By now, you’ve likely heard of Marie Kondo, minimalism and the benefits of decluttering your living space. Those same tidying up benefits—focusing more on what matters, saving time and money, less stress, more confidence and making more intentional choices—also apply to your finances.
Whether the COVID-19 pandemic has added to your debts through medical expenses, loss of income or an increase in credit card debt from online shopping, now is the time to tidy up your finances and worry less about money.
Causes of financial stress
Financial stress, caused by the inability to pay bills, leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety and, in some cases, can lead to foreclosure, homelessness and depression. So how do you reduce financial stress? Identify the reasons you’re in debt.
- A general misunderstanding of money and paying bills. Maybe on paper you have the money you need to cover your expenses, but somehow when it comes time to pay your bills, the money is never there when you need it. This can cause a lot of stress, as well as the need to take on more debt (even temporarily) to cover bills until your next paycheck.
- Financial stress comes from taking on more financial commitments than we can carry. That can come in the form of college tuition, auto loan payments, housing costs, phone bills, groceries, and the list goes on. In other words, you start by making a small snowball, but it quickly rolls downhill, picking up speed and snow along the way and suddenly you have a larger-than-life-sized snowball of debt.
- Taking an, “I’ll do it later” approach to building your savings. As your income increases with age, experience and education levels, so too do spending habits. But often forgotten is the need to set aside funds for a rainy day. Then, when a major expense comes up—like an unplanned car repair—you rack up more debt on your credit card.
How to deal with financial stress
- Make learning a priority. You’re never too old to learn, especially when it comes to taking care of your finances. Check out Verve’s free resources, and make reading and watching financial lessons your part-time job. Check out these free financial literacy lessons from the U.S. Mint.
- Set a budget and stick to it. Thinking about money AND making changes don’t always go hand-in-hand. Just like any major life change—like a diet—can be easy to think about and plan, but taking the action is the hard part. Just like any goal you set, taking the time to physically write the goal down makes it that much more likely you’ll achieve it. Take some time to identify and write down your goals, and then outline your expenses and income to make a budget that helps you reach your goals.
- Declutter your debt. Just like it sounds, debt consolidation means moving multiple credit cards or loans into one loan or credit card. That’s fewer interest rates and due dates to worry about, and can help you get a lower rate, so you pay less in interest over time.
- Build your savings. This next step is important, as it can really help you avoid sliding back into debt—set aside money for the proverbial rainy day. As you are outlining your budget, be sure to include money you’ll add to savings each month. Start small—like a dollar a day—and gradually increase the amount you add to savings. Aim to eventually have three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund.
- Ask for help. Whether you meet with a financial coach, phone a friend or seek professional help for stress and anxiety, there is no shame in asking for assistance. Remember: no matter how tough it gets and how alone you feel, there is always someone ready to help you, so please reach out when you need it!
Now that you’ve taken some time to identify sources of financial stress and anxiety in your life, keep the momentum up by establishing a solid budget, building your savings and investing for the future. Have questions? Reach out to one of our team members today at 800.448.9228.