Welcome to Part Four of a 6-part series I’m doing on personal loans, credit card debt, and refinancing – the Payoff Series. If you’re new here, go back and check out Part One, Part Two, and Part Three!
23% of Americans — and 36% of Millennials — experience a debilitating degree of stress surrounding their finances. According to Payoff, this financial stress affects people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – and don’t I know it. Stress over how to pay my credit card bill is actually what drew me to Payoff in the first place. Refinancing my loan helped me a ton, but there are additional ways to manage financial stress.
5 Ways to Manage Financial Stress
1. Create a plan
This can be as easy as plugging your loan into Mint’s “Goals” feature or as complicated as contacting creditors to lower payments, but you’ve got to sit yourself down and make a plan of how exactly you are going to pay off your debt. Consider different debt repayment plans, like the snowball or avalanche methods.
Maybe you have a different kind of financial stress? Make a plan to create an emergency fund, get on track with retirement planning, or finally kick the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. You can do this – all it takes is Mint, YNAB, or a spreadsheet.
“Knowing how much money you spend and where you spend it will empower you to take control of your finances and make changes to reduce your stress.”
2. Automate bill payment & savings
Once you know how much you need to save or pay towards your debt, consider setting it up on auto-pilot. You can have the debt payments debited directly from your bank account, savings for emergencies transferred from your checking to a separate savings account, and retirement savings deducted from your paycheck into your employer’s plan. . If you wait until the end of the month, you may find there’s simply not enough money left over. You can also automate your other bills to help make sure you don’t miss any payments that can lead to late payment fees and even damage to your credit score.
3. Lower nonessential spending and debt
Look for opportunities to reduce expenses to close the gap in your budget from the extra debt payments or savings. I recommend using the Trends feature on Mint and then doing a spending fast!
4. Make progress one step at a time
Set small, achievable goals on the way to your long term goals and keep track of your debt and savings balances to monitor your progress. Again, I can’t recommend Mint enough for this. When you inevitably take a step backwards, just keep your eye focused on the eventual goal. You’ll get there. My own credit card repayment journey is taking over 18 months – and don’t get me started on my 10-year student loan plan.
5. Talk about it!
Now, this part is the reason us Dames started this blog. Talking about money might seem taboo, but you’d be amazed how many of your peers feel just like you and are hiding it! Talk about your budget woes, your debt repayment strategies, and your favorite Roth IRA distributions. You don’t have to share specifics if they make you uncomfortable (& certainly keep your account information secure!), but just starting a conversation about how others are handling their finances will make you feel better. You might gain some wisdom, get a boost to your ego for how your handling things, or make a new friend – regardless, you’re better off sharing your feelings than hiding them when it comes to money.
Partially based off the CALM approach, these steps will help you sleep better at night. Just remember, you’re not alone in this financial journey. While it may be your money, other people are dealing with the same bills, debt, lack of savings, and stress you are – we can help each other!
What is your favorite way to handle financial stress? Share it below.
In Part Five, I’ll be talking about tackling major debt repayment while trying to balance the rest of your budget.