Beyond times like these last few weeks (March 2020), the stress of finances affects many people and can cause not only poor health but also family complications. Learning to control financial stress is vital to your health as well as the health of your family unit.
To help alleviate your financial stress and gain control back, try these 4 tips.
1. Write Out a Budget / Spending Plan
Having a spending plan means knowing your financial health. It's one of the most powerful tools to use when trying to alleviate financial stress in our lives. When we become aware we can take action.
So, think of every item that you might possibly spend money on during the month and include them in a monthly budget. Make sure to include items that you may not spend money on every month but will spend throughout the year such as clothing, vacations, or household repairs. Try to estimate the total amount you will use throughout the year and break it down into months. You will also want to include once a year events such as birthdays, weddings and Christmas. This will allow you to put money aside for those yearly events so that you do not find yourself in the hole on months where there are celebrations.
Once you have created your detailed budget, you will need to analyze it against your monthly income and see if there is a surplus or deficit. If there is a deficit, you'll want to look at where in your budget you can cut expenses, making each month less stressful to meet your budget and bill needs. If you make more than you spend then it's time to look at maxing out your 401k, health savings plans and look into other optimal saving & investment buckets for your future.
To avoid a stressful situation, make sure that your budget balances at the end of each month (or more optimally, that you are left with a surplus) to prevent being constantly behind on your monthly bills.
For many people, just the act of creating a budget will allow for a high-level view of their finances and after seeing all of this information laid out, enables them to easily determine the best places to make cuts, where to save and invest more, etc.
Remember, the more your spending habits are aligned with your values the happier you will be. Don't be afraid to become aware.
2. Determine What You Can Change to Improve Your Financial Situation
Once you have determined what your budget and financial needs are, you will need to determine what changes you can make now to alleviate financial stress. Cutting non-necessities from your budget is an easy place to start. Eliminate or reduce eating out, entertainment, and other activities that add to your monthly expenses and don't add value to your well being.
If after paring down your budget to just the essentials you decide that to meet the financial goals you need to make more money, you will need to come up with additional ways to increase your income.
For those with a more substantial deficit each month, you may want to secure additional work if time allows to help you get back on track and supplement your financial need. This can include work-from-home jobs or seasonal work that can be saved to use for the budget during times of the year when your income is less. If additional hours or overtime are options at your current job, it may be best to look into what options you have to add to your income on a regular basis.
3. Plan for an Emergency
One of the biggest aspects of financial stress is being unprepared when financial needs arise, such as unexpected medical bills, or expensive car repairs. You can alleviate some of this stress by starting an emergency fund.
You should set a goal to build it to cover at least three to six months worth of expenses and try to maintain it once you get there. While it may feel as though putting savings into an emergency fund is straining your budget at first, do your best to include this savings as part of your regular bills. Remind yourself that you are doing this so that the necessary funds will be there when an emergency arises and you will not have to skip paying bills or accrue additional debt to cover the financial emergency.
4. Don't Be Afraid to ask for Help
The important thing to realize is not everyone is good with finances and to keep drowning and remaining stressed will continue to affect your wallet and your health.
If you are having problems creating a spending plan or getting debt under control, contact a credit counseling service or seek the help of a financial advisor. You can find many services that will help you come up with a plan to address your financial issues and get you back on track. Once you have a plan and begin to implement it, the stress of out-of-control finances will begin to be alleviated.
Don't let financial stress take over your life. Try the four tips above to help handle your financial stress and get your finances back on track.