For nearly everyone, money brings with it a great deal of stress. The panic we sometimes feel about money issues can prevent us from addressing the problem and result in things getting worse. Debt and the difficulties of balancing our budget affect most of us these days. The costs of living, together with the ease of getting a loan, can add up to a big headache. But it is possible to remove the fear and confusion and get on top of the situation. Money stress is normal, and while you can’t avoid it entirely, there’s a lot you can do to manage and overcome it.
Acknowledge then talk
Try to avoid pretending that the stress you’re feeling isn’t there. Denying your worries or acting as though they aren’t justified will only make matters worse. Recognise that you’re stressed and that it’s okay to feel that way. After all, it’s very difficult to solve a problem if you refuse to accept that you have one.
No matter what specific issue is causing you stress, you are almost certainly not alone. There is tremendous value in simply sharing your experiences – your fears and personal pains – with sympathetic friends and others dealing with similar problems. It’s a great way to relieve some of your burden, put your problems into perspective and see how others have dealt with similar situations.
Be realistic and honest
Determine what you can reasonably achieve and then dedicate yourself to following through every month. Make yourself a promise, for example: ‘Each month I will spend less and put the difference toward my debt so my balance declines by at least R100’. Just like a crash diet or intense new workout routine can lead to burnout, you don’t want to set overly ambitious financial goals that you may abandon in a few weeks or months.
Leaning on your relationships can help keep you on track. Every hard task becomes easier with the support of friends and family, so share your goals. There’s no one better to hold you accountable and remind you what you’re sacrificing for than those you love, trust and respect.
Plug the hole
If you are stressed about money, take matters into your own hands and control how much money you spend. There are some expenses that are fixed, such as your bond/rent, car payments, etc.
But you can control things such as groceries, eating out, and shopping for non-essentials. You can even cancel your DStv and cellphone contract. Shocking stuff! Who would have thought?
Go back and re-evaluate your expenses. Don’t let your money control you, control your money. Once you’re in control, build. If you have adequate savings, you’ll worry less about unexpected events or the sudden loss of income. Make sure you have enough savings to cover monthly household expenses if the unexpected were to happen. Don’t get caught in a rain storm without your umbrella.
Once you have a routine or plan, keep your health and your finances top of mind. You don’t have to micromanage either one—there’s no need to step on the scale multiple times a day or fixate on the daily fluctuations of your investments. Just make sure your everyday actions, on average, keep you on the right track for long-term physical and financial wellness.
Life can be tricky, though. You may be tempted to stop investing for a long-term goal because of an unexpected short-term need. That may undermine the very foundation of your plan. You might have to make some hard choices about your spending habits and whether your future can afford an investment hiatus.