Six Steps for Shrinking your Stress in a Shrinking Economy

With the soaring fuel prices, job layoffs and a struggling economy, managing money for most families today is a challenge. But there are steps you can take to make the most of your valuable resources. Here are six steps to consider:

Realize your relationship with money

Money is as much about emotion as it is about math. People often make purchases when they feel like it, not because it’s a necessity. They feel that new item will bring them joy, without pausing to assess if they really need it or if they can afford it. Advertisers are brilliant in marketing to our wants and desires.

Millions are spent to lure us to the products’ shininess, sleekness, beauty or power. Women especially are prone to spur-of-the-moment purchases, often intending to make a bad day better or to buy a reward. It’s important to notice if your relationship with money is too directly entwined with your mood, rather than your budget. It can be costly!

Forgive yourself from the past

All people succumb to guilt for all sorts of reasons. Guilt is a very powerful emotion; it gets in our way and prevents us from moving forward. Many people use guilt inadvertently as a way to keep good things from happening, especially with changing poor financial habits. Everyone has made mistakes with their money. We can learn from our mistakes—bad investments, failure to save more and hasty spending decisions—because these are in the past. You can’t move forward into wealth or happiness until you release yourself from past mistakes.

Clear the clutter

It’s easy to get sucked into clutter and lose everything else along the way, including unpaid bills. Clutter keeps you distracted by taking up space and energy. We can’t pay attention to what we want and need when we are in a chaotic environment. It is impossible to get organized when your physical space looks more like a disaster zone. Start removing clutter from a small space, preferably your favorite place in your home. Then clear an area you can designate as an office space to handle the family finances. Feel the freedom of clearing your clutter and your stress will begin to shrink!

Admit your debt

Once the clutter has cleared it is more difficult to deny the evidence of debt revealed on your desk. Being debt-free may not be possible immediately, but confronting it will move you in the right direction.  Pretending it will somehow go away or doesn’t exist just brings further debt and financial burdens. If you’re married, it’s important to be open and realistic about both assets and deficits between you. Involving children is a great teaching tool for money management as well.

Get organized

There are many ways to organize your finances today:  from online systems to personal banking assistance to financial planners. Or perhaps you prefer the old-fashioned pencil and paper plan.  That’s ok too. Whether it’s keeping an index card in your wallet to track each expense or assigning a certain day of the week to catch up, it just matters that you develop a system that makes it easy for you in a way fits your lifestyle.

Partner with your paycheck

You and your paycheck should be a dynamic team, with a plan and purpose for each month. See your paycheck as a valuable reward for your work. Honor it, value it and treat it with care. When you have that attitude, you are more likely to allocate each penny towards your necessary payments, rather than use it for random and reckless spending. Just as food is used for health purposes and should not be abused for emotional reasons, your income should not be taken for granted, or soon you will wake up to the call of collection companies. Then, not only has your bank account suffered, but so has your health and your relationships with family and friends. Partner with your paycheck to make the most of your money and of your life!