Do you ever feel afraid to talk about money? Does just the idea make you feel uncomfortable? Like politics and religion, finance seems to be one of those topics not talked about. Why is that?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, fear is “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” For some reason, we’ve allowed ourselves to be afraid of things that aren’t an immediate danger to us, like money.
I’ve been there. Money can be scary, and how we manage money, especially if we don’t do it well, can be an embarrassing topic to talk about. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In three steps, you can be on your way to approaching money with a fearless mindset, instead of allowing fear to hold you back from potential financial gain.
Things like living paycheck to paycheck, debt, and college loans can send our blood pressure through the roof. Sometimes that’s because we haven’t taken the time to create a budget, make a plan, and take action. Let’s discuss these three steps in more detail if you’re open to it, and you can decide for yourself if this can be a helpful solution for you.
Instead of plowing through another Netflix series, take some time sit down at your kitchen table and determine where your income is going for the month. If you know ahead of time when you need to pay your bills and how much they will be—roughly, if they aren’t a fixed amount—it can lessen the anxiety we get when we have a bill due. Take your income and place it into budgeting categories. I like to use a structure like this when budgeting for the month ahead:
- Savings – Emergencies, College Fund, Vehicle, Vacation
- Housing – Mortgage/Rent, Propane, Electric, Internet, Water
- Food – Groceries, Dining Out
- Personal Spending – Netflix, Casual Shopping, Subscriptions, Car Insurance
- Health – Gym, Medicine, Doctor Visit Co-Pays, Health Insurance
These are just a few ways you can organize where you need to place your income. This will bring down that internal fear of not having enough money for an upcoming bill, because you will have already budgeted for it.
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Far too often, we look at the whole picture—such as thousands of dollars in debt and bills piling up—and get so stressed out that we feel as though there’s no way for us to get a grasp on our financial situation. The good thing about feelings is that we can choose how we react to them. There are many circumstances and situations that cause an emotional response of surprise, grief, or anger when it comes to money. However, we can gain control by having a plan for when those feelings arise.
Speaking for myself, my $60,000 in student loans won’t disappear overnight, and they definitely won’t go away if I don’t budget and make a plan to pay them off. That number alone is very overwhelming and even intimidating! However, if I take a step back and break that loan down into smaller monthly payments, the goal of paying off that loan becomes more attainable.
For example, if you have $1,000 in credit card debt, plan to pay it off by breaking down your debt into manageable payments that fit into your budget. Four payments of $250 is a lot more manageable than shelling out $1,000 all at once.
Fear of money and our finances has the potential to be crippling. One way to overcome those moments of fear, frustration, and doubt is to simply take action right now. A few ways to do that are by being present in the moment, holding yourself accountable, and starting small. Let me break those down for you.
Being present in the moment means that the past is over. Your thoughts or feelings about money in the past are no longer relevant. How you approach your finances emotionally in the present moment will determine where you are with your finances in the days, months, and years ahead of you. Being present may look like:
- Paying attention to how you spend your money.
- Being open to constructive advice about your money management.
- Understanding your financial needs and wants.
Being accountable to yourself means that you’re setting your own standards and principles. For example, one of my own financial standards is that I will not spend more than 30% of my line of credit. If I were to use a higher percentage and not be able to pay it off quickly enough, lenders could interpret this to mean that I overextend myself financially, and therefore I wouldn’t be a good candidate for loans or higher lines of credit.
Another personal standard of mine is to make sure that I’m putting income into my savings accounts each month. That way when an unexpected bill comes up, instead of being anxious and wondering how I’ll pay for it, I can feel confident that I have the money in my savings to cover surprise expenses.
Personal principles are important, too. Like standards, they help to give you structure when building confidence around your finances. For instance, setting up your budget so that you save more and spend less is one of the best principles you can have for yourself. Yes, it feels good to spend money, but it doesn’t outweigh the feeling of having money and financial security.
No one ever finished climbing a mountain without first lacing up their shoes. Like a mountain, taking control of your finances may seem like a daunting task, so start small. Put these action steps into play! Create your budget today, figure out what must get paid, and make a plan to take action on your other, larger financial goals one step at a time.
Take the time to sit down and create consistent financial habits in your daily life. This will help keep money in your account rather than always wondering if you’ll have enough. When you do this, you can move forward into the future with less fear and be more financially free.
As someone who’s grown from a place of emotional spending and fear of college loan debt, to living within my means and paying debt off bit by bit, I can tell you from experience that financial security helps to lessen most, if not all, financial fears so that you can start living your life again.
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