In a time when the cost of living is soaring, and many of us are having to make savings or tighten our belts, it’s important to ensure our finances are in order. Making sure we save where we can, don’t overspend, and keep on top of our outgoings is more important than ever.
But if you find yourself avoiding the spreadsheets, or leaving bank statements unopened, you’re not alone. Many people find dealing with financial issues or trying to balance the books makes their stress levels rise.
And a recent poll found that 29% of UK adults feel stressed about their finances.
A negative spiral
When something is a cause of stress, a natural reaction is to want to avoid it. It’s all too easy to put things off to another day, or cross our fingers and hope for the best. However, minor overspending or paying for things we don’t need can create a bigger problem over time. So although avoiding the issue may cause short-term relief, failing to address it is likely to create a negative spiral - and a worse financial situation in the long-term.
Tackling the problem
So how do we break the cycle of financial stress and move towards a healthier future? How do we look at ways to balance the books, while keeping stress to a minimum?
Break it up
The job of getting our finances under control can seem mountainous, especially if we’ve been putting it off for a while. Rather than try to tackle the task all at once, it might be better to break it down into manageable chunks, to keep daily stress to a minimum. Try making a list of the tasks you need to do, for example:
• Check bank statements
• Make a list of direct debits/standing orders
• Set a grocery budget
Try to aim for half-hour stints and tackle each aspect of your financial life at a time. This little and often approach should mean that within a few weeks you will feel much more in control of things.
The bonus? Ticking each item off the list will feel satisfying, and this mental reward should make you more likely to want to continue with the job next time.
Play to your strengths
These days, there are so many helpful apps and tools available to support with all aspects of our lives, including finances. However, where certain apps and tools may prove a great solution for one person, for others they may make an already-overwhelming situation feel even more stressful.
But remember, whatever software you opt for, managing your finances comes down to the same thing – taking control of income and outgoings and making sure you balance the books.
The best way to avoid financial stress is to choose a method that works best for you. You may want to take advantage of an online budgeting tool, but if you prefer making notes in a physical notebook, that will work just as well.
Remember - it’s your money, and you should feel confident to manage it in a way that works for you.
If you’re struggling to make sense of your finances, it may be sensible to seek outside help. This may be simply by asking a friend or family member to help you create a spreadsheet or suggest ways in which you can make savings on your household bills.
Talking to your bank or financial provider may also be helpful. They will be able to advise about Direct Debit payments, or discuss ways in which they can support you with getting your finances under control.
If further support is needed, organisations such as Citizens Advice offer information on benefits, and can help you tackle debt and point you in the right direction for further support.
Even if you don’t suffer from stress or anxiety in other areas of your life, making sure you incorporate some relaxing or stress-busting activities into your daily routine could help you to feel more positive overall.
Try taking a 30 minute walk each day, upping the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat, or cutting down on caffeine as a starting point.
Taking small steps to stay healthy could help you to feel more positive overall, and should help to reduce stress levels in all areas of your life – even the financial ones.
If you feel that stress is getting on top of you in this or other areas of your life, it’s worth having a chat with your GP who will be able to offer support and guidance.
Few people really enjoy budgeting, sifting through bank statements, or balancing the books, but with a little planning and support it’s easy to reduce the stress associated with all things financial. Although the idea of tackling your finances may feel overwhelming, once you take control of your finances, hopefully you should find your stress more manageable.
The Mental Health Foundation has good advice on dealing with money stress.
If stress is overwhelming you, MIND has some excellent resources