Every one of us has faced struggles with our money at one time or another. Whether we struggle to make ends meet for a brief temporary period or for years, it’s simply a fact of life that money isn’t always easy. But we are all capable of finding strength to work through whatever financial curveballs and challenges we may face.
I wish more schools taught the ability to handle life’s tough moments. Resilience, or the “ability to easily recover from or adjust to misfortune or change,” is so important for building a healthy life. We all need to know how to handle adversity, in our finances and many other areas of our lives.
Even though inner strength and resilience aren’t as concrete of lessons as algebra or grammar, they are skills that you can apply every day. So, if you're going through difficult times remember not to be too hard on yourself because we all face financial challenges.
Before we get into how to work through the tough times let's review what types of challenges you could be facing.
What are some of the most common financial challenges?
Let’s start by looking through some of the most common financial struggles people deal with these days.
Perhaps you went through a major medical incident or are still facing ongoing medical expenses. Healthcare costs can be terrible. A visit to the emergency room can be hundreds to thousands of dollars. Add in multiple days of hospital stays or the cost of care for chronic illness, and you’ve got a difficult financial situation for most people.
Student loan debt
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade, you know that student loan debt in the U.S. has skyrocketed. The average student loan debt was recently listed at $37,693 per borrower. Those monthly payments can be a real burden especially if you have a high amount in student loans.
Credit card debt
If you’ve used credit cards (sometimes to float your way through financial challenges), you may have created a bigger problem than the original one. Credit cards usually come with high interest rates. If you aren’t paying them in full every month, you could have racked up debt that’s seemingly impossible to get out of.
Living paycheck to paycheck
When it’s a battle every month to get all of your bills current, you’re living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. That’s a scary way to live, not knowing for sure whether you’ll pay all your bills next month.
Why finding strength matters
There are plenty of other circumstances that could make it tough to manage your money day-to-day. Whatever your financial challenges may be, you need to be ready to tackle them head-on instead of running away.
Money isn’t likely to go away, and our individual struggles with finances won’t go away without taking some action. Perhaps you’re like my eight-year-old, who would love to abolish money entirely and just give everyone plenty to live on. Unfortunately, that’s not a realistic expectation.
That’s why finding inner strength to deal with any financial troubles you face is key to success and contentment.
How to start finding strength and overcome your financial challenges
Let’s talk about some strategies to help you find strength every day to improve your life and financial situation.
1. Find your purpose
One key to not letting trouble with money get you down is to have a clear purpose in life. What are you passionate about? What kind of lifestyle do you desire that aligns with who you truly are?
Part of finding inner strength is identifying what your purpose in life is. Take a step back and really think about if you are aligning your finances and lifestyle with who you are and what you want.
2. Determine your financial goals
Setting financial goals is an important step in finding strength. By creating goals you can refer back to them in moments of weakness. For instance, if you have a problem with overspending, a visual reminder of your goals can help you focus on what's more important to you.
Create a financial vision board with your goals and hang it where you see it every day to keep you motivated.
3. Identify your financial challenges
Before you can nail down what your goals will be, you have to identify your biggest financial struggles. This may be painful, as it’s often humbling to notice where we may have messed up. Or, it may bring up hard memories of circumstances beyond your control—if someone wronged you financially, it hurts to remember that moment.
But we can’t fix a problem without first identifying it. So whether you need to write down all of your money troubles or you just know in your mind what they are, face them honestly. Be specific in what changes need to happen.
Do you need to quit spending on certain non-essential items? Maybe you need to talk to your partner about a game plan to save for a home down payment. Or perhaps try to organize your budget. With your financial problem at the forefront of your mind, decide what you have to change to make it better.
4. Make a plan to improve your financial situation
Once you know your money struggles, decide how you can best start making things better. Whatever the problem is, you likely won’t fix anything without first making a plan. Remember to start small. When you want to make your money situation better, some of us are capable of making massive changes all at once.
But for a lot of us, we need to take baby steps. As behavior scientist B.J. Fogg discusses in his book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, most people are successful in changing habits when they scale down their goals to be very small.
For example, if your credit card debt is $20,000, don’t try to pay the entire balance in one week (unless you actually have the money lying around). Instead, look at your budget and figure out how long it’ll take to pay off if you put $100 towards it monthly, or some other amount. Use a debt payoff plan to help you focus on getting rid of your debt fast.
5. Find out how you can change your habits
Although many financial struggles are due to outside forces, there's a possibility that your money habits played a part in them too. Besides the “tiny habits” method, there are many great strategies for habit change. The following comes from Gretchen Rubin, author, and podcaster:
- Monitoring: Keep track of things you want to change (for example, have a strict budget so you always know where your money is going).
- Accountability: Get someone lined up to help you stay motivated.
- Pairing: Pair up new habits with something you already do or enjoy doing.
- Identity: Think of yourself as good with money, and you can become good with money.
Find your strength by swapping out bad money habits for good ones and watch your finances flourish!
6. Find your strength by managing your mind
An important skill in finding strength to deal with challenges is to take control of your mind. Your thoughts often determine your actions, so paying attention to how you think and your mental wellness will help you to handle trials with greater ease. First, in taking charge of your thoughts, banish excessive negativity.
This doesn’t mean ignoring problems, but not letting every thought you have be a negative one. Here are some tips for keeping it positive:
Learn from past mistakes; don’t dwell on them
To find your strength you have to acknowledge any mistakes you’ve made in the past. But don’t think so much about how you messed up that you can’t move forward. The best thing to do with our mistakes is to learn from them.
For example, my husband and I were foolish and bought a timeshare some years ago, even though we knew it wasn’t a good decision. We eventually got out of the deal (losing a good chunk of money in the process). But we had to just accept our mistake and move on. Now we know better and can make wiser choices!
Your financial troubles may be really bad, it’s true. But in most cases, even if you think your problems are the worst in the world, it’s almost 100% sure that you can improve things.
Avoid the blame game
Sadly, you might have someone else to blame for your money troubles. Maybe a former partner racked up debt that you’re now responsible for. Or a criminal stole your identity and wrecked your credit score.
A key to finding strength to work through your problems is to avoid spending too much time and energy on blame. The fact is that blaming others for your troubles does you no good (even if you’re completely justified in blaming them). So just recognize the situation, take a deep breath, and move on.
7. Finding strength by quieting your thoughts
The overwhelming nature of life can make it hard to quiet your mind. After all, most of us can’t eat, sleep, and breathe money all day long. We also have to manage families, health, careers, and the everyday mundane stuff like keeping the kitchen clean.
A powerful tool in finding inner strength is the ability to calm your mind. I don’t know about you, but when my mind is racing with seventeen different thoughts about what has gone wrong or could go wrong tomorrow, I freeze. I can’t make the smart decisions I need to make to take care of myself when I can’t calm down.
Not all of these suggestions will work for you, but think about ways you might quiet your thoughts. This will help you to find your inner strength to tackle your financial struggles.
Meditation is more accessible to you than you might think. Meditation is one of the quickest tools for finding inner peace and quiet. It is really about mindfulness, being aware of the present moment.
Maybe you won't totally "shut off" your mind, but by drawing your attention to your thoughts and your breath, you can lower your stress and work towards solutions.
Walk in nature
If sitting in a meditation pose sounds intimidating, you might get similar benefits from going out into nature. Taking a walk among trees and birds, breathing in fresh air, and getting away from your to-do lists can be game-changing.
I know I feel a lot better about my problems after a hike to the top of a local hiking trail. Focusing on my footsteps and the beauty around me helps me forget about problems for a while.
Turn off the tech
We all know how much our smartphones and our email can disrupt our minds. Just ask yourself what your first instinct is when you get bored—perhaps standing in line at the DMV or watching your child do a cartwheel for the hundredth time. Do you reach for your phone?
I know being online constantly doesn’t help my stress levels. It’s pretty tough to think clearly when we’re bombarded by so many things demanding our attention.
So a good way to quiet your mind is to take a break from technology, perhaps unplugging from your phone on weekends or de-installing social media apps that ruin your free time.
8. Finding strength through community and connection
One thing most of us need to face challenges is community. The pandemic showed us this truth more clearly than ever before, as we were forced out of the usual gatherings where we’d build connections with one another.
Connecting with other people is as essential to your financial journey as to any others, like parenting or fitness or spiritual growth. Cultivating relationships is an important aspect of living a richer life.
Find financial role models
Look for people you can look up to. Think about bloggers, podcasters, authors, and anyone else with expertise in financial matters. Search out local or virtual communities where you can learn and find inspiration.
Perhaps there’s a regional group that meets where you can discuss your financial goals (or you might even start your own group)!
Foster relationships with accountability partners
Whether this is with someone you meet in one of the communities mentioned in the last section or a friend you’ve known since kindergarten, find your people.
It’s important to foster relationships with people who care about your financial goals. It’s pretty hard to complete a financial challenge if you only hang out with friends who pressure you to spend money you don’t have.
So be sure to keep at least one like-minded person around. Have someone in your corner that you can call when you’re frustrated or tempted to break with your stated financial plans. You’ll find that it’s much easier (and more fun) to live a disciplined financial life if you have a buddy doing it with you.
9. Take care of your physical health
How we feel in our bodies truly impacts our decisions every day. So a good way to start working through financial challenges is to go back to the basics. Taking care of your body can lead to other good decisions in every area of your life.
Pay attention to your physical needs by watching your diet, sleep, and activity level. Each of these can result in more energy and a more positive outlook to deal with troubles as they come. Physical health can help you find inner strength as well.
Do you need to become a bodybuilder to handle your finances? Of course not! But regular physical activity has so many benefits. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., and author of The Joy of Movement, says that exercise of any intensity level offers benefits. As you find physical strength, you can also find your strength inwardly to overcome challenges.
McGonigal says people are less impacted by stressful events on days when they exercise. “You’re more resilient because of how movement makes you feel about yourself and your capacity to handle challenges.” Whether you love high-intensity workouts, running, yoga, walking, or something else, there's something out there for you.
We need a reasonable amount of sleep each night in order to be productive and to feel our best. Skimping on sleep can impact our ability to make decisions, and we need to keep our minds in good shape to handle our finances. So remember that as an adult, your body needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and don’t feel guilty about making that happen!
Healthy eating habits
Rounding out your body’s core needs for success and happiness is eating healthfully. It can be hard to focus on these basic needs if you’re in financial distress, but try to follow a balanced diet as best you can. You’ll never regret taking care of yourself.
10. Believe in yourself
It may sound corny, but believing in yourself can improve your chances of making good things happen. This goes back to the strategy of managing your thoughts. If you don’t trust yourself to do the best thing for your finances, then who can you trust?
Finding strength to keep going when money is tight depends on your commitment to believing in yourself. No matter what mistakes you might have made years ago, it’s not too late to change course. Believe that you deserve a better financial future, and believe you have the skills and determination to make that your reality.
Finding strength will help you overcome your financial challenges
No one cares about your finances more than you do, so give your financial life the respect it deserves. By focusing on where you want to be in the future, you can learn to quiet the negative thoughts and push towards a better life.
Finding inner strength to cross over financial hurdles will serve you well in your relationships, your health, your career, and everywhere that matters. Get help finding strength and start taking back control of your money with our free financial courses!