Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? And it's also obviously time for TAXES! (Side note-Do you know why you got 2 extra days this year?) Anyway, is it a coincidence that tax day and stress awareness fall in the same month? I think not... Finances are probably one of the issues people stress about the most. In fact, money is the biggest area of conflict for couples. It's a topic that often comes up in conversations among friends and many clients share with me their concerns about their financial situations. So in honor of Stress Awareness Month and Tax Day, here are some tips on managing stress about money.
1. Don't ignore it. The longer you ignore that credit card statement, the worse it's going to look. Ignoring your money problems does not make them go away. If you're stressing about money, it really is better to start tackling the issues sooner than later. Ask your partner or a friend to provide you accountability if you need to, just don't turn a blind eye!
2. Start tracking. If you don't already track your spending habits, YOU SHOULD. With secure apps like Mint.com (and many online banking sites offer similar tools), it is easy to let the technology do the work for you. I recommend tracking your spending for up to a month, before you even try to make any adjustments. This will give you an idea of your patterns and where you may be over-spending without even realizing it.
3. Set a budget. Sounds basic, but you might be surprised how many people aren't doing this. Assess your fixed expenses (mortgage, utilities, debt payments, daycare, etc.) and look at how they measure up against your income. Then add in things that come up throughout the year (pet care, car maintenance, birthday gifts, etc. ) and allot amounts for those expenditures. From there, you can make a plan to tackle debts like student loans or car payments. As a separate but related note, setting auto-payments for regularly occurring bills will you help you avoid late charges. Just make sure you know when the money will be deducted from your bank account, so you don't overdraw!
For more info on establishing and maintaining a budget, check out these links:
How to make a budget
4. Meet with a financial advisor. This may seem daunting but these people are trained to look at the big picture of a person's overall financial situation and long term goals. Those lofty goals often get overlooked when we are just trying to manage the day to day of paying bills, but it's important to keep the big picture in mind. For many of these types of services, it doesn't cost anything upfront to at least meet and discuss your financial goals. Our financial advisor, Gray Shannahan at Northwestern Mutual has helped us assess and plan our long term financial goals and provided direction on decisions we've needed to make. Plus, he loves working with young adults to plan for their futures. If you don't believe me on this, read this: 5 benefits of a financial advisor.
For more tips on decreasing financial stress, check out this link: Lowering financial stress
And here's to less stress and hefty tax returns in April!