How to tackle financial stress

Ways to get motivated to take control of your finances

For many Americans, financial concerns are ever present, especially given the uncertainties of today’s economy. While worrying doesn’t solve much, having a plan to try to manage financial challenges can help ease some of that stress.

Plus, the monetary benefits of dealing with financial problems — getting bills paid, saving more, paying down expensive debt — can help improve your overall outlook.

Here are some suggestions for how to help reduce your money stress and get motivated to take control of your finances:

Identify what needs the most attention

Write down your three biggest money challenges so you know what you’re up against. Whether it’s making your monthly bill payments, reducing credit card debt or saving for retirement, it’s important to focus on the main sources of your financial anxiety. Keeping the list short can help you feel less overwhelmed.

Try to stay positive

Your mindset can help keep you motivated to fix your financial problems. Rather than get bogged down by thoughts of never getting out of debt, imagine the amount of stress you feel decreasing as your debt load gets smaller and smaller. It’s important to believe you can do it.

Be realistic

Determine what you can reasonably achieve and then dedicate yourself to following through each and every month. Make yourself a promise: “Each month I will spend less and put the difference toward my debt so my balance declines by at least $100.” Just like a crash diet or intense new workout routine can lead to burnout, you don’t want to set overly ambitious financial goals that you may abandon in a few weeks or months.

Make the most of your income

The belief that you simply don’t have enough money to put towards your goals can keep you from dealing with your financial problems. Try to focus on making the most of the income you do have by spending wisely. We’ve put together a list of money-saving tips to help get you started.

For example, you can save over $650 a year by brewing your coffee at home instead of buying a cup every day. You might also consider using a calculator to see how long it may take you to hit a savings goal. Bank of America offers a savings calculator that could help.

Small steps are key

You may not be able to cut any one expense by $500, but you may be able to identify five monthly expenditures you could reduce by $100. Forgive yourself if you slip up. Sticking to a budget is not always easy, and there may be days when your resolve falters. If that happens, remind yourself of how much you have to gain by reaching your goals. Then examine your spending patterns to see why you overspent. You may need to modify your budget or your behavior — if you can’t go into sporting supply stores without buying something, stop visiting them.

Keep yourself honest

Leaning on your relationships can help keep you on track. Every hard task becomes easier with the support of friends and family, so share your goals. There’s no one better to hold you accountable and remind you what you’re sacrificing for than those you love, trust and respect.

Ken Sheldon is Bank of America’s New Hampshire market president.

Categories: Finance