Five Ways to Reduce Financial Anxiety and Save
How to relax and get some financial peace of mind
November 8, 2018 5 min read
Americans are stressed. And they don’t stress about anything more than they stress about money.1 Whether it’s managing student loan debt, saving for emergencies or funding retirement, finances consistently top the list of things that stress people out.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to help you reduce stress. It’s just a matter of giving them a try and seeing what works best for you. Here are 5 calming activities and 5 financial tips that can help you learn how to not worry about money. Then maybe you—and your bank account—will be able to breathe a little easier.
Savings and salutations
Saving money starts by having a place to put it, so consider opening a savings account, which you can do from just about anywhere. From there, you might build a household budget, so you can track every dollar going in and out of your account. There are many ways to create a budget, from using your banking app or Mint to making a simple spreadsheet like these from Microsoft. As you decide how much you’ll spend on things like groceries and entertainment, make sure that you have enough left over to put into a savings account. This can help you establish an emergency fund, and the peace of mind that often comes with having one.
So how can you bring that feeling of serenity to your fitness routine? Mindful movement is one option and, for many, yoga does the trick.2 It combines strenuous exercise and deep breathing, often practiced in serene settings with the aid of soothing scents and music. Studio classes can be expensive, but you can always use library books or one of many popular yoga YouTube channels or apps to guide your practice at home or with friends.
Sometimes, reducing stress is just a matter of showing up for what’s important. Whether that’s a yoga class or a daily budget check-in, making time for activities that do you good may help you feel a little more in control.
Kicking caffeine and kicking out debt
In recent years, the news about your morning caffeine habit has been mostly good. Drinking coffee in moderation may have certain health benefits.3 But caffeine is habit-forming. One cup sometimes leads to 2, and before you know it you're up to 5 before the workday is through. For some, this can lead to higher stress levels and other health issues4, so scale back if needed or taper off entirely.
As for your budget, if you get your java from a local cafe, you might be adding a dose of unwanted financial anxiety. Why? Because a daily latte habit can cost you $25 a week. That's $1,300 a year! So if you’re wondering how to stop worrying about money, why not eliminate your afternoon latte run? You might find it easier to unwind after work and have a nice chunk of change left over each week.
If this tactic works for you, consider using that extra cash to put toward savings or pay off some debt. The average American carries more than $6,000 in debt,5 and high interest rates can hamper your ability to save. Being debt-free is a nice step toward financial peace of mind.
Running for retirement
If you’re thinking about how to not stress about money, it helps to break a sweat. Whether walking or running, doctors say getting your steps in is among the simplest ways to reduce constant worry.6 It’s also the cheapest. So if you’re forking over $50 a month for a gym membership and still feel stressed, it may make sense to simplify and just start jogging, a suitable activity even as you get older.7
As you work on aging gracefully, you’ll need to maintain an income. Financial experts agree that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement,8 but you can buck the trend. If your company offers a retirement plan, try to invest in it. If you’re not sure how much to invest, try a retirement calculator to figure out what you might need. And if your employer matches your contributions, consider taking full advantage. (That’s free money, after all.) Working toward a fully funded retirement is a great step to take if you can’t decide where to start when you’re stressed about money. Then perhaps your workouts can be filled with positive thoughts, instead of angst about your retirement fund.
Sports and the social rule
When you’re a kid, playing sports is a way of life. As an adult, climbing onto a treadmill may seem like the only option. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t. Experts say that sports and other physically demanding hobbies can minimize stress by raising endorphins and building social bonds,9 so check out teams in your area and rekindle some childhood passions.
Of course, post-game meals are all part of the fun. Most Americans eat dinner out at least once a week, and many do so 3 or more times a week.10 That can get expensive. If you’re dealing with money stress, try this rule: no eating out unless it’s with family or friends (like your new soccer teammates).
Healthy money habits don’t have to equal deprivation. It’s more about getting the most bang for your buck. This change may take some discipline, but if you can cut down on solo dining, you’ll save on food and money anxiety. And hopefully the meals you do eat out will be more enjoyable and meaningful.
Take a deep breath and cut some cords
As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” So, why not take some steps to slow it down, along with your spending, and overcome your fear of lack of money?
Start with simple meditation. While vigorous exercise can reduce stress, so can doing nothing. Millions of Americans rely on a meditative practice, including easy mindfulness exercises, to reduce stress.11 If you’re not sure where to start, find a free app, like Headspace or Insight Timer, to guide you through the basics.
Once you’re used to more quiet time, look for ways to cut back on screen time. Americans are spending more time every year consuming media, and much of that media costs money. If you’re still paying for cable, explore the alternatives. If you’ve already cut the cord, consider other services you can do without. You can put the money you save into that new savings or retirement account, or into joining a sports league or dining out with friends.
Everyone experiences stress, especially when budgets are tight. But if you can find ways to save and also de-stress, you and your budget may find that there’s more room to stretch out than you realize.