If you’re experiencing financial stress right now, you know how it spills over into all areas of your life. This domino effect makes it hard to find the motivation and energy to get anything done and you can find your life spiraling downward and feeling powerless to stop it.
Unfortunately, too many of us are in this position today because of the lack of jobs, under-employment and the rising cost of everything from gas to groceries. The good news is that you can feel more in control again by following these steps. Remember, the hardest part is getting started! Once you’ve made a bit of effort towards reducing financial stress, you’ll find that the subsequent steps are easier.
One thing to keep in mind: there is no sense in feeling guilty or ashamed. Whatever you might or might not have done to get you in this mess is over now and there is nothing to be gained by beating yourself up. Learn your lessons and move on. If you have a partner, be careful not to play the blame game. Again, it’s not productive and the important thing is to learn from mistakes as a family.
Your Journey Begins with a Plan
You have to know exactly where you are right now and where you want to be. For many people this is the most painful part. We think that if we don’t see our full financial picture spelled out in black and white then it’s not really so bad. We dread knowing the truth.
The thing is, how many sleepless nights are you causing yourself by avoiding the problem? Not knowing your situation causes far more anxiety than facing things head on. Worse, you can’t begin to solve your problems until you know exactly what they are.
Open all of those envelopes and log into all of your accounts and create a simple spreadsheet that shows you in no uncertain terms how much you owe and what your assets are. Once you know where you are, then you can start setting reasonable goals and making a plan to work towards them.
You Need a Budget
Writing a budget will help you know where every dollar should go and keep you accountable. Although many people bristle at the idea of having a budget, think about how much better you will feel knowing that all of your needs are accounted for and that you are working productively towards your goals?
You can read more about creating a budget here, but here are a few key points to remember:
- Pay yourself first
- Factor in a bit of “blow money”
- Be realistic and don’t forget periodic expenses like vehicle maintenance and gifts.
Extra Income Can Help You Reduce Financial Strain
The faster that you can get out of the hole, the sooner you’ll start feeling relief and start saving aggressively towards your big goals. Here are a few ways that you can supplement your income and get on the right track in less time.
- Do some spring cleaning and de-cluttering! Not only will you feel better, but you can sell or donate what you no longer want or need.
- Yard sales are a great way to earn some extra money, but sometimes you’ll do better on Craigslist or Ebay.
- If you are talented and crafty, you could arts and crafts or jewelry on Etsy or eBay. Be sure to factor in the price of materials and read up on how to effectively market your store.
- Start an online business using skills you already have. Many people have found that being a virtual assistant can be a very lucrative side job.
- Tutoring or teaching classes is a good way to put your skills to work to earn extra money.
- Look for a second job or odd jobs. Craigslist and your local papers run ads for people seeking workers for a few hours of work a week or to do one-time projects.
Having a plan, sticking to a budget, and increasing your income are the best ways reduce the amount of financial stress in your life. Remember that facing the problem head on is ultimately less stressful than years of denial and avoiding the issue.