Simply put, financial stress is worrying about money. We’ve all been there and know how terrible it is. Now let’s look at how to deal with it and – more importantly – how to avoid it.
We often think about financial stress as a heavy cloud hanging over our heads, or a feeling of worry and anxiety that doesn’t go away. While this is true, our behaviour can also give clues that our finances are worrying us. Here are sure-fire signs that you are suffering from financial stress:
The causes of financial stress are most often a combination of factors internal to you (i.e your own behaviour) and your life, and external factors, (i.e, other people’s behaviours).
When you improve your own behaviour, you will be in a better position to respond to the external factors that can lead to financial stress.
Financial stress can feel overwhelming. Therefore, don’t try to fix everything at once. Take it step by step.
1. Ask for help. This can be the most difficult thing to do, but it is also the most important. Even if you just talk to a friend you trust, sharing your worries will help give you perspective and calm you down.
2. Understand your position. Knowing that you are in trouble is not enough. You need to know the numbers. Get your latest credit report to see what all your debts are. If possible, do this with a friend you trust so you don’t feel alone and overwhelmed.
3. Draw up a budget or rework the budget you have, using your new understanding of your financial position.
4. Using your budget, look at what you can do to bring your debt under control, eg, debt consolidation, or negotiate a deal with credit providers to catch up on missed payments.
5. Track your expenses like a boss – you should know where every rand goes.
6. Give up expensive habits that are often also bad for your health, such as drinking, smoking and eating junk food.
7. Stop spending on impulse. Think about every purchase in the context of your budget and your debt control measures. For example, if you love online shopping, stay offline or ask to be suspended from the sites where you spend too much.
8. Start saving and track your growing balance to keep you motivated.
9. Put an emergency fund in place so that you can deal with unexpected expenses without taking on unplanned debt.
10. If you are a member of a household or a family, you cannot solve the money problems on your own. You must talk to your partner, children and other family members and get their support.
It is critical to also take care of your physical and mental health and wellbeing as part of dealing with your financial stress.