Worrying about money has been so ingrained in our culture today that it has literally become an epidemic.
I hate how I feel when I worry about money, and I know I do it far too often. I also know it’s unhealthy, and can easily become a bad habit. The stress and lack of sleep I endure affect other areas of my life as well. Yet there are just as effective ways to monitor my finances without the emotional and physical strain of worrying.
So what are they? Before we explore that, let’s further examine the destructive effects that worrying can have.
Harmful Effects of Worrying
Worrying affects not only your quality of life, but also the quality of life of those around you. Here are some ways worrying specifically harms you and your loved ones.
1. Wastes Time
When you spend your time thinking about all possible negative outcomes, you have less time to think about and focus on more productive things. Worrying accomplishes nothing, doesn’t let you enjoy other activities, and usually begets more worrying.
2. Keeps You From Enjoying Life
When I am worried about something, I have a difficult time being in the moment and enjoying the many blessings I have. For example, it’s hard for me to really play with my son if I’m stuck on how my budget isn’t working out this month. Worrying may marginally improve my finances, but at the cost of other things dear to me like my son and my health.
Getting my mind completely off money for a bit helps me to take a fresh look at how to better plan. When money keeps you from enjoying your life, it’s a sure sign you need to reassess your priorities.
3. Keeps You Up at Night
There is nothing worse than having a long, tiring day and then not being about to fall asleep because your mind keeps reeling over financial burdens. This is a sign that you’re trying to exert too much control over the future or that you feel helpless. Even if you’re facing foreclosure or going into bankruptcy, thinking about it when you should be asleep will not solve anything and will likely make it harder for you to deal with it the following day.
4. Makes You Unhealthy
Headaches, muscle tension, ulcers, chest pain, and high blood pressure can all result from stressing over money. Ultimately, these health problems could end up costing you more money and will further deteriorate your quality of life.
5. Strains Your Relationships
To put it simply, if you’re constantly worrying about something, you’re probably not much fun to be around. Life goes on; people survive and solve their financial problems. Make sure you value your relationships as much as you value your checking account, regardless of whether it’s empty or full.
There is also the possibility that if you are so consumed by money, your spouse may feel the need to lie about money. Furthermore, counseling sessions to repair damaged relationships will cost additional money and divorce and custody battles are often financially, not to mention emotionally, devastating.
6. Leads to Behavioral Issues
People respond to stress in many ways. Some smoke or turn to alcohol in an attempt to calm their nerves; others overeat or under-eat. Still others withdraw from social situations so that they can further worry about their plight, especially if they’re so far-gone that it seems no one understands.
If you’re isolating yourself or otherwise “escaping” because of money issues, give yourself a break. Remind yourself that it’s not really the end of the world no matter what you or anyone else might think.
Changing the Way You Think
There are two main ways to stop worrying about money: Changing the way you think and changing what you are doing. By applying both changes to your life, you will have the greatest impact on your quality of life, health, and relationships.
Let’s first take a look at ways to change your perspective:
1. Get a Mantra
The more positive energy you feed yourself, the more you will believe and embody it. One way of doing this is to get a mantra to repeat. You can say it to yourself every time you begin to worry or post the mantra in places where you will often see it, such as your bathroom mirror or computer monitor.
Some ideas for mantras include:
- Worrying changes nothing.
- My life is full of blessings.
- I’m good at dealing with financial challenges.
2. Draw from Your Faith
If you are religious or spiritual, now is the perfect time to draw peace and comfort from what you believe. Many people turn to their faith in times of need, and your faith can allow you to let go of your fear of the future. Know that you will be taken care of. Try praying or meditating to clear your mind and find peace.
3. Count Your Blessings
All too often we focus on the negatives in life, which is one reason why so many people worry. A good practice to combat worry is to focus on the positives. One way to do this is to write down five positive things that happened during your day. Do this every evening before bed for at least two weeks. If you cultivate an awareness of what you’re thankful for, you will naturally be more positive and can better tackle any problems, including money.
4. Focus on Today
Many of the worries we have are far off, such as “What happens when my savings run out?” or “What if I don’t save enough for retirement?” or “What if I owe taxes next year?” While you do need to have a plan in order to tackle these situations, focus on your life today and what you can do with your finances this very moment.
For instance, think about whether or not you need to buy a latte or save the money. Or consider making an appointment with your financial adviser to discuss your retirement plan, or your accountant to look at your taxes.
5. Accept What Life Throws at You
You can’t be prepared for everything that life presents. For instance, tomorrow your house could be destroyed by a natural disaster like a fire or tornado. There is no way to predict or prevent such a tragedy, though you can plan for it. In this case, make sure your homeowner’s insurance policy is solid. Once you’ve planned for it, let the worry go. Tragedy can strike, but you will be okay and you will move on.
6. Imagine the Worst Case Financial Scenario
This is not to say you should dwell on the negative, but it’s often fear of the unknown that creates undue worry. So make the “unknown” known and then move on.
For example, the worst case financial scenario for my family would be losing all we own and becoming homeless. That’s pretty bad, but the reality is that someone who loves us would take us in. My husband and I would get jobs, save some money, and be on our own again. While that might not be fun, we’d live through it and would still have each other and our son.
Changing the Way You Act
How you act is one thing you have complete control over. Focus your energies here and make a point of doing, or at least trying, the following. You should see a marked decrease in how much you worry about money and a big improvement in your quality of life.
1. Set Aside Time
It’s all about balance. For example, if you check your bank account everyday, you’re probably thinking about money too much. Instead, set aside specific time every week to examine and discuss your finances. You don’t have to worry the rest of the week because you know you’ll deal with things then.
For example, plan every Monday evening to spend an hour checking your bank account, paying your bills, reviewing your budget, and talking about money with your spouse.
2. Create a Budget
If you don’t already one, make a budget now. A budget can serve as a real eye-opener to what you are spending your money on and it will afford you greater control over your spending habits. It will also ease the fear-of-the-unknown factor by giving you a firm grasp on your financial situation rather than having your finances simply be a black hole.
3. Pay Off Debt
Once my husband and I became debt-free, the amount I worried about money decreased dramatically. We felt less guilt, less pressure, and a renewed sense of freedom. This can be especially true if you owe money to a family member or friend. Use the time you have set aside to deal with money issues to construct a plan to eradicate debt.
4. Build an Emergency Fund
Another stress reducer is to have money saved up in an emergency fund in case anything expensive and unexpected happens, like having to replace your water heater or losing your current source of income. Most experts recommend saving at least six months’ worth of living expenses or setting a goal to do so.
5. Obtain Multiple Sources of Income
When I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, my husband and I cut our income in half, which was very stressful. But to make up for it, I started blogging and babysitting, and my husband started doing some work in web design. In this way, we at least have multiple sources of income in case one of them fails.
6. Simplify Your Finances
When life becomes overwhelming, simplification is often the solution. In the case of your finances, simplify by combining various accounts. Aim to have one checking account, one savings account, and one credit card. Having only three accounts will calm your worries because it is a lot less to monitor and control.
7. Utilize AutoPay
This is an important tip if you are someone who forgets to pay their bills on time or stresses about it in order to make the due date. With automatic bill payment plans, your credit card is automatically charged the amount each month or billing cycle.
Link automatic payments to your credit card instead of your bank account in case you are overcharged and need to dispute something. Also remember to have money budgeted to for each AutoPay bill.
8. Understand the Market
You don’t need to know everything about the market, but a basic knowledge may calm your fears. Historically, investors have been rewarded for buying and staying in the market, even through tumultuous periods. Just make sure that your portfolio is diversified and well-allocated according to your retirement timeline, goals, and risk tolerance.
Scheduling semi-annual meetings with your financial advisor may give you peace of mind on this front. However, that should not be a replacement for acquiring a basic understanding of how the market and retirement investing work.
9. Cut Out Luxuries
If worrying about money is affecting your life, cut out the things you don’t really need. For example, do you have cable or satellite TV? Cancel cable and stop watching TV. Do you eat out for lunch? Pack a healthy brown bag lunch instead. Do you have an expensive car? Trade it in for something more affordable. Run the numbers and see how much you can save. If you’re saving money, you don’t need to worry so much about it.
Worrying is a bad habit that can be difficult to break. We may have learned to worry about money from our parents, use worry to stay on top of our finances, or simply worry because we don’t know where all our money goes. It’s almost as if worrying serves as our adult security blanket. So if you are a worrier, it’s time to give it up. Look at your life and envision what it would be like without the worry. Get motivated and use the tips above to see what you can change.
What other strategies do you use to help prevent you from worrying about money?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)