Six ways to take command and feel better about your finances
For many Americans, financial concerns are their number one stress point. That’s understandable given the current economic climate, but at the same time, worry doesn’t solve much. Taking control of your finances does.
The monetary benefits of dealing with financial problems—saving more, paying down expensive debt—will improve not just your bottom line but your overall mood as well. The less you worry about dealing with finances and money issues, the more you can enjoy life.
Here’s how to help reduce your money stress and get motivated to take control of your finances:
1. Identify your stress points. Maybe it’s the threat of a job loss, or the realization that you need to get more serious about saving for retirement, or perhaps you are dealing with a troublesome credit card balance. Write down your three biggest financial stress points. Keeping the list short will help to ward off feeling overwhelmed.
2. Give it a positive spin. Your mindset is what will help fix your finances and keep you motivated to change. Rather than lament that you have too much debt, imagine how much better your life would be with less. Then make your vow: “Each month I will spend less and pay enough so my balance declines by at least $100.”
3. Focus on small, sustainable steps. Determine what you can reasonably achieve and then dedicate yourself to following through each and every month. Just as crash diets and insane workout routines typically lead to burnout, you don’t want to set overly ambitious financial goals that you will abandon in a few weeks or months.
4. Make the most of your income. A common speed bump toward reducing financial stress is the belief that you simply don’t have enough money to put toward your goals. This spending calculator is a great tool for seeing how much money you can save by making small changes to your budget. If you’re motivated to take a more detailed accounting, try the envelope system. Again, small steps are key. You may not be able to cut any one expense by $500, but you may be able to identify five monthly expenditures you could reduce by $100.
5. Forgive yourself if you slip up. Sticking to a budget is not always easy, and there may be days when your resolve falters. When that happens, remind yourself of how much you have to gain in reaching your goals. Then examine your spending patterns to see why you overspent. You may need to modify your budget or your behavior—if you can’t go into sporting supply stores without buying something, then stop visiting them.
6. Make it a group project. Every hard task becomes easier with the support of friends and family, so share your goals. Leaning on your relationships can also help keep you on track. There’s no better stress reducer than spending quality time with loved ones.
What's next? Tips for smart money management