Mayday, Mayday! My money is stressing me out

11 July, 2017

Let’s take a step backwards for a minute. Usually we give you tips about boosting your retirement fund or picking suitable investments and things like that, but what about the other end of the scale? Before you can think about long-term investments you should ideally have short-term savings. And before you can pull together short-term savings, you might first have to clear your debts. And that can be stressful.

Financial stress doesn’t necessarily mean you’re buried in debt and gasping for air beneath the breadline. Even if you have your essential bills in order, you can still be overwhelmed by confusing accounts, unmet goals, and spending habits you would prefer not to have.

You don’t have to be poor to be stressed. In fact, according to BlackRock’s Investor Pulse Survey 2019, 45% of Brits see money as one the main causes of stress in their life; more than health, work, family and any other influence. So what can you do to ease the strain?

Here are 4 tips to handle the stress, and 4 tips to stabilise your finances.

1. Top tips for managing the stress

Professor of mental health services research at University of Exeter, David Richards, shared his tips with the NHS for coping with money-related stress and anxiety.

  1. Stay active
    See your friends, take up exercise and do your best to keep paying the bills. Don’t ignore the situation or hide away or you could end up feeling lower. For free fitness ideas, check the NHS Get fit for free guide (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/free-fitness-ideas/).

  2. Face your fears
    If you’re struggling, staying in control is the best course of action. But of course that’s easier said than done, so professional advice can really help. The Money Advice Service can help you find free, confidential debt advice (https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/help-if-youre-struggling-with-debt#where-to-find-free-confidential-advice).

  3. Don’t drink too much alcohol
    Many people use drink and drugs to deal with the emotions or fill time, but it won’t help. We don’t mean to teach you to suck eggs or patronise, but if you do need help there’s advice from the NHS to help you cut down (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/tips-on-cutting-down-alcohol/).

  4. Don’t lose your daily routine
    This can be become a problem if you’re out of work for a while, and has knock-on effects. If you stop getting up at the same time, you may start missing meals or eating snacks instead of cooking. All of which adds up to an even more stressed out you. Again, turn to the NHS for guidance on food and diet (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/).

2. Top tips to sort out the money

  1. Think about your stress points
    What’s really bothering you about your financial situation? Is it a persistent credit card balance, the fact that you haven’t got any savings, or the difficulty of planning for unpredictable bills? Zero in on the causes of your stress and write them down.

  2. Get a clear view of your spending
    Imaginary numbers and ballpark figures aren’t helpful when you need to draw up a plan or budget. Go through your bills, receipts and statements to see what you’re actually spending money on. Again, write it down to make it real.

  3. Set achievable goals
    If you owe £10,000 to a bank or card, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pay it back with a single pay packet. Budget for how much time you realistically need to comfortably make repayments without getting into further trouble. And avoid comparing yourself to other people – everyone’s situation is different.

  4. Manage the repayments
    Debt is the most soul-sapping source of money anxiety, but it won’t go away on its own. If you need help making repayments on a number of debts, shop around for a loan to cover them all with a lower overall interest rate. And be careful of bank overdrafts – they’re more expensive than you might think.

For more detail on the arrangements you can make to pay off your debts, check out the government’s debt management guide (https://www.gov.uk/options-for-paying-off-your-debts). And rest assured that no matter how bad you have it, there is a way out.