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Your palms are sweaty, you haven’t been able to sleep soundly for a week, and your stomach’s in knots. If that’s the case, you’re probably suffering from a little something called financial stress. But don’t worry—you’re not alone.
Get this—78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck . . . every single month.(1) Not only are you seeing your bank account dwindle, but you’re also feeling it. A study by the American Psychological Association found that 72% of Americans feel stressed about money at least some of the time and nearly 25% are extremely stressed.(2)
So what’s the solution? Making more money? Maybe in some cases. But often times, this salary boost can lead to spending even more money on those things you’ve always wanted. Sounds nice, right? But if you’re not careful, that kind of spending could cost you your health, your relationships, and maybe even your future.
What Is Financial Stress?
The Financial Health Institute defines stress as a condition caused by financial events that create anxiety and worry, often coupled with a physical response.(3) And if you’ve ever experienced any form of financial stress, you probably know what that feels like.
Financial stress can sneak up on you out of nowhere. Usually, you know exactly what it is when it rears its ugly head (it’s not pretty). But the surefire way of figuring out if you’re suffering through financial stress is identifying the symptoms. Here’s what to look for:
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- Panic attacks
- Emotional numbness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Gaining/losing weight
. . . and that’s just to name a few.
Financial stress has also taken a toll on marriages nationwide. A 2017 study by Ramsey Solutions found that money is the number one issue married couples argue about: “41% of couples who have consumer debt say that they argue about money and it’s what they argue about the most.”(4)
Listen, financial stress doesn’t have to take over your life—or your marriage. And we’re here to help.
How to Deal with Financial Stress
It’s time to leave behind that stress and start taking control of your money (and your health)! Here are some ways you can start getting your life in order today:
1. Take Inventory
We know it’s scary, but it’s time to open that junk drawer that you’ve been stashing all those old bills in. Believe us—just because the problem isn’t in plain sight doesn’t mean it’s not there. It may not seem like it now, but facing those bills head on is the most helpful thing you can do to start relieving your stress.
2. Make a Budget (and Stick to It)!
Accounting for all of your bills helps you feel more in charge, doesn’t it? So now that you know what you’re dealing with, it’s time to come up with a plan of attack. That plan is called the zero-based budget.
First, write down your income, then your expenses. Now, subtract your income from your expenses until it equals zero! Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have nothing in the bank. It just means that you’ve given every single dollar a name.
Making a budget each month will help you determine if you’re spending more than you make and, if so, where you need to cut back. Most people feel like they’ve gotten a raise once they do a budget—and who doesn’t love finding money?
3. Pay Off All Your Debt
Yup. We mean all of it. You already know how stressful it is to have to worry about paying your bills when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Just imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have to keep giving your paycheck to student loans, credit cards, medical debt, and more. Seriously, just imagine! (We’ll wait.)
When you know your why, you’re ready to start attacking that debt with a vengeance! And we’ve got a plan for how to do just that!
But before we move on, it’s worth mentioning that if you’re in the middle of any kind of emergency (like a job loss, major home repairs, or a medical crisis), things may look a little different.
The best thing to do in that case is only pay minimum payments on your debt and focus on taking care of your Four Walls instead: Food, utilities, shelter and transportation. This will help you stay afloat until things get back to normal.
And if you’ve got debt collectors hounding you, your priority should still be taking care of you and your family—the credit card company can wait.
4. Follow the Baby Steps
Baby steps aren’t just for babies. In fact, Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps are the best way to get you from broke and broken to building wealth and living freely.
The Baby Steps cover everything from saving for emergencies, paying off debt, investing, saving for your child’s college fund, paying off your home, and building wealth so you can give generously.
With each step, you’ll feel the stress and worry fall away as you journey toward financial contentment.
5. Practice Gratitude
Speaking of contentment . . . They say the grass is greener on the other side. But the truth is, if you’re taking care of your own lawn, you don’t even notice the neighbor’s. Want to know why? Contentment.
If you want to get rid of financial stress, you’ve got to do things differently than what you’re doing now. And it all starts with addressing your “want-itis.” Keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t actually lead to contentment. It will only get you further into debt. (It’s true.)
Learn what triggers your want-itis and start limiting your exposure to that thing. (Yup, we’re looking at you, social media!) If waking up and scrolling through social media is a habit that leads you to your next purchase, it might be time to take a break.
The bottom line? No matter what kind of financial stress you’re going through, there’s hope! Start taking control of your money today with a free 14-day trial of a Financial Peace Membership.