Financial Tools for Stress Reduction
For too many of us, money equals stress. More aptly put, the lack of money equals stress. There are steps you can take today to reduce your financial stress without throwing in extra time and effort.
- Don’t Do Something that Might Cause More Stress Later
Sometimes we do things while hoping the repercussions won’t catch up to us. The prudent thing to do is not to do those things in the first place. How many times have you driven your car over the speed limit only to drive past a police car tucked away on the side of the road? Your first reaction is probably one of anger and surprise. For someone on a tight budget, a speeding ticket can be a major expense. Why not, instead, always just drive the speed limit? Then you don’t have to worry about a policeman sitting on the side of the road with his laser gun pointed at you.
Likewise, some people choose to fudge the numbers on their tax return every year, hoping that they won’t get caught a year or two later. Why not just follow the laws so you don’t have to worry about it coming back to haunt you at a later date? How much stress could you eliminate in your life if you were proactive and stopped doing things that might hurt you later on?
- Have an emergency fund
Having a little bit of money in the bank to fall back on should an emergency arise provides a big financial relief. If you got a flat tire tomorrow, would you be able to fix it or would you sit and stress out about how to get to work until payday? When money is tight, you might wonder how you can get a little extra set aside, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. First, make it a priority. Even if all you can do is put aside $5.00 every week, at least you’re taking charge of your situation which also provides a sense of relief. Do you buy lunch at work or school? Pack a lunch instead and put the money you would have spent into your emergency fund.
- Change Your Mindset
The things we tell ourselves matter. What truly constitutes an emergency? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our basic needs are food, shelter, and safety. If you’re not able to pay the credit card bill this month, is it truly worth stressing out about? Is not making that payment going to detract from your ability to eat or have shelter? Probably not, so tell yourself things like “And this, too, shall pass” or “I’ll just catch up on that later – no sweat”. How about "I can do this" or "It's no big deal"? Yes, it may be uncomfortable to cut back or miss a payment, but it isn’t the end of the world. Take charge of the things you tell yourself and don’t sit and ruminate on things you can’t change. Life will go on.
- Take Charge
Part of financial stress comes from feeling out of control. Each step you take to control your own financial situation puts you back in the driver's seat and eases your stress. You can’t dig out of a financial hole overnight, but you can regain your sense of control. Use a tool like expensetracker.com to track where your money goes, then cut back on all the unnecessary expenditures. Once you start keeping track, you’ll be amazed when you find all the little things you spend money on that add up over time to eat up your income. Get in control again.
- Keep Learning
Learning is a lifelong process. Don't believe that you know everything and just keep on doing what you've always done. Read books and articles to learn how to better manage your money, earn more income, or spend less. Technology changes at the speed of light and new tools come out every day to help you in your quest.
- Get a Financial Partner
We are often secretive about our finances, and often for good reasons. Is there someone who has a similar situation or similar goals? Are they trustworthy? It's often easier for people to give advice to other people than to fix their own problems because being a little more distant from the problem helps us find solutions more easily. If there is someone you feel comfortable talking about finances with, hook up and agree to help each other. Talking alone goes a long way to unburdening ourselves, helping us to feel better and less stressed. Agree to look over each others' financial situation and offer constructive advice. Help each other stay on track with the goals you've set for yourselves.