Financial stress is never a comfortable feeling. Worrying about how a bill will be paid or if you’ll have enough money at the end of the month can cause pressure in relationships and take the fun out of what you do each day. Fortunately, there are some specific things you can do to reduce financial stress and enjoy life more. Here are some tips:
- Get Educated on Finance – Far too many people have not received a proper financial education, and are unacquainted with how to properly manage their finances. This causes stress, because we often fear what we do not understand. Fortunately, it really isn’t complicated, and there are many good resources out there, including books, conferences, websites and more, that you can use to learn about topics such as how to create a household budget, get out of debt, and live free of financial stress. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is one good site to check out: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/, as is the Women’s Money organization: http://www.womensmoney.org/
- Keep a Spending Journal – Often we spend money throughout the week without really having a clear picture of where it goes. So record every single purchase in a small notebook you keep with you, or on your smartphone (there are a number of apps out there for this purpose.) Take a look at what you’ve spent your money on, and decide what you can cut out. You may find you can significantly reduce your expenses just by keeping track of what you spend.
- Get a Clear Picture of Your Current Finances – Knowing what you spend while out and about is only part of the picture. Sit down and write out what you earn each month, as well as all the places your money goes. Write down your payments for rent and utilities, debt and interest, activities for your children, donations, etc. Be sure you know where every cent is coming in and where it’s going out. Once it’s all written down, you will know exactly how much you earn and how much you’re spending. Are you spending more than you earn? Then you have two choices: Reduce what you spend, or make more money. It’s really that simple.
- Create a Budget (and Stick to It!) – Now that you know what the current state of your finances is, you’re ready to create a budget. We talked about creating a budget for your small business last week. You also need a household budget. Include your income, along with your expected expenses. Aim to spend no more than 90% of your income on a regular basis, so you can begin to accumulate some savings. This free Money 101 online course from CNN Money has information on creating a household budget, along with many other tips to using and growing your money wisely.
- Pay Off Debt – It’s important to pay off debt to reduce your financial stress. After all, every interest payment means the thing you initially bought is costing you more and more money. Was that thing really worth it? So for example, if you have credit card debt, call your creditors and see if they are willing to reduce interest rates. If you’ve got good credit, they may be willing to work with you. Then focus on one card at a time, and pay more than the minimum each month. Set yourself a time limit, and work to eliminate that debt as quickly as you can, so you can keep more of the money you earn and stop spending money on interest instead of things that your family can use and enjoy.
- Reduce What You Spend – In addition to getting rid of debt, look for ways you can spend less. Some of this is simply related to making daily choices based on your spending journal. But you may also be able to reduce payments on things you use. Call your television, phone and utility companies and see if they have a lower rate you qualify for. Maybe you can reduce your television package or switch to another provider offering a better deal. Also consider changing some of the things you’ve taken for granted. For example, if you’ve always sent your kids to a certain camp for the summer, look around and see if there might be a less expensive…but still fun!…option. You might even take a week or two off from camp and create your own home “camp” that helps you build family memories your kids will never forget.
- Create an Emergency Fund – Many families fall into financial stress due to unexpected expenses. One of the best ways to combat this is by having an emergency fund. If you’re focusing on spending only 90% or less of your income, take the other 10% and put it into an emergency fund that you set aside for unexpected expenses. Keep it in a savings account which you can access when the funds are needed. But remind yourself that this savings is ONLY for emergencies. Resist the urge to dip in for a vacation or other luxury. If you want to go on vacation or redo your kitchen, add a separate budget line item to your household budget, keep a separate savings account, and put money away for what you want there.
- Add Extra Income – Sometimes you’ll look at your budget, reduce what you spend, and still find that you aren’t making enough. At that point, it’s a good idea to find a way to add extra income to your budget. You could start a home-based business or get a second job. Take a good look at your schedule and carve out the times you could spend on another job. A new stream of income can be a great way to reduce stress, pay off debt, and reach your financial goals. And it can also be a way to add something you love to your life. Don’t just settle! Since you’re cutting into your free time to do this, look for an income opportunity that will be something you enjoy. For example, if you love cooking, you might look for a direct sales company opportunity that allows you to do cooking shows.
- Sell Things You Don’t Need or Use Anymore – In addition to working an additional job, you may find that there are things you have around your home that you don’t need or use anymore. Considering selling these things through consignment or online. While this won’t bring long-term income, it can be a way to pay off some immediate debt or start an emergency fund. Plus, reducing the clutter in your home can be a stress reducer!
- Realize There is More to Life than Finances – Taking control of your finances is exceptionally important. Every family should keep track of what they are earning and spending, and pass this knowledge on to the next generation. But keep in mind, too, that there is more to life than finances. Take time to be with your loved ones and appreciate the moments that pass far too quickly, but add joy to life. Don’t let finances keep you from embracing the wonderful gifts you have in your life, because they are things that money can’t buy.
As part of National Financial Literacy Month, we at DSEF are proud to sponsor the Nevada Women’s Money Conference. This important event helps women learn the skills they need to create a secure financial future for themselves and their families. While Reno is sold out, there is still room in the Las Vegas session on April 27, 2013. Best of all, we’re providing full scholarships to the conference for women in DSA member companies! For more information, visit this page: http://dsef.org/what-we-do/womens-entrepreneurship/nevada-womens-money-conference-a-new-vision-for-women-and-money/ And please, pass this along to the women you love in Nevada. This is an amazing opportunity that can make a HUGE difference in a woman’s life! Thanks for helping us spread the word!