I've had many, many talks with my financial adviser (aka: my mom) regarding finances. Probably about 75% of these talks involve me crying. I'm happy to say I'm getting better, I haven't had to call my mom to order me Dominos for dinner in well over a year, so basically I'm quite improved. My mom always explains financial things to me in ways that don't sound terrifying and don't send me into a panic spiral.
We've made a big change in our life over the past month – my Greek husband is heading back to school – so we need to be careful with our spending over the next few months. Sitting down to talk with my mom about healthy spending habits allowed me to come up with a clear financial plan.
Here are a few about managing financial stress that I've adopted into my life that I wanted to share with you. Money is a stressful subject, so handling that stress in a healthy way will help you to balance everything and not run away from the issue. That and, you know, help you figure out how to save enough money for groceries and gas.
1. It's okay to admit that you're overwhelmed.
There are some days when I fall into a bill related panic spiral. I'll start to calmly plot out my bill due dates and then twenty minutes later I'm convincing myself that the only way I'm going to be able to afford everything is to get a second job selling my nonessential organs on the black market.
Before googling things like "kidneys – do you really need two?" take a breather. Remind yourself that you've made it this far and that you're doing the best you can. While it's really good to set long term financial goals for yourself, sometimes that can be totally overwhelming. You're young, you're managing and you're bound to blow some money one night on margaritas, graphic tees or Chinese food. It happens; do not beat yourself up over it.
2. Organize your monthly expenses – all of them.
This is something my mom always encourages. She uses a bucket system to organize monthly expenses. Everyone knows the basic monthly expenses: rent, your phone bill, utilities, car insurance, ect. But think about your other monthly expenses. How much gas does it take you to get to and from work in a week? How much are you spending at the grocery store? How much do you spend on dog food in a month? Those are monthly expenses that you don't always calculate – but when you think about it, they're total necessities.
By adding up all your monthly expenses, you're going to get a bigger number for your total amount of bills. This can be a little hard to swallow, yes, but it also means that everything is covered. This means that the money left over after everything is paid can go into two smaller buckets – a savings bucket and a spending money bucket. This lowers the possibility of you having to choose between going out for a margarita three days before pay day and, you know, eating for the week.
3. Start saving, no matter what.
Last week, my buddy Brittany of The Charm Collectiv started an amazingly helpful series about saving for retirement. Ok so, maybe you're not working somewhere that sets up retirement plans for you – no judgment from me, I walked dogs for three years. Maybe the thought of planning for retirement makes you grow short of breath and think about how inevitably life is flying by too quickly. No judgment again on that – I've been there, done that, tried the Snapchat filter. But hey, it's always good to think about saving. Brittany's posts presented an honest, up front conversation about savings that's important to read even if you're not ready to think about long term financial saving.
One of the important things I've learned about saving is not to compare what you're capable of to anyone else. Can you afford to save $100 a month? Pad that savings account. Can you only afford to save $10 per pay period? Do it. There's no amount that's too small to put away.
4. Remind yourself that practically everyone you know is going through this too.
When I graduated college, I felt like I was the only person in my friend circle who was struggling. All my friends seemed to have it together enough to go out, go on vacation, shop, go to events and buy groceries for the week. I fell into a hole of feeling completely alone and embarrassed about my financial situation. I'd go out because I wanted to be included, but the next morning I'd be beating myself up about spending money I didn't have.
As I grew up, I realized that by adopting that mindset – I alienated myself even more. I've changed the way I talk about finances with my friends. I've become open and honest. If I can't go to an event because the ticket costs too much – I don't make excuses, I just explain my situation. I'm lucky to have an awesome group of supportive, understanding friends. Can't afford a night out with sushi and drinks? Let's all stay in, cook something yummy and watch a movie. Want to get out of town but don't have the money for a vacation? Girls trip to DC to check out some free museums.
Communicating with your friends about your financial limitations shouldn't be a negative thing. It's a healthy topic of conversation and if you're willing to share that part of your life, you'd probably be surprised to see that your friends are probably just as relieved to be saving money by doing other things.
Like I said before, financial planning can be totally overwhelming. There are definitely going to be some days where you're just ready to call it a night, go out for a margarita and forget that you have to save money for your phone bill. I hope that I presented you with a few tips on how to manage that anxiety. What are your best tips for managing financial stress?