Ironically, April is a month that brings awareness to an interesting combination of subjects, as it is simultaneously Financial Literacy Month and Stress Awareness Month. These two topics go hand in hand for many people who are living with financial stress – but they don’t have to!
While we often think of stress as being a mental problem, stress is a very real physiological response that the body has. When you perceive a threat whether it’s a physical danger or a mountain of debt, your body enters “flight or fight” mode. This response to a threat is normal, but for those faced with constant financial stress this can lead to long-term health problems. Most commonly this results in anxiety or depression, but over time it can also lead to migraines, gastrointestinal problems, back pain, or even a heart attack.
But fortunately, the month of April provides the opportunity to focus on increasing your financial literacy and decreasing your stress. Below are some tips for how you can face your financial stress and kiss it goodbye.
1. Change your mindset
Don’t let your finances control your happiness. Start changing your attitude from one of a victim of financial stressors to an agent of action who is capable of taking the steps to financial control.
2. Focus on changes you can make now
Now that you have a new mindset toward your financial stressors, you can start to narrow your focus. There is always something down the road to worry about – whether you’ll be able to afford this or pay off that. But start with small changes you are capable of making today. You can’t pay off all of your credit card debt today, but you can plan out your meals for the week and save on your grocery bill. Then you can put that saved money towards paying off debt.
When you look at your financial state from 20,000 feet, you can be overwhelmed, but zooming in to the particulars can change that seemingly insurmountable mountain into a series of small steps.
3. Pick one goal and act!
Paying off your credit card debt. Starting an emergency fund. Saving for retirement. These are all great aspirations. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a long list of financial goals. Prioritize your financial needs until you can decide which of your financial goals to work towards first. Then – DO IT!
4. Make a budget and stick to it
Budgets can seem very scary or at the very least not a fun way to spend your time, but they are a great tool. A budget is a road map to where you want to go, and it is a baseline number for your current financial state. Once you know where you are, you can start to plan where you need to be. We have several articles that can help you get started from tips on budgeting to saving money while shopping.