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3 ways to alleviate financial stress

Sienna Kossman

Take a moment and try to remember a day during which you didn’t spend money, check your credit or bank account or worry about a financial burden.

Can’t think of one? Me either.

Since I’m immersed in financial information every day at work while also managing my own finances I can’t help but feel completely drained by the topic of money.

3 ways to give your mind a financial break

When I begin to sense financial exhaustion, it’s easy to neglect good financial habits by using the excuse that “I just need a break.” An impulse buy, takeout dinner or bill pay procrastination can all result from financial stress. Over time, those “remedies” can take a toll on your wallet.

That marked-down scarf and delivery pizza are not sound solutions for money worries. Trust me.

There’s evidence that worrying about money can even slow your cognitive function. A study published in American Association for the Advancement of Science’s “Science” journal last year revealed that financially stressed individuals temporarily loose the equivalent of 13 IQ points and experience feelings that mimic the effects of a sleepless night.

Yikes.

I don’t know if my money woes are that extreme, but they’re still burdensome. Over the past few months I’ve decided to combat my financial stress in more constructive ways instead of over-indulging or ignoring obligations. Here are some tips that have worked for me that may refresh your financial outlook:

1. Make one day each week spend-free.

Daily expenses are often necessary, but when you’re on a tight budget the simple act of pulling out your debit or credit card to make a purchase can be a reminder of how much money you do or do not have.

Tracking your spending can be draining and mental exhaustion is one reason why many otherwise good budgets fail. But, if you don’t spend money, there is no spending to track.

To counteract negative emotions associated with making payments, I plan my week so I can go at least one day without paying for a single thing. I used to save Sunday for grocery shopping, other errands and paying bills, but now I do all those things on Saturday morning in preparation for the week ahead so I don’t need to spend a dime on Sunday. It makes me feel more in control and comfortable going a day without even glancing at my budget.

2. Pay bills as soon as possible.

Unpaid bills can hang over your head, even if they aren’t past due. Thanks to technology, we are now reminded by email and text about bills that are coming due.

To avoid keeping track of numerous due dates, take a half hour each payday and pay as many monthly bills as possible. I started doing this once I had a consistent paycheck after college. Although it’s hard to see money come into my account and then leave almost immediately, it feels great knowing my most important financial obligations have been attended to.

Waiting to pay a bill the day it’s due also puts you at risk for late fees, a temporary service lapse or other unwanted costs of forgetfulness. Pay bills as soon as you can so you won’t have to remember to do so later. And, if that’s not an option, consider setting up auto-pay for your bills. The easier you can make the payment process the better you’ll feel.

3. Don’t check account balances every day.

The more I look at my student loan balance, the more I worry about how long it’s going to take me to pay it off, even though I’ve been making larger-than-necessary on-time payments. Constantly checking the figures isn’t going to make the debt vanish any faster, so obsessing over it does me absolutely no good.

It’s like when you’re on a diet and trying to lose 10 pounds. Weighing yourself three times a day doesn’t make the process go faster.

If you’re guilty of loan balance paranoia, too, try simplifying your spending habits so you don’t have to constantly confirm all is in order.

I’ve found this to be especially helpful when managing debt. A fridge calendar with notes about when money is coming in and supposed to leave my accounts each week serves as a good, frequent reminder of my financial situation without requiring daily financial account check-ups.

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