Financial anxiety can affect everyone: As bills pile up and debt accumulates, it can start to feel like you’re drowning.
This type of stress can have a severe impact on your mental health. No one wants to be kept up at night thinking about how they’re going to pay their rent or if they’ll be able to retire at a reasonable age.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with financial anxiety, there are steps you can take to start regaining control of your finances and gaining some peace of mind. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to start easing your financial stress.
What is the main cause of your financial turmoil?
For most people, it comes down to two things: low income and significant debt.
Low income can bring on a number of stressful situations on its own, such as:
Aside from having a low income, many people deal with financial anxiety due to debt.
According to studies, the average American household holds $5,700 in credit card debt. What’s worse is that households with the lowest net worth (zero or negative) hold an average of more than $10,000 in debt. In other words, the people who have the most trouble paying off their debts are also the ones who hold the most debt, on average.
Debt causes a variety of issues that can jeopardize your quality of life and long-term stability. Individuals with a lot of debt may have trouble creating an emergency fund, saving for retirement and dealing with everyday expenses.
In order to begin making a plan to deal with your financial anxiety, you have to identify the root cause of the issue.
As debt is one of the primary causes of financial anxiety, it stands to reason that you need to make a plan to reduce your debt if you want to reduce your stress.
Even if debt isn’t your primary issue, taking steps to tackle your debt will help free up your finances to deal with your larger problems.
First, you need to make a list or spreadsheet that lays out all of your debt—everything from student loans to credit card debts.
Next, decide whether you want to pay off smaller balances first or those debts with high interest rates first.
Paying debts in order from smallest balance to largest balance, known as the snowball method, has shown to be a great way to stay motivated when tackling debt. As you continue to pay off smaller balances, your debt can seem much more manageable as you narrow down your list of outstanding obligations.
Alternatively, you can focus on high-interest debts first in order to save the most money in the long run. Through this approach, you are both addressing your most dangerous debts first while also maximizing on your savings.
Regardless of which method you choose, make sure to focus your efforts on canceling out one debt at a time. You will gradually see your outstanding debts decrease while your financial confidence and money management improve.
For a lot of people, financial issues stem from poor budgetary practices. Creating a manageable budget is the foundation of financial freedom.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do this on your own. There are a number of apps that can help you easily create a reasonable budget based on your income and spending.
Mint and YNAB are two of the most popular apps made just for this. Available on Android and iOS, these apps will help you track your spending, manage your bills, create goals and plan your spending around your income.
Even if your monthly income is on the lower end of the spectrum, creating a budget will help you make the most of your limited resources.
Financial discipline—everyone needs it, not everyone has it.
You might not think much of spending $5 on coffee here and there or buying a new pair of shoes that you don’t need every once in a while, but mindless spending can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.
In order to save money and tackle your financial issues, you need to practice mindful spending. Mindful spending is exactly what it sounds like: You need to carefully consider each purchase you make outside of your monthly bills.
A good rule of thumb is to simply wait a few days before making any unnecessary purchases. Often, if you give yourself time to think about it, you’ll find that you’d be better off holding on to your money.
Financial anxiety affects just about everyone at one point or another. In order to deal with your financial stress, you need to be proactive and start making changes now to prepare you for the future.