When is the last time you were tossing and turning all night because of financial worries? According to a 2016 CreditCards.com survey, 68 percent of women lose sleep over money stress, as compared to 56 percent of men.
There are a number of potential reasons why men tend to rest (slightly) easier than women when it comes to finance, including the wage gap and the fact that women live longer but have less retirement savings. These are legitimate and worrisome issues that give women a good reason to fret into the wee hours.
But no matter what is triggering your personal financial stress, worrying about money can do a whammy on everything from your productivity to your health.
Thankfully, it’s possible to end your money stress and improve your financial outlook, no matter where you are financially. Here’s how:
Recognize That You Are in Control
You may dream about finally achieving financial security—that mythical state when you have enough money to handle anything that life throws at you.
Except that is giving control to your money. You need to recognize that you (and not your money) can handle life’s financial problems. Any enormous fortune (even Oprah’s!), could be wiped out by a large enough catastrophe—but a woman in total control of herself can handle a catastrophe, whether or not the money is there.
So how do you convince yourself of your wicked awesome skills if you’re used to feeling stressed about money? Researchers have found two exercises help you feel more in control:
- Speak to yourself by name, rather than saying “I” or “me.” This helps you be as smart and compassionate about yourself as you would be about a friend, and reduces negative self-talk, which tends to sap your self-esteem.
- Recall a time you felt like you handled something like a boss, whether or not the situation was money-related. This will boost your confidence.
Lean into Your Psychology
The basics of money management have never changed: track your spending, increase your savings, and pay off debt. The best way to do these things, however, will often depend on how you personal react to money:
- If you want tracking done for you—Many would-be budgeters can make great decisions with their money, as long as they don’t have to track spending themselves. For these folks, personal finance software like Mint.com, Quicken, or YNAB.com can help them stick to their budget.
- If you don’t want to track your spending at all—Maybe you have no interest in keeping tabs on where your money goes. In that case, have your paychecks deposited into a savings account, and only have the amount of money you need for monthly expenses transferred into your checking account each month. Provided you don’t struggle with impulse spending, this can help you increase savings and stay on target without having to track a penny.
- If you want to (productively) ignore your money —If thinking about money is just one more item on your ever-growing to-do list, then automatic savings and budgeting apps can help. These apps save money for you, help you define and reach your goals, and can let you know how much you can safely spend. Digit, Level Money, Pennies, and Rize are just four of the many fintech apps that help you productively ignore your money.
Save Up $1,000
There’s a reason why this refrain is on the Personal Finance Greatest Hits record: having money set aside in case of an emergency can ease moments of acute financial stress, like a surprise bill or a car repair.
But you might be wondering just where in blazes you’re supposed to find a spare grand lying around. Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as it might sound:
- Adjust your withholding—If you always get a big tax refund, then you already have money set aside for an emergency—in Uncle Sam’s coffers. Request a new W-4 form from your HR department, and adjust the withholding allowances. While you’re there, set up an automatic transfer of the increase into a savings account.
- Move $10 per pay period into savings—Set up an automatic transfer of $10 per pay period. (If you can easily afford more than $10, then do more. Just start somewhere.) Then have the amount automatically increase in three months. This will get you in the savings habit without feeling the pinch.
- Cancel unused subscriptions—Consumers spend $14 billion per year on subscription services that they have forgotten they signed up for. You don’t have to comb through your statements to find them yourself. The apps Trim and Truebill will do the work for you, for free. Once you’ve cancelled, have the money you saved automatically transferred into savings.
You Don’t Need to Stress
Financial stress is not an inevitable part of modern life. You can end your financial stress by accepting that you are in control, finding a money management method that fits your psychology, and setting aside an emergency fund.
You’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.