We all feel financial strain sometimes. According to a survey by Northwestern Mutual, money was the most common source of stress for 44% of Americans.
If you’re feeling worried about money, the important thing is not to panic because that can make it worse. As long as you keep calm and put in the work, you can overcome financial strain.
To get started, use this guide to help you put an end to your financial strain woes.
What is financial strain?
Financial strain is more than just hurting for money. It’s when your money problems start to take a toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing.
If you’re not making enough money to cover your expenses, you may start to feel like you’re losing yourself. After a while, you may even become anxious, depressed, or suffer panic attacks.
In severe cases, financial strain can even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and severe grief.
Our advice? Try to not let it get to this point! Start making changes now so it doesn’t affect your health.
8 Tips for someone feeling financial strain
If you’re stuck in the depths of financial strain, there is a way out. Try the following steps and see if they help improve your financial and mental wellness.
1. Don't be too hard on yourself
We all get in rough patches! Being down on yourself won’t help anything, it will just make you feel worse. It can also lead to other emotions like self-doubt, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and depression which can be really difficult to reverse.
So, instead of focusing on your mistakes or misfortunes, channel your energy into making the future better. You can do this by laying out your goals and aspirations. Or even by creating a personal development plan for yourself.
2. Take a mental break from your financial strain
Don’t look at your credit card bills, student loan bills, or bank account statements for a few days. Just put money at the back of your mind to give yourself a chance to relax.
It might be helpful to also take a break from social media if you find that it's causing you to overspend or compare yourself to others.
Stress management is important for helping you feel better. That means do some yoga, try meditating, or take a relaxing bubble bath to calm down. By doing things like this, you give your brain a break from worrying.
3. Create a plan
Creating a financial plan has many parts. But if you’re under financial strain, the first thing to do is identify what needs attention first, like credit card debt. Then devise a system to put your money where it needs to go.
This means two things: budgeting and trimming down excess spending.
To start with a budget, write down all of your monthly expenses, and then see how much you need to cover them. Then look at your total monthly income to see where you need to spend your money.
There are a few ways to budget. You can separate your spending into categories where you spend a certain percentage of your money in each category. Or you can try the cash envelope method, where you store money for certain things in envelopes.
Whatever you do, make sure not to forget debt. If you can’t pay off the full balance of credit cards, always make the minimum payment. And don’t skip student loan, car, or mortgage payments, either.
Budgeting will also help you cut down on excess spending. Are you spending big on entertainment and fun? See if you can lower these bills (but always leave a little extra to spend where you want).
4. Get an accountability partner
It’s far easier to deal with financial strain when you’re not alone! Having someone to support your choices and encourage you can go a long way.
An accountability partner shares your goals and will help you on the path to success. You may brainstorm ways to reach your goals, check-in with each other frequently, or ask for help when you hit roadblocks.
Having human support can increase your adherence to goals by holding you accountable. So why not give it a try?
5. Seek financial counseling
A financial counselor is different than an accountability partner. Rather than holding you accountable, their goal is to help you put together a real financial plan for your future.
This is especially true if you’re dealing with debt or don’t have any retirement savings started. Together, you can craft a plan that takes away your financial strain and helps you breathe a sigh of relief.
Operation Hope is an example of a great financial counseling platform focused on ﬁnancial dignity and inclusion. They partner with financial institutions, corporations, municipal agencies, and community organizations to deliver HOPE at no cost to the client.
6. Look into a side gig
If things are really tight with money, you could always look into a part-time job. This might ease some of your strain and help you feel more comfortable financially.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to make some extra cash, lots of which don’t even require you to leave home. You could try being a virtual assistant, freelance writing, or tutoring. There are also things like ridesharing or grocery shopping you can do out of the house.
In a survey that looked at people with side hustles, women made an average of $507 extra per month. That could be a huge relief if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
7. Try out therapy
Still feeling down, no matter what you try? Therapy might help. Therapy is becoming more and more commonplace, as 40.2 million Americans sought mental health treatment in 2019.
A therapist can’t help you with your money issues, but they can talk through your mental and emotional feelings surrounding money. They may even be able to help you work on changing the behaviors that are causing you to be in financial strain.
We know what you’re thinking – doesn’t therapy cost money that I don’t have? The good news is that many employers and insurance companies offer this through workplace benefits, so it doesn't have to come as an additional out-of-pocket expense.
8. Work your plan
These are all great tips and tricks, but they only work if you stick with them. Sure, creating a budget on paper looks nice. But you actually have to put it into action. Stay the course as best as you can, as every penny counts.
This step will require a lot of self-discipline, and having an accountability buddy will really pay off here.
Overcome your financial strain
With these tips, you can say goodbye to financial strain for good. You’ll start each day feeling lighter and confident that you’re heading where you want to go. It can also help you stop being stuck in the past and work towards financial success.
Still need more help? Consider taking a free personal finance course. You’ve got this!