According to a 2017 report by the American Psychological Association, money is the main cause of stress for 61% of American adults. And we’re paying with our health.
Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and the time in between can be very stressful. Stress is linked to many chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression. It can also lead to unhealthy coping behaviors like overeating and excessive alcohol consumption.
Unfortunately, some people are even putting their health care on hold because of financial concerns. Nearly one in five Americans says that they have either considered skipping or skipped going to the doctor when they needed health care because of financial concerns.
But there is good news. Survey findings show that people with money-related stress are able to cope and manage their stress in healthier ways when they have emotional support. So, if you’re feeling anxious about your finances, speak openly with your family and friends about your money situation — and try these strategies.
Put it all out there. To understand where your money is going, make a list of every expense you have in the month. Gather together all your monthly financial information (paycheck stubs, utility bills, cable or phone bills, mortgage or rent expenses, credit card statements, student and auto loan statements, etc.). Include receipts for everything from food to gas to entertainment.
Create a plan. Once you know how much money is coming in and how much is going out, you can develop a plan to reduce the emotional and physical impact of money shortfalls and create more control over your financial future. Set short-term goals and manageable targets. Crossing smaller things off your list can lessen the stress you might feel about achieving long-term goals (like retiring with a million-dollar nest egg).
Set a budget. Your budget should be realistic and include rewards for every spending or saving goal you meet. The simplest way to create a budget is to write down your income and, from that number, deduct your expenses. The amount left over is what’s available to spend on other things, such as reducing debt and increasing your savings. If your budget shows your income won’t cover your monthly expenditures, the solution is to cut expenses. Rank them from most important to least important and eliminate or cut back on any unnecessary purchases or services.
Build up an emergency fund. Having money in reserve is like having extra insurance. Even though the idea of putting money away for an emergency may seem like a pipe dream when you can’t pay your bills, accumulating a safety net will actually lessen your anxieties. To build your fund, forgo nonessential purchases. Or, set up an automatic monthly transfer from your paycheck into your savings account.
Pay with cash. Buying things on credit is assuming you’ll have money in the future to pay for them. If you don’t, not only will you accumulate more debt, you’ll also increase your stress level. Instead, only buy what you can afford to pay for in cash.
Bring in more money. You can generate extra income by picking up part-time work or selling household items at garage sales and online auction sites. Another option is to decrease your expenses by bartering for products and services you would normally pay for.
Make time to relax. When money is tight, it’s important to loosen the grip that stress can have on our lives. De-stress by socializing with friends, taking a nature walk, meditating — things that lower your blood pressure and turn your attitude to one of gratitude.