Jumat, 14 September 2012

How to Lower Your Financial Stress

1. Make a Budget -- And Stick To It

   As an organized living and working space can relieve daily stress, so can an organized spending plan relieve financial stress. The best way to organize your finances is to make abudget to monitor what you can afford to spend. The first step in making a budget is to investigate your income and how much you spend in necessary bills like utilities and loans payments. Because a large source of financial stress is uncertainty, the sheer knowledge and control that budgeting gives you can be calming.

   The next thing you need to do is to list all of your non-fixedand discretionary expenses. This includes grocery costs, gas and even movie tickets. When you have all this mapped out, you can make smarter decisions about which expenses to cut.

   Of course, you can erase, delete or cross off Starbucks from your budget all you want -- it won't make a bit of difference unless you have the self-discipline to pass by a Starbucks and not stop. One effective tactic insticking to a budget is to carry only cold hard cash with you. It has the habit of disappearing as you use it, unlike swiping plastic. Using this system, you won't spend money you don't have.
   These are just a few of the ways you can better manage your finances and lower your stress. Browse the links on the next page for more of each.

2. Get Rid of Debt

   In today's credit-dependent cultures, more people are drowning in debt, which is a major cause of financial stress. When the credit card bill comes every month, it might be tempting to pay only the minimum amount due, but unfortunately, this only serves as an adhesive bandage on a gushing wound that requires stitches. The bleeding won't stop, and matters will go from bad to worse.
   One of the best ways to improve your financial situation is to pay off debt as soon as possible. This means making payments that take a bite out of the principal rather than just the interest rate. This will take an immediate bite off your stress as well. You'll get peace of mind from knowing you're making steps toward becoming debt-free.

   Of course, there's a difference between good debt like mortgage or student loans, which can work as investments, and bad debt -- credit card purchases that will gather interest. If you find you can't afford your good debt, you can take drastic steps like downsizing your home. One of the worst mistakes to make when you're suffering from financial stress, however, is to take out bad debt. In other words, don't use your credit card unless you have to. That plasma TV might seem like a stress reliever now, but it can cause more financial stress down the road.

Of course, you can only afford to pay off so much at a time. A budget will be able to help you decide how much.

3. Ask for Help

   When you're struggling to make ends meet and you can't seem to figure out how to make things better, it may be time to swallow your pride and ask for help. Those who care for you obviously don't want to see you suffering financially or emotionally, so friends and family are a great place to start. This may not mean monetary help -- it's always sticky to borrow from friends and family -- it could just mean advice.

   Chances are, someone you know has been in a similar predicament, and he or she can offer suggestions and emotional support during your plight. Just sharing your problems with another person can have a healing effect. If you're uncomfortable or embarrassed to talk with people you know, another option is to join a support group. Some of them specialize in addressing shopping addictions or other issues that have been at the root of your financial stress.

   Finally, when peer advice and emotional support don't cut it, you may need professional help. You can seek a financial planner for tailored advice on what you should do to improve your finances. But, make sure to check his or her qualifications -- it's a good sign if he or she is a certified financial planner (CFP). Although you may not be able to find a pro bono financial planner, hiring one can be worth the money.

But without charging you a cent, we can tell you that your financial planner's advice will include getting rid of debt, our next topic.

4. Change Your Attitude Toward Money

   You'd be surprised at the power of a little positive thinking. Even the simple act of laughing has shown to be a stress reliever. If you can change your attitude toward money, you'll condition yourself to avoid triggering the stress response at the thought of money problems.

   Reducing financial stress can mean convincing yourself that money isn't everything. In other words, appreciate what you have. One of the most effective ways to do this is to examine what nonmaterial things are most important to you -- whether that be family, friends or spirituality. As the old adage says, "Count your blessings." Some people do this by practicing meditation.

   Changing your attitude might be tough if you're a worrier, constantly asking, "What if I lose my job next week? What if I get hurt and can't provide for my family?" Planning for the future is good, but accept the fact that you can't control everything. To do this, live in the now -- enjoy the present moment as much as possible

   Although it may seem counterintuitive initially, giving to charity can reduce your financial stress by reminding you of others who are more in need and inducing a rewarding feeling that comes with helping. Of course, if you're the one who needs help, sometimes all you have to do is ask, as we'll see next.

5. Separate Needs From Wants

   It­'s easy to blame your money problems on the boss who doesn't pay you a wage that matches your true worth. Although you can always try to get a better job or negotiate a better salary to increase your income, in lieu of this, the only thing you have full control of is spending. As much as we hate to admit it, the root of financial troubles usually comes down to overspending.

   Chances are, living within your means won't mean descending to the life of a pauper -- it just means separating needs from mere wants. Today's materialistic cultures have effectively blurred the lines between needs and wants to a point where they're almost indistinguishable. Every passing fancy seems like a necessary pit stop in pursuit of happiness.

   Advertising could have us believe that our lives aren't worth living without the latest iPhone or designer clothes. But giving up these things might mean sacrificing acquaintances who might disapprove of our new, meager lifestyles. Other money-saving sacrifices require more work. Eating out, for instance, can be hard to give up when you don't have time to make dinner in the evening and prepare lunch in the morning. It won't be easy, but cutting out nonessentials from your budget is a surefire way to improve your financial situation and stress.

   As a plus, separating needs and wants can help you prioritize what's really important in life -- a process that will help change your mentality, which leads to the next way to reduce financial stress.

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