There are many cliches about money. If you’re old enough you might recall a popular saying in the 1990’s: “More money, more problems.” The issue of money carries a lot of negativity. In addition to some people feeling “money can’t buy happiness” (which is debatable), some feel that “money is the root of all evil.” All evil.
Whatever your views are regarding money, one thing is true, and that is at one point or another everyone will experience some problems – to varying degrees – with money.
While having more money may give you a temporary boost of endorphins, more money – in and of itself – won’t necessarily reduce your stress or make you happier long term. Sure, you may land a huge salary increase or even hit the “jackpot” but eventually, most of us have a baseline happiness quotient which we will naturally gravitate towards regardless of the balance in our bank accounts.
So, if you were a negative person before the money, you’ll most likely continue to be a negative person after the money. And vice versa.
So it’s not the balance that matters. It’s the habits. Making shifts in your financial habits is more likely to bring you long lasting happiness, rather than simply having a fatter bank account. A few things you can do would be live within your budget, address any debts you may owe, and spend money on experiences – not just things. Doing these will lower your stress over money allowing you to have less anxiety and worry. You’ll have the freedom of making choices, rather than feel limited and that the only way to get what you want is to rack up more debt.
Because money is a topic that comes up often when I talk with clients, family, and friends I decided to put together a list of concrete actions you can take to enhance your relationship with money, and ultimately lower stress around this part of life.
Concrete Actions That Can Reduce Stress Over Money
Be Smart With Spending
Do the things you buy really give you a sense of fulfillment? Are they improving your quality of life? When you head to Target and load up the shopping cart with random items to bring home, do they truly give you joy? Many times, we are not being conscious about our spending. We’re buying things simply because it’s there. Impulse purchases are made on the web when scrolling, or in the store when we come across something that we simply “must have.”
This type of shopping behavior ripples over to the children too. Their need for immediate gratification is further strengthened when they see Mommy and Daddy getting everything they want with little or no effort, or without talking through the benefits or drawbacks of making a purchase. And when Amazon can deliver within 2 hours, or you can instantaneously download new games or “stuff” to your devices, who can blame them when they have an ugly tantrum in the middle of the aisle at Walgreens?
Before you buy anything new, really think about whether this item is needed in your home. Will it benefit you or your family in some way? Can it help improve your overall quality of life? Or are you stretching your already thin budget to make this purchase? Bringing fewer things into your home will not only reduce clutter but will help to lower your stress over money too.
Cut Down on Your Debt
Getting out of debt sometimes starts with creating a budget and looking for ways to reduce spending. As mentioned before, having more money to play with – which will happen once those debts are paid off – is a way to lower your stress over your family finances and allow you to have choices.
Find room in your budget to reduce spending. Maybe you’ll need to cut out those daily lattes, start to bring your own lunch to work, or decline invitations to go out with friends. Doing these things for the short term – or long term – can help free up money that can go towards paying off your debt. Eventually, you’ll have more options to spend your money the way you want to by having less of it going to creditors.
Look for areas where you can reduce your spending. What habits do you have that are draining you financially?
Reduce Clutter in Your Home
Whether you’ve been on a spending spree or not, you may look around your home and see many items that you no longer need. These may be cluttering up an extra bedroom that could be a home office or nice guest room, or you may have toys that the kids no longer play with laying around. Make a plan to get rid of these.
Consider a garage sale, selling online or listing some of your products on Poshmark. When you start being more intentional about your spending and buying habits, this allows you to regain control over your living space as well by not allowing it to become re-cluttered. And a clean, clutter-free environment will lower the stress of everyone in the home.
Spend Your Money The Way You Want
Once your debt is gone and you’re starting to get your home back in order, now’s the time to think about ways that you’d rather spend your money. Are there experiences that your family would like to have together. Maybe you now have the room in your budget for more family outings or a family vacation.
Maybe you’d like to a lawn company to start cutting the grass so you can work on things you’re passionate about or simply spend more time with the family. It may seem like an odd suggestion to “spend money” as part of your plan to lower stress over money, but this is one of the benefits of being debt-free. You can make the choice whether you want to continue doing certain things yourself or outsource them.
More money isn’t always the solution. In order to reduce stress over money, sometimes you’ll need to look at the ways that you’re using what you already have. Making a few small changes in the way you approach your family’s financial situation could be the difference between more debt or money-related stress or a future of financial happiness.
Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Expert, and Health Educator. She creates impactful, evidence-based health and wellness content and programs for individuals, families, and communities.