The financial stress triggered by the economic collapse in 2008 is still going strong. Almost three-quarters of Americans say they’re under financial stress, and one-quarter say their condition is extreme, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association.
Whether you’re struggling to pay bills or build up your savings, those pressures can take a toll on your health as well as your bank balance. Consider these suggestions that will help you manage your money and your stress.
Steps to Take With Your Money
1. Track your spending. Figure out where your money is going. There are websites and apps that will help you record your expenses for free or you can carry around a paper journal. You may be surprised to see how much you’re really spending on coffee or haircare.
2. Create a budget. Once you understand the situation better, you can start thinking about the changes you want to make. Writing a budget and sticking to it will help you to make smarter choices.
3. Pay off debt. Is debt weighing you down? Start paying off your credit cards. Talk with your creditors and explore your options for refinancing. Ensure you understand the terms if you decide to borrow money from your house or other assets.
4. Spend less. Whittle down your discretionary spending. Borrow movies from the library instead of paying for all those cable channels.
5. Earn more. Think of ways to bring in more money. Hold a garage sale each summer or sell your crafts at a local gift shop.
6. Save consistently. Could you handle an unexpected expense? Put money aside for car repairs and retirement. Small amounts deducted from each paycheck add up.
Steps to Take With Your Mind
1. Surround yourself with support. Challenging times are easier to bear when you can count on others for validation and compassion. If your family and friends are unable to help, join a jobs club or talk with a counselor.
2. Meditate and pray. Many people find strength in their spiritual faith. Attend a friend’s church to see if you feel at home.
3. Exercise daily. Physical exercise reduces stress and fortifies your immune system. Martial arts training is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only does it reduce stress but it helps your feel confident about yourself because you know you are able to protect you and your loved ones.
4. Eat well. If you’re having trouble affording healthy foods, learn more about nutrition. Beans, tofu, and seasonal produce are usually excellent values. Start your own vegetable garden and drink water instead of soda.
5. Prioritize sleep. If anxiety is keeping you up at nights, develop bedtime rituals to make you drowsy. Drink chamomile tea and take a warm bath. Darken your bedroom and block out noises with a fan.
6. Have a laugh. Laugher really is good medicine for lowering your blood pressure and brightening your day. Watch funny movies or call an old friend.
7. Avoid excess. Alcohol, smoking, and watching hours of TV may seem tempting when you’re trying to cope with unemployment or large debts. However, there are choices that will make better use of your time and protect your health. Do volunteer work or play with your dog.
8. See your doctor. Are you putting off medical care because of high costs? Your insurance may cover some routine tests for free. Many health care providers will negotiate a discount if you ask in advance.
You can make peace with your finances even if you’re unemployed or your income is lower than you’d like. Relax, take care of your health, and think creatively about how to manage your money wisely.