Being stressed about money is not cool.
All the thinking and worrying only serves to bring you down. You start to feel paralysed by your situation.
It especially doesn’t help if you believe other people around you are really happy with their money. You can start to feel liked you’ve ‘failed’ in some way.
Money stress isn’t limited to people who are in debt or who earn a certain amount of money. You can have a positive net worth or a great income and still get stressed about money.
When you break it down, there are four factors that to money stress.
1. You’re Over Your Head
If what’s going out of your bank account each week is more than what’s coming in, then you’re on the fast-track to Stressville. You may be relying on credit cards to get you by, or counting on a big (but maybe not realistic) bonus to even out the year. If things get really dire, then you may look to declare bankruptcy or tap into your superannuation. Argh, major stress.
2. You’re Scraping By
If at the end of each month you’re left with a dollar in your bank account and five packets of 2-minute noodles in the cupboard, then I’m guessing you’re not feeling all rainbows and unicorns. Even the slightest bump in your budget – a car repair or broken appliance – could spin you out completely. Just like Aerosmith said, living on the edge is not a fun place to be.
3. Being in the Red
Borrowing is pretty much a fact of adulthood. We borrow for our education, borrow to buy a house, maybe even borrow to fund your investments. But owing a lot of money can be a source of stress – even if you can meet the repayments.
This is especially so if your debt is due to something that has declined in value – like say a car or (sadly) a house. You’ve got no choice but to keep paying the debt, or risk losing a lot of money if you sell.
4. You Don’t Know What’s Going On
Pile of unopened mail on the counter? Haven’t checked a credit card statement since January – last year? You might have a healthy bank account and feel like you’re getting by. But without the full picture of your finances, there’s always that nagging feeling that something is going unpaid/missed/or forgotten about.
(True story – I once dated a guy who had an entire shoebox of unopened mail, which totally stressed ME out.)
How to Deal with Money Stress
Okay, so if you’re stressed about money what can you do? Obviously there’s the standard responses of make more money and spend less money. But if you’re totally overwhelmed by your situation then that advice can seem a little glib.
Get the Full Picture
You know that scene in Shopaholic where Isla Fisher’s character, with the help of tequila, finally opens all her credit card bills and debt notices to figure out exactly what she owes.
Yeah, you’re gonna do that. Seriously. You can choose whether it’s over a glass of wine or a cup of tea.
Sit down, open all those envelopes (or download your statements if you’re online), and just write down those totals. No judging or I wishes. Just write it all down.
Chances are your situation isn’t as bad as you’ve been thinking it is. And if it’s actually worse? Well it’s easier to fight a battle if you know who the enemy is.
Focus on a Quick Money Win
If I’m starting to feel stressed about my money situation, often I’ll just go and upload half a dozen things on Gumtree to sell. Sure, I may only make $40 from the lot. But that quick cash-win can be energising and reminds me that I’m more in control of my earnings than I think.
Your quick win might actually be saving money. Maybe a 10 minute conversation with your phone company to change your plan. Or committing to eating only from what’s already in your cupboard for the week.
Tackling an easy challenge will help you to change your mindset around money and empower you to tackle those bigger money worries.
Speaking of which…
Understand What’s Really Worrying You
Often our stress triggers aren’t actually what’s really bothering us. Maybe you get stressed about your weekly grocery bill, but actually what’s really worrying you is how much money is going towards rent.
Or maybe you get stressed about going out for drinks with the girls, but your major problem is really that you’re not earning enough at work.
If you can figure out what the underlying cause of your money problems are, you’ll be one step closer to reducing your anxiety around money.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
Money stress can feed into all other aspects of our lives, causing you to feel totally overwhelmed.
Getting some outside perspective can help you get back in control. You could speak with a trusted friend or family member or, a financial expert. You speak with a financial counselor in Australia for free, and they can also help you to negotiate with your creditors if you need some more breathing space to pay back your debts.
No matter what you do, remember that your financial situation isn’t a reflection on who you are. By working through your money stress, you can become stronger and better able to face to other problems that come up.