5 tips for helping you stress less about money
It’s hard not to feel stressed about money these days. After all, you’re likely spending more on food, medications and even entertainment. And you’re not alone. Two-thirds of Americans are anxious about having enough money to pay for basics, according to a 2022 survey by the American Psychological Association.1
All those money worries can be bad for your health. “People get migraines, backaches, ulcers and depression,” says Erika Wasserman, a certified financial therapist in Miami. “Relationships also are impacted by financial stress,” she says.
A key to easing that stress? Getting your financial life on track. That may help you feel more in control. Here are some smart money-management tips from financial pros that may help you do just that.
1. Have weekly money meetings
Not talking about money can just add to the stress. “The more you can discuss financial matters with your family or partner, the more chances you have to come up with a solution,” advises Wasserman.
She suggests having a weekly meeting to talk about finances. First come up with an agenda, she says. Then create some reachable goals. That could mean spending one meeting setting monthly spending limits. Another meeting could focus on how to cut down on takeout meals so that you have more money to pay off a loan.
2. Track the numbers
Come to those weekly money conversations prepared. Have your bank statements ready, says Jessica Allen, the community coach for Living Well Spending Less in Houston.
“Just seeing what goes out and how much comes in can make a big difference,” she says. “Numbers don’t lie. You also might be able to see where you can cut here and there.”
Looking at the numbers on the page can help everyone see what’s going on, says Allen. That will help you feel more in control.
3. Look over your credit card statements
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” says Jesse Cramer, a financial adviser in Rochester, New York. He’s also founder of The Best Interest blog and podcast. That advice is true of your bank accounts, but it applies to your credit cards too.
Your credit card statement can uncover bills on autopay. “You may be paying for subscription services that you don’t even use anymore,” says Allen. “Companies want to put us on autopay. They know we tend to forget that we signed up for it. And they just collect money from us every month.”
That is especially true of entertainment. Take a hard look at what you spend on fun, says Cramer. “We all need fun in our lives,” he explains. “But ask yourself how much joy you’re really getting out of that spending. Could you cut some of it?” This question might motivate you to cancel that $14.99-a-month streaming service you don’t watch that often.
4. Set up an emergency fund
There are certain monthly expenses that are important to budget for, even if you don’t want to. Your car loan, for instance, or your rent/mortgage payment. But it’s the unexpected costs that can be financially painful, says Cramer. The broken fridge. Or the tires you need replaced.
If you don’t have the funds, you’ll have to pay with your credit card and carry the balance. That’s more financial stress. Which is why Cramer recommends an emergency fund.
“It’s a safety net underneath you,” Cramer says. He built up his emergency fund slowly, over a few years, until he had enough to cover roughly 6 months’ worth of spending. But it’s okay if you don’t have that much extra money – just set aside what you can. What’s important is to start saving a little bit each week or month.
5. Save money when you shop
Consider these cost-cutting measures when you’re running errands:
At the grocery store
Food is “the number one easiest place to overspend,” Allen says. To trim your food bill:
- Plan ahead with recipes and shopping lists before you’re in the store, says Allen. That way you already know what you have in the pantry. Planning ahead may also help cut down on ordering takeout when you don’t know what to cook.
- Buy in bulk instead of small amounts, suggests Cramer. The bulk aisle has whole grains, beans, nuts and other staples for less money.
- Sign up for loyalty cards at supermarket chains, says Allen. Sometimes sale items are only good for customers with those cards. Plus, some may give you cash back at the gas pump.
- Take advantage of in-store sales and coupons.
- Another place to save? Buy store-brand packaged and canned foods. They’re as good as name brands — and cheaper.2
At the drugstore
You may be spending more on medications these days. Even over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have gone up in price. To help save money:
- Shop the weekly specials, says Allen. This is another place where the store brand may be cheaper than name-brand items. And don’t forget about coupons.
- Be honest with your healthcare provider about your prescription costs. They may suggest less costly alternatives, such as generics. Or they may be able to suggest a medical assistance program that could help cut costs.3
All these little savings add up, Allen says. Now pair up those savings with your new money-management skills. Once you do, you may cut down your stress levels. That’s good for your household’s bottom line — and your health.