Honestly, who doesn’t have anxiety these days?
Even if you haven’t been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (ahem, me), you probably still experience tinges of That Dreaded Feeling. That swelling of panic in your gut, that flush of hives across your chest, that looming paranoia you can’t quite place…
As a nation, our anxiety levels are rising. In 2018, the U.S. national anxiety score (yes, that’s a thing) was 51 out of 100 — a five-point jump since 2017 — according to the American Psychiatric Association. Among our top concerns? Health, safety and — you guessed it! — finances.
12 Simple Strategies to Help Calm Your Financial Anxieties
Sure, you might’ve broken the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and no longer have to rely on ramen for dinner. But you still experience this sense of financial uneasiness, like you know you’re missing something.
Yes, some folks might call it irrational or unfounded. To you — and me — it’s totally real.
The good news? You can address these fears. (Much easier than addressing those fears of heights, roaches or commitment, in my humble opinion.)
1. Use This Simple Trick Pay Your Bills on Time
One of my biggest financial anxieties? Forgetting to pay my bills. In my head, the world will end. The credit card company will dump my account over to collections, my power will flicker off and my apartment building will escort me out in handcuffs.
Yeah, totally irrational.
The easiest way to calm this fear? Set your accounts to auto-pay. If you’re anxious about overdrafting or don’t trust auto-pay (same), then add the due dates to your phone’s calendar, or jot them in your agenda. This help you remember when bills are due and help you plan ahead with your budget.
This is such a simple move, and you’ll no longer have to jolt up at 2 a.m. because you knew you’d been forgetting something.
2. Realize Saving Money Isn’t Difficult if You’re Realistic and Proactive
The key word here: Realistic.
I tend to — scratch that, always — set unrealistic expectations for myself. Oh, sure, no problem. I can save 50% of my paycheck this month! A week in, I’ve totally blown the plan to pieces. First I feel stressed out, because I have no idea how I’m going to get back on track. Then I give up.
Don’t. Do. This.
“Make sure these goals are as specific and actionable as possible,” says Leslie Tayne, financial debt resolution attorney and founder and managing director of Tayne Law Group.
She offers an example: “Simply setting a goal to save more will be difficult to stick to,” she says. “However, if you make your goal to save $100 from each paycheck, that is a much clearer and actionable step.”
If you need to, enlist some help.
Use an app like Digit. Simply link it to your checking account, set a savings goal, then its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1.00% bonus every three months.
3. Let This Company Help You Pay Down Your Debt
You know the debt is there. You know it’s not great. So what do you do? One common response? Procrastination. Which then compounds the stress.
“Procrastination is a very common source of financial stress, and this is something that is completely within your control,” Tayne says. “Don’t put off what you can do today.”
OK… so what can you do today? Even if you can’t afford to make an extra payment toward your debt, you can take steps to get on the right track. One option: Refinance or consolidate.
If you have credit card debt, refinancing or consolidating with a personal loan can be a great way to reduce those high interest rates. You can even extend the term of the loan, if you need more time to pay your tab down.
A good resource is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
4. Hunt Down Sneaky Bills in Collections or Errors on Your Credit Report
True story: I once had a bill in collections I didn’t know about. I’d gone to a walk-in clinic in college, moved apartments, then wham. Unknowingly billed.
It lingered in collections for about two years, until I went back to that clinic. When the receptionist informed me, I frantically paid. Now I’m terrified something like that will happen again — it could severely hurt my chances of opening a new credit card or securing a prime mortgage rate.
But how will I know? Finding out what you owe is actually way easier than you might think. You can just look at your credit report.
I started using Credit Sesame to take a look at my credit score. I can also access my credit report card there, which offers an overview of my debt, my open accounts and any negative marks.
It’s super easy to read and interpret — no crazy jargon. You’ll be able to see what you owe or if there are any errors on your report (it happens). Plus it’ll even tell you how to increase your credit score. For me, that’d be decreasing my credit utilization rate.
You can sign up for alerts, so whenever there’s a change in your credit score or on your credit report, Credit Sesame will let you know.
5. Stop Worrying About That $30 Overdraft Fee
Somebody once told me that banking felt like balancing on a trapeze. And it’s so true. You’ve got to make sure you maintain the minimum balance, deposit a specific amount into the account each month, avoid overdrafting, hunt down a fee-free ATM when you need cash…
That’s why I switched to Aspiration.
The Aspiration Spend and Save Account is an online-only account with no monthly fees, no minimums and pays up to 2.00% APY interest.
Yep! Instead of forking over $30 a month for an overdraft accident, you actually have a chance earn money on the balance of your account.
To open your shiny new Aspiration Spend and Save Account, simply connect your existing bank account, and transfer over as little as $10.
6. Take 5 Minutes to Ensure Fees Aren’t Killing Your Retirement Dreams
Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be terrifying.
Welp, there’s a robo-adviser for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.
7. Get $55 When You Take 15 Minutes to Dip Your Toes in Investing
Bills paid? Savings established? Retirement account funded?
Now, it’s time to invest. But it’s not like you can afford to buy several shares of Amazon stock or invest in a rental property. Not yet.
Here are a few ways to start investing without that hefty commitment:
- Start small, and download Acorns, an investing app that’ll round up your debit and credit card purchases and, once it accumulates $5, it’ll invest the spare change for you. The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
- If you’ve got a $50 bill burning a hole in your wallet, then look into Swell Investing*, an SEC-registered investment adviser committed to supporting sustainable companies. Plus, you’ll get a $50 bonus with the code PENNY after making your initial investment.
- With a minimum investment of just $500 in the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States. You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.
8. Take 2 Minutes to Ensure Your Kids Are Set For The Worst Case Scenario
If you have kids, you probably worry about their futures. That’s to be expected.
One way to sleep better at night is to secure a life insurance policy. That way if, god forbid, something were to happen to you, your kids wouldn’t have to worry about money.
Yeah, yeah. You’ve heard all of this, but you’re just not sure where to start.
We recommend you start by comparing policies and rates through Policygenius, a free online marketplace. Think of it like Kayak or Expedia — but for life insurance.
This takes about two minutes, so even if you’re on your morning commute, eating lunch or, ahem, using the bathroom, you can do it right now. Once you enter your information, you’ll be asked to choose your coverage amount — anywhere between $50,000 to $10 million. You can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to confirm your application info.
Policygenius tells us you can get $1 million in coverage starting at $25 a month. That’s way less than my cell phone bill.
9. Compare Rates and Cut Back on Monthly Bills With This Quick Move
Here’s an example of what happens when I try to find the best deal on, say, my internet/cable bill: I Google “cheapest internet,” immediately feel overwhelmed with options and rates and quotes, and choose the brand I recognize most.
Yeah, it’s basically a pointless process.
But it’s important to find ways to cut back on your monthly bills. Here’s one tactic that’s a lot easier than you might think…
Hop on Squeeze, a website that allows you to compare rates for mortgages, auto loans, student loans, renters insurance, and mobile and internet plans (among others) for free.
Say you want to compare internet prices. Based on your location, the site aggregates all your options and shows you companies alongside price points and download speeds.
Way easier than calling around or Googling to infinity and beyond.
10. Write Down Your Financial To-Do List
When it comes to finances, we typically have things we’ve been meaning to do. Then these things sit on a perpetual, never-ending to-do list in our brain.
Instead of adding to that mental list, just create a physical list of things you need to do — whether you write it on a scrap of paper and tape it to the fridge, or keep it on an app in your phone.
Take a few items from this article. Set reminders. Do what you’ve got to do to free up space in your brain. Once you accomplish a task, feel that sweet, sweet satisfaction of crossing it off your list.
11. Change Your Mindset to Be Positive and Proactive
OK, I’m about to go all therapist on you, but hear me out: Work on changing your attitude toward your finances.
“We often think of paying our bills as drudgery and simply something we have to do,” Tayne says. “Instead, try to change your mindset to be thankful that you’re able to pay bills to have all of the things you need.”
Tayne says you can even apply the same mindset to your debt: “Debt is only bad debt if it’s unmanageable. You can be thankful for what debt has allowed you to have, whether it’s a house or an education or something else positive in your life.”
If you find yourself dwelling on the same darn financial problem all the time, you know it’s time to become proactive and make a change.
If your budget is tight, find more ways to cut expenses. Struggle with credit card debt? Cut up your cards, and boost those monthly payments. Hate your job? Look for another opportunity.
12. Check in With Yourself Regularly — and Celebrate Wins
Give yourself 30 minutes once a month. Block out the time on your calendar and settle in.
Then check in with your to-do list, goals and overall financial well-being. How’s it going? Spend some quality time with your budget and your bills.
Did you make any big strides this past month? Maybe you finally secured life insurance, are at the halfway point with student loan payments or put an extra $200 into savings.
That’s awesome! Bask in that feeling for a minute. Pat yourself on the back, and grab that slice of pizza you’ve been craving for dinner.
“Allow yourself to feel that sense of accomplishment, and you can even treat yourself (within reason) when you reach a major goal,” Tayne says. “Giving yourself the ability to celebrate will start tying positive feelings to your finances.”
*Disclosure: We have a financial relationship with Swell Investing LLC and will be compensated if consumers apply for an account and/or fund an account with Swell through links in our content. However, the analysis and opinions expressed here are our own.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s in no way a mental health professional — just regularly sees one.