According to an American Psychological Association survey in 2009, 80% of Americans found the financial crisis to be causing them stress, a number significantly higher than the 66% from three years earlier. Fighting about money once a week makes a couple more than 30% more likely to get a divorce, and money stress is a major cause of unhappiness.
Learning how to ease your money stress may not be easy, but developing this ability can not only make you happier, but more financially secure. When you can see your financial situation in a clear light, your decisions become much easier. Here are a few ways to help alleviate your money woes.
1. Identify your problems.
In order to solve your financial issues, first you need to assess your situation realistically. Denial or uncertainty are both big stressors and can have huge effects on your mental state. Examine bank statements, credit card bills, any debts and open accounts, and assess your exact standing.
2. Determine which habits are causing problems.
Money is so often tied to emotion, and it’s important to take a long look at what drives your anxiety. Perhaps your value of money is to indicate status, or compensate for a feeling of inadequacy, to show others how much you care, or even a product of attitudes formed in childhood. Find out what your emotional connection is to money, and understand the way this affects your values and actions.
3. Communicate with your partner.
Applicable to marital financial stress, being deliberate in expressing concerns and staying open with your spouse is crucial to alleviating stress. If there are problems, solving them together instead of hiding important details from one another is a much healthier way to approach your finances. Be clear about both of your values and understandings of money and beliefs.
4. Be strict in budgeting.
Once you understand your situation and your approach to your finances, it becomes much more clear where and how you can cut back. Part of this is having a fairly rigorous budget, which may be difficult to adapt to, but provides more security and peace of mind than failing to plan. If you know what bills and expenses are coming your way, you won’t be taken by surprise by an expense and scrambling to make ends meet.
5. Save, save, save.
When unexpected expenses do come your way, like car repairs, medical bills, and the like, having an emergency fund provides extra security and never leaves you feeling unprepared.
Perhaps one of the most important ways to reduce your stress is to live within your means. Commit to spending only what you can afford, and don’t allow your value of something to be less than its price. This may mean downsizing your living situation, indulging in fewer expensive items, or re-thinking that new car you’ve been eying, but your financial troubles become manageable if you reframe the way you think about money.