Your bills are due. Payday isn’t here yet. And your kid wants $80 light-up sneakers and won’t take no for an answer. As for you? You’re stressed about money.
For many people, this is all too common.
April is Stress Awareness Month. If you’ve ever lost sleep over money or felt a sense of panic when opening a bill, we want to help. So, take a deep breath and let’s look at how a more mindful approach to your money can provide stress relief—and lead to a healthier relationship with your finances.
What Is Mindfulness, Anyway?
Mindfulness is a big topic these days, and mindfulness practices have found their way into many areas of life, from therapy to the workplace. For our purposes, let’s think of mindfulness as a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances, with an attitude that is nurturing, not judgmental.
How does this apply to your finances?
It’s about shifting your mindset. The goal is to bring greater clarity to your financial decision-making and reduce stress and anxiety over money. Here’s what you can do.
1. Stay Aware
When you’re busy, it’s easy to lose track of your finances. Surprise expenses (or a surprisingly low account balance) can turn a little confusion into a lot of stress. Be aware of how much you’re spending, where you’re spending it, and why you’re spending it. Using a budget is often key. USECU’s online money management tools were designed to help.
The goal of budgeting is to help you align your money with your priorities. It can give you insight into what expenses you could live without, like some subscription services or your daily coffee run.
Need to give yourself a reality check? Try the “no-spend challenge.” Avoid spending money on non-necessities for a specific time frame, like a day or a week. Not only will this help you save more, but it will show you what expenses really matter when it comes to your goals and happiness.
2. Practice Acceptance
For many, self-worth is connected to a feeling of financial success. If it seems like all your friends earn more money and live in a bigger house, you may feel pressured to “catch up” with your peers. But financial well-being isn’t a competition, and everybody’s life is different.
Try to look at your finances without judgment. We’re all human, and financial mistakes happen. Even if you’re not in your ideal place financially, being able to acknowledge that today’s needs are met can help you feel more content right now and more resilient as you move forward.
Don’t forget to acknowledge successes, no matter how small. Did you pay off a credit card balance? That’s worth celebrating!
3. Find Balance
Through mindful budgeting, strive to create a healthy balance between wants and needs. If you’re working multiple jobs or struggling to manage high housing costs or student loan payments, this can feel difficult, but it isn’t impossible.
Be clear-eyed about what is and isn’t a necessity while acknowledging that your feelings are real and your desire to buy or do fun things is valid, even if you must sometimes do without them.
Understanding the motivation behind a purchase helps you tell whether it’s worthwhile. For instance, many people choose to spend money on experiences rather than material possessions, feeling that their memories of a great trip or concert are worth more than stuff.
4. Set Intentions
Are your financial decisions made purposefully, or out of habit? Mindful finance can help you set clear goals and follow them up with action.
For instance, if you’re worried about unforeseen expenses, commit to building an emergency savings fund. Identify meaningful steps you can take, such as “paying yourself first” by putting money in savings every payday. Whether you’re saving for a rainy day or a big purchase, it’s okay to start small. Simply starting is a big confidence booster.
Being intentional can also mean making financial choices that reflect your values. For example, many people are careful to support companies that have an ethical business model, or they may shop at local businesses and bank at their local credit union because these organizations invest in their community and support causes they believe in.
When you have lots of responsibilities, time may feel even more scarce than money. One of the best ways to reduce financial stress is to simplify money management. Here are a few ways to save time:
- Use online and mobile banking to handle many banking needs.
- Switch from paper account statements to eStatements (this also helps you cut down on clutter!).
- Get paid by direct deposit instead of paper paychecks.
6. Pick Up a Meditation Practice
You want to feel present in the moment, not worried about the future. Adopting a meditation practice has helped many people become calmer and more focused. Examples include daily journaling, beginning each day by sitting in silence for a few minutes and practicing mindful breathing, or doing a walking meditation.
There are lots of practices out there, so see what works for you to reach financial peace of mind. The only thing you have to lose is stress.
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