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Tuesday, July 16, 2024   
 

Coping with Financial Stress
by Debra Vaughn
Debra Vaughn is a stay-at-home mother to three girls. She is a freelance writer in her spare time. Debra Vaughn also edits and publishes The Family Budgeteer.
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Maybe your credit card debt is growing faster than the weeds in your yard. Perhaps you have the money to pay your bills and live comfortably now. However, retirement is coming, or a crisis may land square on your lap that could, one day, leave you without a penny to your name.

When it comes to reasons behind stress, concerns about money top the list. We worry about not having enough, spending too much, not saving enough - even having more money than we can handle. Money related stress can be bad for both your mental and physical health.

So how do you get a handle on financial stress? First, take charge of your finances. Controlling your money, not letting your money control you, will make you realize that you will not lose power over your finances. Begin with a plan:

 
Record what you spend. It sounds like a chore, but keeping an expense book is the easiest way to see where your money is going. Your system could be as simple as a notebook and pencil. The key is to be consistent. Record every purchase, from your morning cup of coffee to car payments.
Set your spending priorities. Figure out the most important things you must spend money on regularly-savings, rent or mortgage, car payment - and list them from the most important to the least expensive. Then look at your income and figure out which items at the bottom of your list you can toss or spend less on. Stick to your priorities.
Look at your style of living. If you are living above your means, find ways to cut back. Try going out for dinner or buy clothes that do not need to be dry cleaned. Take economy vacations or carpool to work. Do you really have to have your cell phone or 3 phone lines in your home? Carefully review your lifestyle from time to time to see if it's within your earnings potential. If you find that it is not, make the needed lifestyle adjustments.
Set goals. If you have debts, set reasonable goals for paying them off. Look at your budget and decide where you will get the money. Then, create a payment schedule and abide by it. Write your goals on a piece of paper, then write how you are going to turn your goals into reality. The simple act of writing them on paper makes them concrete and reachable.

Learning to cope with stress, financial or otherwise, can guard you from its negative effects. Talking with counselors, spiritual advisors or friends might help temporarily. Exercise, meditation, and focusing on other tasks are all good ways to turn your attention away from stress, but only until you decide it is time to face it head on.

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