthwhile buy BEFORE you buy.
6. Call your credit card company, wireless carrier, cable service, auto/home insurance company and ask if they’ll reduce your monthly bill.
7. Brainstorm your skill sets and get creative about how you can monetize your talents. Can you babysit, walk dogs, do handy work, tutor high school math, set up websites, etc? Dig deep and go long. C.hoose three ways to reach potential customers/clients and get moving.
8. Cancel cable TV. If that’s really tough, compromise with Netflix online which is around $8.00 per month. Go to movie matinees and bring snacks.
9. Create an emergency fund. It’s important to set aside money every month, even if it’s just $25.00 to start. This will help you build hope for the future.
10. Take public transportation, carpool, walk, or bike somewhere at least three times per week.
11. Walk to the store and bring your own shopping bags to ensure you only buy as much as you can carry.
12. Make Sundays food prep day. Plan a menu, freeze the leftovers, and pack healthy snacks like nuts, carrots, and fruit.
13. Take inventory of your fridge. Try to eat everything before returning to the grocery store.
14. Check out a financial book from the library. My favorite is Rich Dad Poor Dad.
15. Hit up a mentor to help you create a product or business idea. If you can’t afford his/her fee, barter for services.
16. Invest in education. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the old adage that it takes money to make money is true.
17. Choose a cause or charity and donate time or money–even just 30 minutes per week, or $5.00 per month. You’ll get out of your head, and into gratitude. And helping others is always rewarding.
In summary, counting dollar signs while you toss and turn at night sucks. But just because you’re strapped now, doesn’t mean you can’t recover.
Make a plan, be generous, and never lose sight of the big picture. After all, there’s a kid out there whose biggest want in life is a laptop computer and access to an internet connection…
*Note: This is a modified version of a guest article I wrote for Holistic Dad. I get so many requests for handling financial anxiety, there’s no need to reinvent the money wheel, right?
What’d I forget?
Got a favorite, or money saving tip?
Leave it below.
Lastly, if you learned something today, I’d really appreciate a shout-out on Facebook or Twitter.
Your in spending wisely,