I think everyone goes through a time when money causes some serious worried feelings, but it’s time we figure out how to stop your financial stress.
Financial stress and worry is a BIG problem, and so many people find themselves wallowing in it instead of trying to do something about it. And that’s because so many people think they can’t.
But that’s the wrong assumption. Let’s go along my personal finance journey for a hot second, shall we? I want to show you that you don’t have to live with financial stress forever!
I grew up very poor. My mom worked a TON to raise two of my brothers and I by herself, and it was hard for her. I actually didn’t even know half of the struggles we went through financially until I got older, but that just shows how strong my mom is. #shoutouttoher
There’s a famous story in my immediate family of when my mom once came home with just a couple cheeseburgers from McDonald’s to feed all four of us because that’s all she could afford.
We lived that way for a long time, but once I got into middle school, our situation definitely got better. It still wasn’t amazing, though! (A LOT changed in those years, but that’s a story for another day.)
High School and College
I got my first job when I was 17 as a banquet server, and I’m forever thankful for that. It gave me the funds to do a lot of fun and amazing things my senior year that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to do.
By the time the idea of college rolled around, though, I got really stressed. I wanted to attend The Ohio State University (aka my DREAM school), but it wasn’t cheap. Living in Pennsylvania, I had to pay double the tuition of Ohio residents.
The kicker of all of it was that I had no outside help. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for it. I applied and applied for a million scholarships but only won a few smaller ones. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m forever grateful for the money I DID win. I will never take that for granted.)
Ever determined, I tried my hardest to figure out a way I could go. (I’m really stubborn like that.) The effort didn’t totally pay off, though, as I had to drop out of the fall semester because I had to pay a lot of money that I simply had no way of getting.
I eventually figured out that I could go if my mom got a loan in her name. That’s what we did, but we have since agreed that I’m the one paying it back.
Since then, I’ve gone through a pretty crazy financial ride to manage going to college, living on my own, and paying back my loans.
I’m still here. I’m not living glamorously by any means, and I still have a lot of goals financially that I have yet to achieve.
I have a home. I have my basic needs covered and I don’t have debt collectors knocking on my door. Like I said – I’m a long way off of where I *want* to be, but I’m not drowning in financial worry.
And I tell you all of this to say that you can get there, too! I’m not showing off or asking for a pity party (although any other kind of party is welcomed at all times.) I’m simply sharing it with you that you know you don’t have to be burdened with financial stress forever!
Keep reading to find 10 super awesome ways you can stop your financial stress and get back go living your life money-worry free.
Review the last month to *really* see what you’re spending
Okay, I know this is boring. But it’s essential to your financial success. You need to crack out your bank statements, highlighters, pens and your thinking cap.
This is the time to figure out where your money is actually going! There’s a good chance you think you already know, but let me tell you – you’d be surprised.
Let’s break up your spending into different categories. Pick a color of highlighter or pen for each category, and mark every single expense that’s listed on your bank statement!
Some categories that you should consider are:
- bills that are the same amount each month (rent, phone, etc)
- bills that vary based on usage (gas, electricity, water, etc)
- subscriptions (put Netflix and Hulu here!)
- restaurants, fast food, snacks at the gas station, etc (keep this separate from the grocery store expenses)
- gas for your car
- things that are for your hobbies (like craft supplies, for example)
- outings and fun events
- pet expenses
- credit card and student loan debts
It’s important to not be too broad with your categories. For example, don’t create one category that covers all food. Buying food weekly at the grocery store is very different from buying a quick dinner at McDonald’s. Ya feel me?
Once you have each expense color-coded, you’ll be able to see where your money is actually going.
You might realize that you’re spending nearly $30-40 a month on fast food and alcohol. Or maybe you find a subscription or two that you haven’t even used in months and wasted $20 on.
Like I said above, it’s so easy to forget how much our spending really adds up. Little purchases can add up fast when they’re repeated!
Doing this with your bank statements will show you how much you’re really spending and can tell you where you can cut back.
And you can use that information to be more aware of where your money goes in the future!
Cut out the expenses that you know you can live without (even if it’s not totally ideal)
And now’s the time to get real with yourself about how much money you have to spend and how much you need to keep in your bank account.
Sometimes, you need to cut way back on your spending and save some extra dollars, even if it means not living life in the most amazing way.
Using the system that we just talked about above and understanding where your money goes, figure out what you can actually stop spending money on.
You decide how much money you need to save (I definitely can’t tell you that because everyone’s situation is different!) and how willing you are to go to your bare essentials.
When I say bare essentials, I’m talking about things like your rent, utility bills, groceries, pet expenses and maybe a cell phone. What else are you spending money on that you can get rid of?
That’s when you might decide that you need to stop buying alcohol for a couple of months, only cook meals at home and stop eating out, or cancel your Netflix subscription.
As much as getting rid of those things might mean “less fun,” it can be necessary. Sometimes it’s important to go through that for a period of time in order to stop your financial stress.
Cutting out those extra expenses can give you a bit more of a pillow in your bank account in the future and give you time to earn more income.
Plan your month ahead to include more than just your exact bills
Maybe you do budget a little bit, (which is great!) but let me ask you a question: are you only budgeting the bills and expenses that have an exact amount you know in advance?
By that, I mean your regular bills. Rent, utilities, cell phone, etc. But what about groceries and gas for your car?
You know those are things you pay for every single month multiple times, but you might leave those things out of your budget.
It’s hard to budget for those things because they aren’t exact expenses, but they can be predictable! We’ll talk about how to make those predictions in just a hot second. But I want to simply say that, yes, you can use your predictions to budget them into your month.
Now – how to do it!
Find the marked bank statements that we talked about at the beginning to determine how much money you spent the last month on those things. Use that amount (and maybe even round up a little bit) and budget for that in your month so you know you won’t be short on funds.
Personally, I budget about $200-300 every month for groceries. Sometimes it’s less and that works out great, but if it’s not, I know that at least I planned on spending that much and it didn’t catch me off guard!
You don’t want to plan for your exact bills and only have enough for those when you still need to pay for groceries and gas.
The worst that can happen is that you over budget and have a little bit of money left over at the end of the month (which isn’t a bad thing!)
Budget big expenses with sinking funds
Ah, sinking funds. I love them.
Dave Ramsey is the money guru and (as far as I know) is the one that came up with the idea of sinking funds. They’re incredibly useful, and I use them every single month!
Basically, a sinking fund is a smaller amount of money that you put away each month in order to save for a bigger expense in the future.
For example, last year I bought a new laptop. I knew that I’d spend at least $800 on it, so I wanted to save that money up. It wouldn’t be fun to have to spend $800 all at once when I didn’t have it saved in advance! At that time, that would have been like 3 of my paychecks gone all at once.
So I spent a few months saving money in smaller chunks. Each chunk went into the sinking fund for my new laptop. And I wasn’t getting rid of such a large amount of money at once.
Breaking it up into smaller pieces allowed me to still have money leftover each paycheck.
When the time came to spend $800 on a new laptop, I wasn’t stressed about it at all!
I have a complete post over on Nadalie’s website that you can read that gives a complete and detailed explanation on how to use sinking funds and what makes them so fantastic. Check it out!
Put money away into an emergency fund regularly
Do you have an “emergency fund” but it kinda sits there waiting to be used? How often are you putting money into it?
An emergency fund is extremely important for your financial well being. If you don’t have one (or aren’t utilizing the one you have) and life throws you a curve ball, it could cause some serious problems that have long term effects.
Imagine that your car breaks down and you have no money to cover the cost of repairs. What do you do? There are options for that type of situation. But I can assure that it would easier to manage if you had an emergency fund saved up.
Find out about how that exact sort of situation happened to me here!
In my opinion, an ideal emergency fund would have enough money to cover all of your needs for 5 or 6 months.
I know that can be a lot of money! Even for me, that amount would be about $8500-9000. When you’re a young woman in her early 20’s, that much money might be hard to come by.
So I won’t sit here and tell you that you’re failing if you don’t have that “safety amount” already saved. Honestly – I don’t have that much saved in an emergency fund yet, either! It takes hard work and a lot of diligence to save that much money quickly.
My point is that, even if you aren’t able to put in a lot, you need to add some amount of money into your emergency fund consistently. Even if that just means $20 every paycheck!
It’s a lot harder to build it up when you’re adding random dollars to it sporadically. Make a conscious effort to add money to the fund every month or every two weeks, and it will grow!
Trust me, you’ll be happy to have even a little bit of money in that fund when something pops up, because it inevitably will – that’s life!
Be conscious of the supplies and utilities you’re using
It’s easy to accept a higher utility bill or paying for paper towels every two days because we tend to assume that our lifestyle needs to stay the same.
But that’s incorrect! You can totally change your lifestyle in little ways to lower overall costs just by being more conscious!
For example: have you ever looked at an electric bill, saw that it was the same as it normally is and just payed it? Even if you are in a position where you need to spend a bit less money?
That’s the type of situation that I’m talking about! You have the ability to be more aware of your usage and lower that bill even further (even if it’s been that way for months.)
I’ve recently been paying close attention to how much electricity we use and we’ve kept our bill under $40 the past two months! The first 5 months I lived in my apartment it was always almost $50. That’s saving $10 a month!
There are a million ways you can consciously lower your utility bills and cost of basis house supplies. Some of these are:
- Turn off lights as much as possible. Use natural light whenever you can!
- Keep the temperature a bit lower and wear layers in the house.
- Be aware of how much toilet paper you’re actually using (I know – gross. BUT! It can be helpful!)
- Use paper towels sparingly. Maybe even only use cloths that just need to be washed! (When you do use paper towels, use every inch of the towel.)
- Take fast showers.
- Don’t leave the water on while you’re brushing your teeth.
You’d be surprised how much lower your costs could go when you just take the time to be more aware of what you’re using! It could take a few months to really see a difference, but it will be there!
Plan your meals
You’ve heard of meal planning, right? Yes, of course you have, because everyone and their mother talks about meal planning. But the reason for that is because it works.
I didn’t start meal planning until I moved into my apartment, but it changed everything for me. It drastically decreased the amount of money I spent on food!
You see, when you meal plan, you are making sure that you’re buying only the ingredients that you know you’ll use. And this has two advantages:
- You don’t buy unnecessary items at the store. You look at items thinking, “Oh maybe I’ll use that.” You know.
- You don’t throw away food. You buy what you need, you cook the meals and you don’t worry that ingredients are gonna go bad before you actually use them.
I meal plan my dinners every single week and it makes such a huge difference. I very rarely throw food away. The only time I specifically remember was when leftovers went bad after Thanksgiving (we had a giant meal for a small amount of people. Whoops, lol!)
I have a system for meal planning that I want to share with you, too! This method gets me the most bang for my buck and makes sure I waste as little as humanly possible.
When I meal plan, I first look at the meals that we didn’t eat the previous week and transfer them. Sometimes we get home really late and end up not cooking, and so those meals went unmade! I don’t want to waste those ingredients, so I make sure they get used the next week!
The next thing I do is look at what we already have in our fridge and pantry. What can I make out of the ingredients we already have?
This step took a while to be able to actually do because it took some time to build up our pantry. But now that we’ve been living in our apartment for almost 7 months, it’s easy! I can usually make about 3-4 meals a week with what we already have in the house.
Only after that will I come up with meals that require us to buy new ingredients.
This method keeps our grocery bills consistently low! We only spend about $40-60 a week on groceries for two of us. That’s really not too bad! (This website states that the average couple spend $625 on groceries per month!!)
The only time it’s higher is when we buy coffee, dog food, toiletries or other major supplies.
So I really encourage you to start meal planning! It’s gonna change your life, promise.
I’m really excited about this tip! But I just really love grocery shopping so maybe that’s why, lol.
But even if you don’t like to shop – you need to understand how to shop smart.
My first suggestion is to stop buying all things name brand. I understand that it’s nice to have the name brand in your fridge for whatever reason, but I also don’t think it’s worth the money.
I mean – don’t get me wrong, there’s some things even I have to have name brand. Some of them are just better! But not all things.
Next time you’re at the store, grab the things that are off brand. It won’t be glamorous, but some of those things can be $2-3 cheaper! And when we’re talking about groceries, those $2-3 really add up.
I also want you to look at a nice little thing called “price per ounce.” Here’s how this works (heads up I am totally making this scenario up):
You compare the prices of two cereals. Box A costs $2.48 and the Box B is $3.18. You might be tempted to go for Box A that costs $2.48. However, you see that the price per ounce of Box A is 16 cents and Box B is 12 cents.
Box B’s price per ounce is cheaper. That is the one you should go for!! You spend a little more money right away, but you actually end up spending less in the long run.
This method takes time to really notice, but your wallet will thank you later for it.
My last tip for shopping smarter is to get paid to do it!! (Whaaaaaattt?!?)
I highly highly highly encourage you to download this handy little app called Ibotta.
Ibotta rewards you for shopping buy giving you cash back on items you purchase on a regular basis! (Omg I sound like a commercial…I promise, I’m not getting paid for this. I just really love Ibotta lol.)
Personally, I’ve had Ibotta on my phone for almost a year now and I’ve cashed out over $40. And I haven’t been using it consistently that entire time, either. That’s been built up mostly over the last 6-7 months!
Obviously, using the app won’t make you rich by any means, but it’s nice to get a little bit of extra cash!
You can find a link to get the app and some other tips for financial stress if you get the checklist below!
Check in with all of your accounts at least once a week
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard of that just check their account at random or when it’s suggested to them. That blows my mind!
It’s incredibly important to check in with your bank account(s) at least once a week. You really never know when something could come up that you need to contact your bank about!
There might be an expense listed that you don’t understand, might be a transaction that isn’t going through or you might find that someone stole your debit card and is using it! (You’d probably know about that last one pretty fast, but I figured I would mention it, lol.)
I have also found that the more exact you know your numbers, the less stressed you are about money. That’s a big deal!
I don’t recommend that you round numbers when it comes to your budgeting and bank account because it can get you into some trouble. Looking at your bank account consistently will really help you with that!
Personally, I check my account every day, but you might not need to be that extra about it. What can I say, I like keeping track of things.
Communicate with others if you need to lower a bill, delay a payment, etc.
You might be pleasantly surprised by how willing some people will be to work with you on bills.
I’m putting emphasis on some. Companies can do what they want, and if they want your money, they want your money.
BUT! It’s worth asking.
If you know you’re gonna struggle to pay all of your rent, talk to your landlord. They might be able to work with you to split your payment over two paychecks, for example.
The payment on your student loan might be too high, so take the time and call your loan servicer to change it!
Seriously, there’s never any harm in asking. The worst that they say is no. But don’t be afraid to attempt! You never know what ways that they might be able to help you out!
I think the key to this is doing it before your bill is late. People notice when you’re trying to problem solve before it’s actually a problem, and that can really help your cause.
Knowing how to budget and paying attention to your finances will be crazy helpful in doing that!
You CAN stop your financial stress and it doesn’t have to be scary!
There are so many ways to manage financial stress and get it under control. Seriously – turning into an adult doesn’t have to mean that you just have to deal with financial stress. You can (and deserve!) to live life without that weight on your shoulders.
And by the way – check out this post from my amazeballs friend Katie of The Lazy Source on how to manage financial stress. It has some more amazing tips and I highly recommend reading it!
Did this post help you in any way? Let me know in the comments because I’d LOVE to chat!