With the world seemingly turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever is an excellent time to explore how to handle financial stress. Financial stress affects millions upon millions of people each day. In fact, according to a recent poll, a whopping 9 out of 10 people report feeling stress about their finances during the recent COVID-19 crisis.
Not only can financial stress be a cause of poor health but it can also lead to strained relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. 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 four tips.
1. Write Out a Budget
"See money – currency - as the flow of energy and giving that cycles between you, others and me. Now let it flow kindly, fairly and mindfully." - Rasheed Ogunlaru
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 even 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 and Christmas. This will allow you to put money aside for those yearly events so that you do not find yourself in the hole in 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 suspect that your budget exceeds your income, you will want to start your budget with necessities and then add items in order of importance, with the bottom portion being the best place to begin cutting. 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 allows for a high-level view of their finances, and after seeing all of this information laid out, it enables them to determine the best places to make cuts easily.
2. Determine What You Can Change to Improve Your Financial Situation
"How would your life be different if…You stopped worrying about things you can't control and started focusing on the things you can?" - Steve Maraboli
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. 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
"Preparedness is the ultimate confidence builder" - Vince Lombardi
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
"Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new." - Barack Obama
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 budget 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.
If you have questions about how you can reduce your financial stress, please contact us. Now, more than ever is an excellent time to reevaluate your financial situation. We can help you achieve peace mind around finances, so you focus on what's most important to you in life.
Thirty Mile Financial offers a complimentary 30 minutes consultation to help you assess your finances and plan for the future.