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How Money’s Affecting Your Happiness (and 3 Ways to Fix It)

3 easy tips to take control of your finances.

By Kara Perez for Shine.

I’m a 28 year old freelance writer, and I love looking at my bank account. This is despite the fact that my business fluctuates month to month, and that sometimes my ice cream purchases get a little crazy. (Looking at you Ben and Jerry’s). I’m in total control of my money; every penny is exactly where I want it and doing what I want it to do. That brings joy to my heart, and keeps money stress at bay.

I know for many people it’s hard to face the figures in their accounts. Eight in ten Americans carry some kind of debt, and the average college grad in 2016 has $37,172 in student loans. There are lots of negative feelings associated with numbers like that. Shame, regret, incompetence, even just plain sadness.

Your money doesn’t have to make you want to curl up in a ball in the corner.

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Your money is a tool that you control, not the other way around! If your money is more likely to stress you out than put a smile on your face, try taking these three steps to take control of your finances.

1. Figure your situation out.

First things first y’all- you need to know what you’re dealing with.

Take stock of everything you’ve got. Find all your credit cards and when their payments are due. List all the debt you carry, and how much you owe each lender. See what kind of accounts are in your name, including any that your parents may have set up for you. Get a general look at the landscape before you go around trying to grow any roses.

2. Open a savings account.

Everyone needs to have a savings account. It’s a financial must. Even if you can only save $20 a month into it, you have to set one up. Often called an ‘Emergency Fund’, having a savings account that always has some cash in it will save your sanity if something goes wrong.

Aim for $1000 to start with. You’ll get there in a year if you save $84 a month. $1000 is a really nice amount to have in case something goes wrong with your apartment or your car. And knowing you have that money there when you’ll need it will give you peace of mind.

3. Focus on paying off your debt.

I graduated college with over $25,000 in debt. It feels terrible to carry that around every day, especially as you try to kick start your adult life. Every dollar you pay towards your debt takes you one step closer to freedom. The longer you carry debt, the more that someone else owns your life.

Your money won’t truly be yours as long as you have to send X amount each month to your lender.

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Create a plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible. I’m debt-free today, and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I don’t stress out at night, wondering how I’ll make my payments, or how I’ll ever save any money.

Taking action will make you feel empowered, and watching the balance drop will make you feel strong.

These may seem like small things (OK, paying down debt isn’t small), but they will work wonders for your happiness. Getting into a good groove with your money is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. It’s exactly like running 5 miles a day– just for your wallet.

When you remove all those bad feelings about money, good ones will come rushing in. Learning about how to take control will make you feel like Wonder Woman.

By understanding your money situation, building up some savings, and paying down debt, you’ll be able to generate positive feelings towards your money.

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