My friends and I suffer from what experts would define as financial word vomit.
A common symptom of finance-related stress, financial word vomit (FWV) is an uncontrollable stream of money-related complaints, qualms and anxieties that come to dominate a conversation, regardless of the sufferer’s intent.
FWV is both pervasive and indiscriminate; whether my friends and I are spending a Thursday night in or commiserating over Pad Thai we can’t afford, the conversation inevitably turns to money, or our lack thereof.
When you consider the relationship between money and stress, this isn’t unique to my circle of friends. Approximately 75 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 cite money as a “somewhat or very significant” source of stress, according to a 2015 study from the American Psychological Association.
This number has been on the rise since 2007 in time with the recession, and has since spurned troubling patterns affecting mental and physical health.
“Americans reporting financial stress of 8 or more on a 10-point scale are distinctly more likely to spend excessive time watching TV or surfing the Internet, and they are more than twice as likely to overeat, drink or smoke,” said CNBC of the study.
But it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. Outstanding student loan debt, the cost of rent and stagnant wages have increased in time with the number of Americans reporting money woes, leaving many short of breath and filled with anxiety around the first of the month.
In addition to empty savings accounts, we also share in the decision to complain, worry and stress out about money. Reclaim your mental health, social life and financial standing with these quick fixes:
Although it may sound a little *zen*, putting your anxiety in check is the first step to living a life independent of financial worry. Rather than spending your post-work down time agonizing over your next rent payment or talking to your friends about how stressed out you are, take a step back and a deep breathe.
The number one tip to manage anxiety and stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is to take a time-out. “Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.” Exercising is also a proven anti-anxiety method. “Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress,” explains the ADAA.
Humans easily get caught in certain mind games or “traps” of negative thinking that can lead to or magnify anxiety — one of which is the tendency to “minimize” the good and “magnify” the bad.
“Let’s say that you’re trying to save $500 per month for two years, and that the money will go toward a down payment on a future home. After three months, you find yourself focusing on the $10,500 that’s left to go and feeling overwhelmed. You might sigh and think, ‘I’ll never get there,’” explains psychologist Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., and author of the book The Resilience Factor: Seven Essential Skills For Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles.
The solution? Put your financial situation into perspective and take one day at a time. Instead of ruminating on your poor savings habits in college or the low-paying job you have now, focus on what you can change today, tomorrow and the next day.
Once and only once you’ve gotten your mental health in check can the healing truly begin. The first step in taking control of your finances is to acknowledge that they exist — you can only subsist on the “blissful ignorance” approach for so long. That means actually checking your bank account and making a budget.
Start with the basics: Monthly income and monthly expenses. Next, categorize. Here’s a basic template to get you started:
– Living expenses: Rent, cable, utilities
– Car / travel: Car payment, gas, metro card, etc.
– Food: Groceries, work lunches, etc.
– Entertainment: Bars and restaurants, birthday dinners, music festivals, weekend activities, etc.
– Miscellaneous: Gym membership, Spotify subscription, phone bill, cleaning supplies, toiletries
Give yourself a realistic monthly spending limit for each category. This will allow you to discern your problem areas, make spending cuts accordingly and carve out a realistic budget for your lifestyle.
You can’t nurse your bank account back to health in one day, but you can cut unnecessary spending in your “entertainment” or “miscellaneous” budgets starting right now.
To put this into perspective, cutting three meals out per week at $30 each can save you $90 a week and roughly $360 a month. That small adjustment can put a dent in your credit card bill or be the difference between a late and an on-time rent payment. Take it a step further and challenge yourself to have a zero to $20 weekend out – check out LivingSocial or GroupOn for deals in your area.
It’s the era of the side hustle and we definitely don’t hate it. Much like cutting your entertainment budget, picking up a few freelance projects or bartending at your local watering hole are sure-fire ways to mend your financial wound and relieve stress and anxiety. Set a monthly goal for extra income and put a plan into action – it can even be as simple as selling old clothing on eBay or looking into some investment apps.
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