Here's a confession: I am an incredibly anxious person.
On top of that, I can also be a bit of a pessimist. It's something I've been working on, but give me a crisis, and I'm coming up with worst-case scenarios and waiting for the other shoe to drop. While I'm definitely better at managing my anxiety than I used to be, depending on what is happening in my life I still go through “seasons” where it feels like my fears are running away with me.
But today I want to talk about money stress, which is a kissing cousin to your garden-variety, run-of-the-mill anxiety. When I graduated college and started my first year as a “working” (read- BROKE AS A JOKE) actor, money stress was the constant monkey on my back. Not only did I have all those credit card minimums (as told in my origin story), but I only cleared a whopping $12,500 that year.
How to Deal With Sneaky Money Stress
Every decision I made, every social situation or grocery store run presented itself with a cycle of money stress that ran on loop in my head until my card cleared and I could make it back home.
(If you're interested/an actor, check out Stefanie's post for more on how actors are underpaid and can increase their earnings.)
Then I moved to New York, got a high-paying job as an administrative assistant at a hedge fund, (where I cleared six figures as a 23-year-old receptionist) and I slowly learned how to manage my money. I learned how to relax, pay both my bills and have fun, and my money stress took a backseat.
… Until July 2013 when I bought my house and the renovation drained every, last, single penny that I had. From that July-November while I was renovating my first home, money stress ruled my life. It was an old, familiar feeling..but not in a good way. Money stress is sneaky in that way – one minute you're fine, and the next you're back in an old place.
My old headaches came back. I stopped eating and laughing. Instead I sat at home checking my bank account balance and arguing with my contractor.
When the renovations were over, I focused on building up my emergency fund and paying off my credit cards. I finally started to feel good about money again and enjoyed a break from the constant stress of a large project. Learning many lessons from that time in my life, I thought I was done with money stress for good.
…Until I decided to leave my full-time job in April to freelance and work for myself.
And as you guess it, my old friend money stress was back.
The point of this long story is that I've finally realized that unless you're financially independent or really, really, really well stacked, money stress is going to come and go in your 20's, no matter how prepared we are or how much we've saved. We worked hard for that money in the bank. It is super stressful to watch it come and go, even if it is for an important emergency.
So as a salute to my old friend money stress, I'm going to write out what I've found to be the most effective tips for kicking it to the curb.
How Can You Manage Money Stress?
No surprise here, as exercise has been proven to be one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression, but exercise works for money stress too, and not in the ways you may think! I find that when I exercise I have more energy for the hustle, which is important for tackling my to-do's and growing my business. So it's a double win- exercise to decrease stress while increasing energy and productivity.
Throw Yourself Into a Project
When things are out of control, it's calming to focus on the things you can control. Get the groceries, balance the checkbook, paint the trim in your den, clean out your inbox, organize your dropbox, brush the dog's teeth…whatever. Often those nagging little to-do's are the perfect antidote for feeling crazed.
At the beginning of 2015, I was in a low place at the end of another failed relationship. Tired of hearing me whine about this guy I couldn't get over, my friend Carrie (a life coach in training, even if she doesn't know it yet!) told me about the power of positive thinking and how it might help me transform my life.
She told me to write and say daily, “Things are always working out for me.”
“Even if things seemed terrible at the time…didn't it always work out for you in the end?” She asked. “You bought that house, but it was a good money move. Your engagement ended, but better that than divorce, right?”
And she's right. That small daily affirmation has changed my entire f*cking life. It's done wonders for my overall attitude and outlook. So now, when things (especially money matters) seem out of control, I remember my mantra. I write it down. I think on it for just a second. And things are just a little bit better when I'm done.
I'll even be so bold as to say that a positive attitude is worth more than dollars and cents. Yes?
If money is leaking out of your bank account (whether it be business, emergency, or life-related) scaling back is an important step for moving things in the right direction. Remember: you are in control of your money. Emergencies or important life changes aside, you control how it gets used and where it goes.
Scaling back on discretionary spending helps you feel in control while reigning in your spending.
Remind Yourself that It Is Only Temporary
I'm going to musical theater nerd out for a little bit. In the show “Avenue Q” there is this song at the end called “For Now.” The song's message is to demonstrate that everything in life, both the good and bad, is only “for now.”
Right now you have money stress. In six months, you may not. You could win the lottery tomorrow or receive a promotion. The point is: YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT COULD HAPPEN!
Money comes in and it goes. Marie Forleo has a great video I recommend all the time where she advocates people come from a place of abundance rather than “money scarcity.” If positive thoughts influence our actions and outcome, it makes sense to think that way about our bank accounts as well.
I'm a big advocate of having an emergency fund. And trust me, I know it is the biggest bummer to get a nice healthy nest egg and then have to use it. It's not so pretty when the old EF is low, but alas, that is what it is there for, and better to use that than go into debt.
During one of your abundant phases, be sure to set aside money for when the tides turn. It is going to save your sanity, and a healthy EF will help keep the money stress from turning into a full-blown money mental breakdown.