Finances alone can be stressful, but checking small items off your list can help put your mind at ease.
Whether it’s going out for a run, seeing a therapist, or drinking green juice, we all have things we do as part of a self-care routine to reduce stress. While integrating these things into our lifestyles might have felt uncomfortable in the beginning—once you start moving, talking about your feelings, or even learning to like kale, these things may actually start to make you feel good.
The same idea can apply to checking things of your personal finance to-do list. If tasks like checking your bank account balances or paying your monthly credit card bill make you cringe—know you aren’t alone. The results of a study that surveyed more than 19,000 adults in the United States showed that 60 percent felt anxious when thinking about their personal finances and 50 percent felt stressed discussing the topic.
“Financial stress has been seen as an unshakable part of adulthood for so many,” says Maia Monell, MS, co-founder of personal finance app, Nav.it. “Mounting debt, expenses, and an abundance of predatory financial actors all make mitigating financial health incredibly challenging.”
So, what’s the key to making money feel less stressful? Monell believes it involves creating a daily financial health routine akin to other self-care practices. “As reducing financial stress is key to unlocking long-term health, we must begin to practice good financial health regularly to build confidence in our ability to overcome challenges, navigate decisions and optimize our financial health outcomes to live our best lives,” she says.
Below, take note of seven small finance tasks you can do to help minimize your stress around money. Trying to accomplish all seven at once could feel overwhelming, so try to start with just productive finance task and build from there.
Download a personal finance app
“The best way to deal with overwhelm is to increase your awareness around the problem at hand and take action towards changing the situation,” says Diana Yáñez, certified financial planner and registered life planner. “Start [with whatever] feels easiest and gentlest or most aligned with your goal—just make sure to start.”
One easy step to take is to simply download an app. Whether it’s a personal finance app like Nav.it or just the free one that your bank or credit card company offers, it’s a step in the right direction. Having on-demand access to your financial information can feel empowering. You may also be able to sign up for notifications like credit line increases and fraud alerts depending on what your financial institution offers.
Write down your financial goals
Want to buy a house? Open up college savings accounts for your children? Or put money into a retirement fund? Monell recommends writing these goals down and then making a plan for each. “Begin by listing out short-term and long-term financial goals, then map out a monthly, weekly, and daily routine [to get you to those goals],” she says. Having a clear timeline planned out for your goals can give you a better idea of where you stand, and keep you from stressing over the unknown.
Face any account issues immediately
Did you just receive a fraud alert text from your bank? Do you think you were accidentally charged twice for the same purchase? Was your card declined for a $5 cup of coffee? Things like this can happen to all of us from time to time regardless of how much money is in our bank account.
Even if you check your balances and cards regularly, if something comes up, you should handle it immediately. While it could be something more serious like identity theft, it could also be a technical glitch or, best case scenario, nothing at all. After all, while it’s certainly stressful to check your accounts at inopportune times, like at work or during brunch with friends—nipping a problem in the bud is much easier than untangling a web of identity theft when your account suddenly has a zero balance or spending hours on the phone with customer service.
Check your balances regularly
“Because finances are such a source of stress, many people ignore their bank accounts and avoid having a monthly budget plan,” says therapist Justine Carino. “Avoidance makes the stress even worse because we lack awareness and begin to feel out of control of our finances. Avoidance is the most unhelpful coping mechanism for anxiety and stress, but it’s the most commonly used. If you can get into the routine of looking at your bank accounts weekly, you will be able to hit goals and feel less stress.”
So, make a plan and put it on your calendar. For example, check your bank account balance every Wednesday at noon and your credit cards every Sunday at 6 p.m. The more you do this, the easier it will get.
Have a monthly budget
No one enjoys budgeting, but it helps you save money in the long run and gives you greater awareness and control of your finances. Whether you use an app, make a spreadsheet, or put pen to paper—figure out which way works best for you.
Educate yourself on money management
Want money to feel less intimidating and or to educate yourself on the best ways to maximize your funds? Check out a book on financial wellness from your local library or shop for affordable titles online. Commit to reading a couple chapters a week—or whatever works for you—and start to feel a bit more empowered in your knowledge of personal finances.
Not a reader? Hit the subscribe button to one of the many free podcasts out there about money and investing. Search for personal finance on your preferred podcast platform and try to find a host and message you connect with.
Talk to an expert
Taking care of your finances alone can be scary and overwhelming. So why not get some professional help? Financial planners and coaches know how to maximize cash, minimize interest, and make the most of investments. “Talk with a professional money person through the Foundation for Financial Planning or start educating yourself through resources like The Financial Diet, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, or All the Colors,” says Yáñez.
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