Feeling stressed about money?
What if you could wave a magic wand and get rid of all of your money stress?
Well, I don’t have a magic wand for that…
There are a few simple steps you can take to take control of your money and reduce your money stress.
And it’s probably a lot simpler than you think.
I can teach you how we went from stress level 10 to virtually no stress about money with a three part process.
Will it take work?
Will it be worth it.
Let’s get started.
What Causes Stress?
Stress can be caused by almost anything, even good things.
And you probably already know what stress you out.
According to the Very Well Mind, a few of the most common causes of stress include:
- Money and financial situations
- Relationships with friends and family (hello big holidays)
- Parenting – I love my kid, but she can drive me crazy
- Business of life
- Poor work/life balance
Stress can come from anywhere and have incredibly negative effects on our body and well being. When we live in a state of constant and repeated stress, those negative effects become even worse.
Check out this graph from the American Psychological Association and see just how stressful money can be. I doubt this has gone down much in the last 10 years.
Causes of Money Stress
In the graph above, money is one of the leading causes of stress in America.
And if you think about it, it’s not surprising.
Money spills into almost every area of our lives, and the state of our country during the COVID pandemic proves that.
When you lose a job or have a reduction in hours it can affect
- your ability to pay bills and keep a roof over your head
- health insurance
- providing for your family
- getting enough food and water
- creating space for rest and leisure – which are good for mental health
And that’s not even counting normal situations that might create money stress.
Things like arguing with your partner on how you spend money, buying things without consulting your partner, unexpected emergencies draining your savings account, overall anxiousness about spending money on things you love vs needs
All of these challenges and possible situations can lead to money stress, and have negative impacts on your body, mind, and family.
But, I have a few practical tips and steps to help you reduce financial stress in your life, and it’s a lot simpler than you think.
Simple and Practical Tips to Reduce Money Stress
Take a Deep Breath
When you feel anxious and stressed, it’s easy for your mind to start racing and leap to worst case scenarios.
My wife is the poster child for dooms day thinking. Sometimes it’s really practical stuff, like “hey, we need to have a plan if one or both of us dies”.
And sometimes when your brain is overly stressed, it can’t think or process new and existing information in a rational way.
When you take a few deep breaths, it slows you down, and most importantly, deep breathing slows your brain down.
Breathing removes the fight or flight response and let’s you return to your normal ability to think with logic and reason.
I’ve seen this with my middle schoolers all the time. Being in a constant state of hormonal change, they might have big reactions to small things and when a middle schooler is really frustrated, upset, or full of anxiety, you can’t really have a rational conversation with them. Maybe you have a middle schooler and have experienced this.
It’s only after they’ve calmed down and returned to a normal breathing pattern that you have a chance to talk rationally with them.
Adults are no different. When you’re stressed about money, the first step is to breathe and slow down your thinking. Then you can start making a plan to reduce stress.
Reflect and Assess Your Financial Situation
Okay, now you’re calm. Awesome, let’s start making a plan to reduce money stress.
The first step is to make an honest assessment of your current financial situation.
Spoiler alert – this might be hard.
Being vulnerable and honest with yourself is never easy, especially about money.
Everyone has their own background, experiences, and philosophies about money. That’s why it’s called ‘personal finance’.
It might hard to talk about, or even think about without getting defensive or justifying your spending (even when it’s counter to your goals and beliefs).
But an honest assessment is the only way forward.
Here are a few things to think about as you assess why you’re stressed about money.
- Is it because you never feel like you have enough?
- Are you stressed because your savings account is so low and you never seem to add to it?
- Do you have a ton of debt with no real plan to pay it off?
- Do you feel shame or guilt at your current financial situation?
- Are you embarrassed that you aren’t better at managing money?
- Are you unsure of what to do or where to start making changes?
- Do you feel defeated and ready to give up?
All of these feelings are perfectly normal, but they don’t have to always rule your life and money.
Everybody deserves to live out their dreams and get rid of money stress. Debt and bad money moves shouldn’t get to define your life.
By identifying why you’re stressed about money, you’re one step closer to making your plan to reduce money stress for good.
More on my 3 part plan coming up.
Focus on What You Can Control and Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Life is full of things we can’t control.
- the weather
- how other people react to things
- the past
If I spend my time worrying and stressing about things I can’t change, then I’m wasting my time and energy to impact the things I can change.
A helpful way to frame stressful events or feelings of stress is to think,
If it’s not something you can control, your energy is better used on things you can control.
I do want to point out though, that it’s 100% okay to feel stress over issues outside of your control. Losing a job can be extremely stressful, and is usually something you don’t have control over.
But your reaction and response AFTER the stressful event like a job loss is incredibly important.
Read that again.
On one hand, you can spend energy being frustrated and thinking about all the reasons you shouldn’t have lost your job, or that it’s unfair, or even wondering what am I going to do now.
You can move on (easier said than done, I know), and focus on what you can control.
- researching new jobs and start applying for them
- find a quick replacement job, maybe even part time to fill the gap until your next full time job
- sell a few things from your basement or garage to help make ends meet
- adjust your budget to get rid of unnecessary spending (at least until you get another job)
All of these things are a much more productive use of time and energy. And these action steps will keep you moving forward instead of allowing yourself to become complacent and inactive which can easily happen in highly stressful situations.
So, when you become stressed about money, try to avoid getting sucked into the trap of focusing on things outside of your control.
Instead, assess the situation and begin to take productive action.
Talk with Your Partner or a Trusted Friend
Another great way to reduce money stress is to talk with somebody you trust.
That might be your partner, or if you’re single, a close friend or family member.
Talking with somebody about your money stress does a couple things.
Helps you process your stress – did you ever know somebody who is a verbal processor? They talk and talk and talk their way through a situation or problem until they come to a solution they like.
The physical act of talking out loud is the path to find a solution. I worked with another history teacher who talked through lesson ideas, classroom management strategies, and changes in the school.
It helped her digest the information.
If you’re also an external processor, talking with somebody about financial stress can help you process and feel more in control of the situation.
Your partner or friend can help support you. Knowing that somebody understands your situation and is in your corner helps us feel more comfortable and supported. They can become a person you turn to with updates, progress, and solutions to your financial stress.
And if you work out a solution, your partner or friend can check in with you to see how things are going. For example, if you decide to make a new budget to help you prioritize spending, your friend can ask you how it’s going.
And your best response is to be honest with them. Hiding things or sugarcoating the truth runs the risk of creating more stress. Just don’t do it.
Alright, are you ready to make a real plan to reduce your money stress? Let’s dive in!
Creating a 3 Part Plan to Reduce Money Stress
I have a three part plan to help you overcome and reduce stress about money.
It’s not a quick fix, but it’s a proven plan, and the same one my family used to get rid of our own money stress.
1. Create an Emergency Fund
A huge reason I used to be so stressed about money is because I never felt like I had enough.
And as a result, if any sort of financial emergency popped up, I had no way to pay for it besides a credit card, which would just dig a deeper hole of debt.
I wanted a better solution. Maybe you do too.
That’s when I stumbled on Dave Ramsey and the idea of an emergency fund.
What’s an emergency fund?
An emergency fund is money you keep in savings to cover unexpected emergencies.
Creating an emergency fund was the single best thing I did to reduce money stress.
And it’s ONLY FOR EMERGENCIES!
- Major car repairs
- Medical emergencies
- Broken furnace, water heater, thermostat, etc
- Job loss or pay reduction
Of course there are many, many more.
The idea is when you have an emergency that your budget can’t cover, you use your emergency savings to avoid going into debt. Then when you’re able to, rebuild your emergency savings to its original amount to cover future emergencies.
It prevents you from having to make a choice between paying bills and buying basic needs like food.
How much should you keep in your emergency fund?
This is a really personal question, and only you can come up with the answer.
My answer to people I work with is – however much gives you peace of mind.
If that’s $1,000, GREAT! If that’s still stressful, keep adding money until you don’t feel stressed about possible financial emergencies.
Our magic number right now is $10,000, but I know people who have as little as $1,000 or as much as $30,000.
It’s personal, so choose a number that gives you peace of mind. You can always change it later.
If you need help saving money, I’ve got you covered – read this.
2. Reorient Your Spending Around Your Goals, Values, and Priorities
In other words…
Make a budget.
This is SO important. I can’t stress it enough.
That would be terrible and miserable.
It would probably create more stress instead of reducing your money stress.
I remember feeling stuck and trapped in debt with no way out. We started a budget but felt so restricted that we cried every month. It was SO stressful.
But then we decided to stop living in stress and make changes.
Instead, think of a budget like this…
A budget is a way to reorient your spending around your goals, values, and priorities.
And the best part is, YOU GET TO CHOOSE!
Read that again ??
Yep, you get to choose what to spend money on based on what YOU think is important.
Whenever I work with people on creating a budget, I always start by asking them about their goals.
So, what are your goals?
Do you want to:
- Get out of debt
- Save for college
- Buy a house
- Go on vacations every year
- Go on more fancy dates
- Buy gifts frequently for people you love
Whatever your goals are, your budget should reflect them and you should create a space to spend money on it.
The same goes for your values and priorities in life.
Money should be spent on things that bring you joy, reflect your values and priorities, and move you closer to your goals.
If you’re interested in making a budget like that, read this for more tips to create a values based budget.
3. Make a Plan to Get Out of Debt with a Debt Snowball Spreadsheet
Debt sucks and steals your hopes and dreams.
I remember being buried under a mountain of debt and feeling like there was no way out, at least not for about 25 years based on my repayment plan.
But then I made a debt snowball spreadsheet and it changed everything.
It gave me a roadmap, helped me set a goal, and motivated me to pay off my debt. And the power of the spreadsheet helped me pay off my debt faster.
I’m not going to go into a lot of debt here because I already have great resources to help you get out of debt.
You can read this article on how to create a debt snowball spreadsheet, and/or enter your email address to download your own template today. It has full written and video instructions to get set up.
A debt snowball spreadsheet is the same tool we used with our budget to pay off $100,000 of debt in 5 years.
And I fully believe it’s the best tool to help anyone pay off debt at light speed.
The best part about using a debt snowball spreadsheet is that it organizes your debt in one place and gives you a plan to pay it off. After you set up your spreadsheet, you’ll have an approximate date of when you can be debt free.
That’s CRAZY useful to motivate you to pay off debt.
My Last Tip to Help Reduce Stress about Money
As you’re creating and implementing the 3 part plan I laid out in this article, I haven’t mentioned a final important ingredient.
By our nature, it’s much easier to stay still and maintain the status quo.
Which means, we’re all a little more likely to make excuses to not save money, make a budget, or create a real plan to get out of debt.
You’re more likely to stay stuck in continual financial stress.
And I know you don’t want that. So you need motivation to keep moving forward with these 3 steps.
What motivates you?
What dreams or goals do you have?
For us, we wanted to start a family so we used this plan and worked hard to keep going, even when we felt stressed or frustrated. We knew the end goal was a snuggly little baby.
Here are a few tips to keep you motivated as you save money, budget, and get debt free.
- Find motivational quotes and put them where you can see them
- Read debt free stories
- Follow budgeting blogs like this one for more tips
- Coloring pages you can color as you move toward your goals
- Create a dream and vision board
- Celebrate progress – cheap champagne is great for this, or dessert
- Set goals
- Reflect on your progress. It’s fun to see how far you’ve come
Find what motivates you and surround yourself with it.
Are You Ready to Take Action to Reduce Money Stress?
Money can create mass amounts of stress, but it doesn’t have to.
A solid game plan for less financial stress includes
- setting up an emergency fund
- re-orienting your budget around your goals, values, and priorities
- making a plan to get out of debt with a debt snowball spreadsheet.
Next, read one (or all of these articles) to help put your plan into action.
- Practical Tips to Create an Emergency Fund
- Creating a budget based on your values
- How to make a debt snowball spreadsheet today
You can also download a debt snowball spreadsheet template and get started immediately.
Until next time, keep working to budget, save money, and get debt free.