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Reduce Stress : No-Stress Money Management (part 2)

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9. Simplify Your Financial Needs

Learn the joy and freedom of simple living! Here are some tips for de-stressing your financial life by simplifying your financial needs:

• Before you spend money, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Is this item worth the time out of my life I took to earn the money I’ll pay for it?”

• If you decide that something really is worth the money for you, even if it would be frivolous to someone else (dinner at a restaurant when you can’t face cooking, or that pair of shoes that feels perfect), buying it will probably be less stressful than letting it go.

• Make a list of things you can do with your family and/or friends that don’t cost any money. Be creative!

• Drive less. Walk, bike, or take public transportation more.

• Do you really need all those extra movie channels? Would basic cable satisfy you?

• Cooking can be fun, and home-cooked meals are less expensive than frozen dinners.

• How often do you go to your gym? Are you throwing away money when you’d rather just take a walk or a jog or a bike ride for free?

10. Keep a Close Eye on Your Finances

It isn’t easy to keep track of every single penny that comes in and goes out. However, if you don’t do this, at least for, say, a representative week or two out of each month, you will never know where your money is going. Like anything else, keeping track of your money is a matter of habit, and this is a good habit to get into. Plus, writing down every single penny you spend every single day has another surprising effect: major stress relief. Simply knowing where it is going is incredibly calming.

11. Build a Financial Cushion

Financial stress is largely a product of knowing that you don’t have enough money in the bank if an emergency arises. What if your car breaks down, or you incur some major medical expenses? When events such as these occur, your stress level is likely to go soaring. But if you have a cushion—many experts recommend six month’s worth of monthly income stashed away in an easily accessible savings or money market account—then you will rest easier, just because you know it’s there. Whenever you have to tap your account, make paying yourself back your first priority.

12. Get Started Today

How do you get a cushion? Successful savers say they put 10 percent or more of every single penny they make into savings before they have the chance to spend it. Setting up a system in which that 10 percent is automatically deducted from your paycheck is even easier. If you get used to doing this, you won’t ever miss the money. Make this your top priority—it’s an easy way to give yourself financial peace of mind.

13. Have a Cushion Goal

Figure out what you need each month, then multiply that number by six. That’s your cushion goal. Put 10 percent of your very next paycheck in that cushion fund.

If you put away just 10 percent each month, you’ll reach a six-month cushion in five years, if you never use the money. To get there faster, put extra money in your cushion fund whenever it comes along—say, gifts for holidays, windfall money, and so on. Or, put away 10 percent this year, 20 percent next year . . . some people make it their goal to be able to live on 50 percent of their monthly income and save the rest.

14. Conquer Your Debt

Make chipping away at those high-interest debts your top priority. Debt may not be something you can hold in your hand, but neither are a lot of the things that cause you chronic stress. Just knowing you’ve got huge debts is enough to activate the stress response in some people. First, purge the debt. Then, start saving. You might be stuck with a mortgage and a car payment, maybe. Other than those, pay them off, pay them off, pay them off, and breathe more freely.

15. Simplify Your Finances

Set up a simple system for financial management. Go through a single bank for all your transactions. When possible, have your paycheck automatically deposited into your bank account, and have payments made automatically or make them online so that you don’t have to run to the bank all the time. If you invest, go through a single firm. If the thought of investing stresses you out, don’t do it.

16. Plan for the Future

Save. Save. Save. The short-term sacrifice of buying something you don’t really need and probably won’t use very much, the decision not to do the expensive remodeling or get the really high-profile SUV, the decision to move to a smaller and more manageable house, to stop eating out so much, to spend more time at home, all in favor of saving, saving, saving, is well worth it in many ways. Your life will be simpler. It will be easier. You’ll have a nest egg. All that adds up to a lot less stress.

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