It’s 3 am and you just woke up in a cold sweat. The rent is due, the car needs gas, and you just got an overdrawn notification from your bank. There’s no way you are going back to sleep now. Sound familiar? Or maybe the financial stress is just a dull pain that hangs over you and weighs a burden on your shoulders. It’s hard to find joy in the simple things because you have this shadow of instability hanging out. However the stress shows up in your life, it is, unfortunately, a reality for many people in our society. In fact, it is the norm. We joke about, we ignore it, we disengage from things in our lives we used to love because of it. Financial stress is an invasive, uninvited guest in our lives. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the stress and the underlying issues so you can finally move forward with more confidence and energy. First:
While it can be incredibly uncomfortable and downright scary, it is time to look your debt and financial stressors in the eye. How much do you owe? What is the grand total? Which of those debts make your palms sweat and your heart race? While it is easy to be overwhelmed, don’t fall into the trap of feeling helpless or hopeless. There are a ton of people out there that have faced worse financial situations than you are in this moment and they came out on top. There are many things you can do to help yourself, but understanding the situation you are in is what leads to an effective plan.
Take your last 3 months of statements (credit and checking), and check your outgoing expenses. Chances are, it is higher than you believed it to be. Give a good, thorough and honest check through your spending categories. How much are you spending on restaurants? Groceries? Entertainment and fun? Look at the big expenses too. Could you make more room in your budget by slashing your housing costs? Have an extra car you can sell and do without for the short term? Memberships that can get the boot for the time being? You don’t have to cut out all the extras forever. This is a temporary time to get back into the driver seat with your finances and fix what isn’t working. Bonus: after cutting out the extras, you will figure out what really matters to you and what costs didn’t actually bring you true joy, making this exercise sustainable and helpful for the long run, beyond the immediate savings.
Many people feel that they deserve the things they buy or pay for. Of course we all deserve to be happy and have fun and of course, we work hard. But are you really getting what you deserve when you are broke and scared? Nope. Do yourself a true favor and love yourself enough to say no for the temporary and get your spending under control.
It is a bad word to a lot of people. This is where some will tune out. BUT, this is the cornerstone of getting in control of your finances and releasing the fear and uncertainty that leads to debilitating stress. This is how you find the money to make a plan and get your debt paid off, your savings up, and your financial future secured through savings and investments. And news flash: The budget will be a permanent fixture in your life from this moment on. Companies with Billions of dollars have budgets. Millionaires (that stay millionaires) keep budgets. You can set your budget up however you want. When you have a ton of money, feel free to spend it. But with a plan. And a budget is just a plan for your money. Simple as that. It is restrictive when you are struggling financially, which is why you probably started to budget in the first place. But as you heal your finances, your budget will become your friend and it will remind you of all the cool stuff you get to do now that you have money. Nice.
As you go along this journey, it can feel lonely. Especially when your friends or family are not in the same mindset as you. But we will be here to keep encouraging you with ways to save and improve your financial life. This is only the start and you are not alone- you can do this!