How to Take the Stress Out of Saving Money
It can be very stressful when trying to save money, whether you are putting cash away for regular expenses, an emergency fund, vacation, retirement, or for any other big goal. There are so many different reasons to stress about money, and it makes perfect sense with so many bills to worry about, not to mention unexpected expenses and saving for the future.
A 2012 report by the American Psychological Association found that money, work, and the economy are the most reported causes of stress for Americans (and 75 percent said that money was a significant source of stress). All three categories are closely linked – you have to work to make money, and your job might be in jeopardy if the economy is down. Most people get stressed sometimes, but if you are feeling regularly stressed about money, you should make some changes.
First, you should determine what it is exactly that is making you stress about your finances. If you are drowning in debt, then your first priority should be to pay it off. If you are barely scraping by, this is another common reason why people stress about money, and it might make it difficult for you to pay down your debt. However, most people find that being debt free is very liberating, and it also frees up more money for other expenses. You should start by creating a budget if you have never done so before, or by fixing a failing budget if you have one that you are not sticking to.
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Determine all of your monthly expenses, and then see if you have room to pay down debt – if you don’t, you might need to cut back on some other expenses. Doing this can be helpful whether you are drowning in debt or simply living paycheck to paycheck. If you are seriously in debt, you also might want to consider talking to your creditors to see if you can figure out a payment plan.
If you seriously don’t make enough money to cover your bills, it might be time to look for a different job, add a second job, or even ask for a raise. If you don’t think you will get a raise anytime soon, strive to earn one in the near future: work hard, be a team player, and collect evidence to support your request. In the meantime, focus on your budget and try to eliminate costs and save money. Also, be aware that even if you do get a raise, at some point you will have to figure out how to be responsible with money (if you are not already). More money will not fix your problem if you can’t stay on budget because of impulse buying or lack of organization.
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If you feel stressed about money because you just have too much going on or are too busy to budget, this is a separate problem. Try penciling in a time each week to check on your spending. In addition, if you feel stressed because you have so many different accounts and bills that you have a hard time keeping track of them or making payments on time, then you need to get organized. This may require a specific notebook in which you write each expense and keep track of your bills, or try using a personal financial app to get you started.
You may already make enough money, in which case your finances are probably concerning you for a different reason. If you haven’t saved enough for retirement, it’s never too late to start (because anything is better than nothing). This should be a priority regardless of whether or not you have enough money, but if you are getting stressed just thinking about retirement, don’t let it scare you.
If you are regularly stressed about money, try doing something that will help you de-stress. If you like to work out, take time out of your day to get a good exercise session in. Or go for a walk outside, work on a craft, or talk to a friend. Make sure you make time for whatever helps keep you relaxed.
Reward yourself regularly in other ways if necessary. This doesn’t mean you should go out and splurge when you are supposed to be carefully budgeting and saving money. Include a little bit of fun money in your budget, and when it’s gone, don’t spend more. Setting regular goals and rewarding yourself when you achieve them is a good way to stick to your goals. Also, make big goals, and when you accomplish them, do something special. For example, if you pay down a few thousand dollars on your credit card, a small reward is reasonable.
Lastly, if you are doing all of the above and you are still extremely stressed, it might be time to talk to a counselor, or if it helps you feel like you are working toward your goals, consider hiring a financial planner. The money will be well spent if you are able to cut back your stress and start saving more regularly.