The year, so far, has proven to be a very stressful one for parents. Budget cuts and increases in the cost of living have left most of us reeling. The future doesn’t look bright and, even if it did, most of us can’t afford the shades.
The stress of managing and maintaining a family budget, and having to sit and count every penny every time you walk past a shop, can get too much. I know one person who actually gets clammy hands when she prepares to log into her online banking!
While it is a good idea to stay on top of your family finances and to manage your spending, it isn’t a good idea to let it get too stressful. I know that I definitely need to take a leaf out of the de-stress book right now and so I’ve hunted down some excellent tips on how to keep the stress out of budgeting.
While the pennies are already rubbing together dangerously, try and set aside a small amount each month for an emergency fund. It doesn’t have to be a lot, even £5 a month will do, but it will add up over time and one day it may very well come in handy.
Why does this help alleviate stress? Because at the back of your mind you will know that there is this little nest egg of security that could help bail you out of a tricky situation. And you are allowed to feel smug that you are saving too.
2. Walk away from the news
We know that the situation is bad, that things are not getting better right now, that big corporate are getting away with murder. If you turn on the news only to hear yet another diatribe about the same problem, consider turning it off and walking away.
While staying on top of current events is a good thing, it doesn’t help to be told 100 times a day that you are in financial jeopardy. Take a day off, forget about it, have some fun.
3. Dump the materialism
It’s hard not to compare your house, car, clothes and lifestyle to people more “successful” than you. Our society praises materialism and holds it up as a shining beacon of achievement. Interestingly, research has shown that materialism only delivers a brief moment of satisfaction but actually causes long term stress.
You will always want more and need more, and the Joneses will always be the same. Practise walking away from that inner voice that demands you get things and soon you won’t be another victim to materialism.
4. Take up a hobby
It does sound a bit ironic suggesting that you take up a hobby to cope with financial stress, especially when so many of them cost a fortune. The thing is, you don’t need to take up scuba diving or digital photography. You can join a free programme at your local centre, go for long rambling walks on the weekends, learn about plants and nature. These things all take your mind off money and stress and boost self esteem and well being.
Learning something new inspires and invigorates the mind. It eases the symptoms of stress, like irritability or sleeplessness (especially if you opt for long walks!) and gives you the tools to cope with whatever life decides to throw at you.
If financial pressures are keeping you awake at night, a good trick is to keep a worry diary. Every night, just before you go to sleep, write down everything that is worrying you. This doesn’t necessarily work for everyone so give it a try and see if this helps you. The idea is to put everything down and away so that you can switch your mind off and go to sleep.
I find that it tends to make me worry even more, so I adjust it to a solution diary that has the worry along with a possible solution I can implement the next day, or over time. It is really a personal thing so see how it goes and adjust it to the way your brain works.
Hopefully these tips will help you on your way to coping with financial stress this year. It is tough times for us all and every bit helps.