Are you feeling the gnawing pain of financial anxiety? You’re not alone. A majority of Americans (59 percent) report that they live paycheck to paycheck.
Stressing about finances can go far beyond the wallet. It can seep into every aspect of your life and manifest itself as generalized anxiety, guilt, panic attacks, or trouble sleeping at night. It can also wreak havoc on your marriage or partnership.
But there are steps you can take to ease the anxiety and get moving in the right direction. Relax, and read on.
Take a long, hard look at your budget
Your first step should be to examine your budget and make some immediate changes in your spending habits. Track your daily spending carefully and see where you can make some cuts.
This may mean making coffee at home instead of buying it at a coffee shop, changing your cable subscription, or spending less on travel for a few months until you get back into the black.
Make a concrete plan to pay off your debts and stick to it. This will give you breathing room and a clear way forward.
Don’t beat yourself up
Financial stress can make us feel like we’ve failed ourselves or our families in some major way, but it’s not helpful or necessary to think this way.
Remind yourself of the positive ways you’re managing your money, even if you’ve fallen behind on paying the bills. Maybe you’re putting money into a retirement account or chipping away at a student loan. Make a list of the positives so you can keep your chin up as you work toward financial stability.
Don’t compare yourself to others, especially online. Social media allows people to project a false sense of wealth — don’t fall for it, and don’t let it get you down. Stay focused on your goals.
Talk to someone
Perhaps a long, serious talk with your spouse or partner will give you clarity and help ease your money stress. You want to make sure you’re on the same page as your spouse/partner when it comes to budgeting.
If this conversation is difficult or not fruitful, maybe you need to talk to a professional—a financial advisor or therapist who specializes in financial anxiety. Get the emotional support you need to stay on top of your game mentally so you can enact your financial plans with confidence.
There is absolutely no shame in asking for professional help to deal with financial stress, and the cost of a financial advisor is worth budgeting for — it will pay itself back quickly in money and emotional well-being.
Start an emergency fund
Life happens. Unexpected expenses will come up that can ramp up your stress levels.
To give yourself a safety net and peace of mind, it’s a great idea to save for emergencies. Start with as little as $25 a month, or more if you can afford it. A solid emergency fund might be $500 to $1,000—enough to help cover a car repair, appliance fix or a medical emergency.
Once you hit $1,000, keep saving. The more you have, the easier it will be to tackle bigger emergencies.
The bottom line
Take these steps to get yourself out of financial stress and back on track—one day and one dollar at a time.