Ways to Relieve Money Stress

Surveys suggest that money is one of the most common sources of stress for American adults. With many people feeling the pressure of a shifting economy, finding ways to cope with the emotional turmoil that economic worries can bring is critical. Research has shown that financial worries may contribute to a number of health problems.

Money stress can arise from a range of sources. Sometimes it's the result of not managing money wisely. But stress is also often caused by not making enough money to meet basic needs such as rent, groceries, and both usual and unexpected expenses. 

People who are faced with financial pressure also frequently deal with stressors such as not having adequate health insurance coverage, not having flexibility in their workplace, a lack of affordable childcare, and unsafe work environments.

All of this can lead to chronic stress that contributes to a wide range of health problems, both physical and mental.

This article discusses some strategies that can be helpful when coping with money-related stress. While there is rarely a quick fix for financial concerns, there are steps you can take to minimize the toll that stress takes on your health.

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Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares what to do when financial stress is impacting your mental health. Click below to listen now.

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Track Your Finances

If finances are causing you stress, the first step is often to take a serious look at your monthly budget. There may be opportunities to make adjustments in monthly spending that can help address some aspects of money-related stress. To get a clearer picture of your financial situation:

  • Determine your total household income: Record every source of income for your household.
  • Track how much you spend each month: Save every receipt for a month, even if it seems a small, meaningless expense.
  • Make a list of all debts: Include credit card bills, monthly mortgage or rent, other loans, late fees, and anyone else you might owe money to.
  • Keep a money journal: Write down events that often trigger an urge to overspend. For example, you might find you're more likely to spend money when you are bored, tired, stressed, or sad.
  • Create a budget: Include your necessary monthly housing, food, and transportation expenses. Budget for other costs, including setting aside money for unexpected costs.
  • Start small: Once you have a better idea of your incoming funds and where those funds are going, you can start looking for opportunities to make small changes that might ease stress.

However, it is essential to remember that every person's situation is unique. While some people might be able to make adjustments in their spending reasonably easily, not everyone has that freedom. The oft-repeated advice to just cut down on daily lattes and avocado toast is neither helpful, realistic, or remotely accurate for many people.

In some cases, money stress might be due to an issue such as compulsive buying behavior, gambling disorder, or overspending caused by a mental health condition. In such cases, it is important to talk to a mental health professional.

Talk to a Financial Professional

Stressed out woman sitting at a table with a jar holding dollar bills

Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

Talking to a financial counselor may be helpful if you are dealing with financial worries or debt problems that seem impossible. They may advise you to take steps such as:

  • Cutting out unnecessary spending
  • Creating a budget
  • Paying down high-interest debt
  • Restructuring current debts
  • Working with creditors to repay debts
  • Finding additional sources of income
  • Applying for available sources of financial assistance

None of these are quick fixes. But working with a financial professional can help you make sense of your financial situation, identify action strategies and priorities, and start taking steps toward reducing money stress.

Taking small steps today can lead to progress in the long run that makes it easier to handle stress about money.

Explore Ways to Tackle Debt

Cutting back on extra monthly spending and putting that money toward paying off credit card debt can be a solution for people with extra disposable income. By taking this step, you'll eventually have something that you value more than purchases: a chance at financial freedom and peace of mind.

This may be challenging at first because these extras are often purchased for convenience, for an emotional pick-me-up, or simply out of habit—and habits can often be challenging to change. 

The key here is to change your focus or the meaning you attach to these extras. For example, after identifying a spending habit that you'd like to change (like eating out instead of cooking meals at home), you could focus more on how you'll enjoy saving money instead of the convenience of dining out.

Consider changing your previous spending habit by replacing it with another of ​life's pleasures that costs nothing, or at least costs less.

Experiment with what provides you with the greatest level of savings with the least amount of stress; do what works for you. But any changes you make in this direction can reduce stress by helping you to save.

Be Smart With Spending

As you work to tackle your money stress, really think about whether new purchases will improve your quality of life. In some cases, you may find that these purchases will cause you more stress due to having less money. Spending less can reduce stress.

  • Give yourself time to adjust: This is often easier said than done, particularly if you shop due to stress. However, you may find that this becomes easier over time.
  • Sell stuff you don't need: Consider having a garage sale or selling items online. This can be a great way to eliminate clutter and bring in some extra cash.
  • Spend on experiences: Instead of spending on objects, consider spending on taking classes, going on a vacation with your family, or something else that creates positive memories, enriches your life, and helps you combat burnout.

It may sound counterintuitive to combat financial stress by spending money on experiences rather than only saving. But you may find that spending your money conservatively but wisely can help you stay motivated to be frugal.

Recap

Adjusting your spending habits can take time. Be easy on yourself and invest in the things that are really important to you. This strategy will help you to maintain the motivation to change your spending habits and relieve stress.

Check Your Coping Strategies

According to a report by the American Psychological Association, people often lean on unhelpful habits to deal with their stress over money and finances. Among millennials coping with stress:

  • 67% surf the internet
  • 58% watch two or more hours of television/movies
  • 46% nap
  • 41% eat
  • 25% drink alcohol
  • 21% smoke

Financial stress can contribute to a cycle where excessive, chronic stress levels affect mental health. These mental health challenges make it more difficult to manage money and cope with other stressors that are part of daily life. As a result, people experience even more money problems and worse well-being.

If you find yourself falling back on coping strategies that aren't good for your mental or physical health, it can be helpful to look for other techniques that will help you deal with money stress more effectively.

Get Emotional Support

Money stress can be more overwhelming when you are facing it alone. Social support can play a pivotal role in coping with stress. Focus on finding a trusted friend or loved one you feel comfortable talking to about your worries.

Money is often treated as a taboo subject, which means that many people end up struggling with their fears and worries alone. Whether you are embarrassed about poor financial choices you've made in the past or afraid to let others see that you're struggling in the present, it is important to remember that many other people have been in the same situation. 

The economic realities of the world today also mean that many other people going through the same thing. Financial worries shouldn't be something you have to hide, and you may find that talking to a friend can be a great way to find support and encouragement.

If you feel like the people in your life don't understand what you're dealing with, or you're struggling with a general lack of social support, there are other options. You might consider joining an online support group for people who are dealing with financial struggles or hardships.

Support groups can also be helpful if you are dealing with other difficulties such as substance use problems, depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns that stem from financial stress.

Recap

Talking to someone, such as a trusted friend or an online support group, can help you cope with money stress and other challenges you might be facing.

Practice Stress Reduction Strategies

In addition to getting social support, other stress management techniques can improve your ability to manage money stress.

Dealing with stress caused by money and financial worries isn't something you can fix overnight, and it often isn't something that you can budget your way out of. Budgeting will not fix things if you don't make enough to pay rent and afford groceries. And you can't pay off debt if you don't have any extra money to put toward those outstanding balances.

Because of this, it is essential to find ways to care for yourself and protect your mental well-being in the present moment. Some strategies that can be helpful as you are coping with money stress include:

Getting Enough Sleep

Poor sleep has been linked to a range of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. Plus, it's much more challenging to deal with stress and worry when you feel fatigued or exhausted because of poor sleep.

The problem is that money-related worries are often keeping you up at night. Some ways to minimize this include practicing good sleep habits, relaxing your body before bedtime, and finding more relaxing thoughts to focus on as you go to bed.

Engage in Regular Physical Activity

Exercise can be a highly effective tool for dealing with stress and relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can be tough to squeeze in exercise each day, especially when you are busy with other demands like work and family.

Aiming for 30 minutes a day, four or five days a week is a great goal. You can also break up that time into smaller chunks of time, such as two 15 minutes periods of activity a day, or three 10-minutes blocks of activity. Walking, simple bodyweight exercises, and yoga (via an online video) are all inexpensive activities to try. 

Practice Relaxation Techniques

When you find yourself getting tense and stressed about money, it can be helpful to use a stress management technique. These tools can help induce your body's relaxation response to combat feelings of stress and anxiety.

Some effective, low- or no-cost techniques include:

Recap

It is important to care for yourself and your health when you are dealing with money stress. Sleep, exercise, and stress management techniques can help you deal with some of these worries.

A Word From Verywell

Money is one of the top sources of stress for many people. While there are steps that you can take to help improve your financial situation, most of these are not quick and easy fixes. They take time, often years, and hard work to achieve.

In the meantime, it is vital to find ways to cope with the stress worrying about money causes. Caring for yourself is critical. Consider activities that will support your well-being and resilience, including getting enough rest, staying active, and using relaxation techniques to ease feelings of anxiety.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.