Archive for the ‘Tight-Fisted Thursday’ Category

Keeping Your Food Expenses Under Control – Tight Fisted Thursday

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayWe all have a limited amount of money to work with each month and a good chunk of that goes to fixed expenses. One of the areas that leaves the most wiggle room is food. Of course that can go both ways. By watching what you spend on food and how you spent it, you can save quite a bit of money each month, but if you’re working on this habit, it’s easy to let your food spending get out of control. Here are some tips for not letting that happen.

5 Tips on For Keeping Your Food Expenses Under Control

1) Set A Budget For Eating Out

Eating out is one area where your food budget can quickly get out of control. If you get into a bad habit of picking up, ordering in or eating out on a regular basis, you can easily spend a lot more then you may realize. Set a budget for eating out and stick to it. At the very least, keep an ongoing tally of how much you are spending at restaurants to make sure you are aware of how much you are spending.

2) Make The Most of Leftovers

Any food you throw away is money sent to the garbage can. Turn your leftovers into lunch for next day and make sure you get around to using all the food you buy before it goes bad.

3) Watch Where You Shop And What You Buy

Where you shop and what you buy can make a big difference in how much you spend. Take some time to compare prices at various grocery stores in your area. Stick to store brand when you can and always keep an eye out for weekly deals at the stores.

4) Set A Food Budget And Stick To It

An easy way to do this is to make all food purchases with cash. Get the amount of money you have set aside for groceries out in cash. Then use it to buy what you need throughout the week.

A great way to make sure you don’t go over your food budget is to plan your meals ahead of time. Last night I interviewed Christine Steendahl (a.k.a. The Menu Mom) on family meal planning. She shared some great tips on how she plans her meals, how she incorporates it into her holiday cooking and of course how you can benefit from a meal planning service like the one she offers. I’m sure you’ll pick up a few tips on keeping your food expenses under control. I know it’s helped me a lot to stay within my budget.

How To Spot Counterfeit Money – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayI was talking with one of my neighbors yesterday and found out that she had somehow ended up with a counterfeit 20 dollar bill. She’s not sure how she got it, but noticed that the paper didn’t quite feel right when she was getting ready to pay with it at the grocery store. After she got home, she did a little research online, decided that there was in fact a pretty good chance that the bill was counterfeit and ended up turning it in to the police. Sadly, it turns out that if you have a counterfeit bill, you will not receive compensation for it.

This story brings up a good question though… how do you spot counterfeit money? Here are some tips from the United States Department of the Treasury

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Lowering Financial Goals – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayI came across an interesting article on MSN’s Money Central earlier today. It was about considering lowering your financial goals. You can read the article here.

While I can see the author’s point, I’d like to offer a slightly different view.

The main point of the article was that we often end up giving up if our goals are too lofty. While that’s true to some extend, you also can’t grow unless you stretch, reach and move outside your comfort level. This is true for all aspects of our lives including our finances.

If you are in a lot of debt right now, it may seem almost impossible to get out. The Money Central articles suggests that instead of making a goal to become debt free, you should “downgrade” your goal to paying off consumer debt like credit cards and forget about the whole “debt-free” thing.

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Frugal Holiday Ideas – Tight Fisted Thursday

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayGood morning… it’s time for another Tight Fisted Thursday post and today I want to talk to you about the upcoming holidays. We already discussed stashing away some cash for Christmas a few weeks ago and I hope you’re still setting a little money aside each week for presents (I am). Today I want to mention two more holiday related things quickly.

As you know I’ve been posting on various other blogs the past few weeks. This week I’ve been writing for ShowMomTheMoney.com. The time for the series of posts on Nicole’s site was frugal holidays and they inspired today’s Tight Fisted Thursday post.

My point is this … you don’t have to spend a lot of money on the Holidays. Let’s think about decorations. You can easily spent a small fortune on those if you go all out and buy them at a department store. Or you can use some of the frugal holiday decorating ideas I talked about on Nicole’s blog.

Presents for anyone and everyone are another area where you can easily spent a small fortune. We already talked about setting and ticking to a holiday budget. One way to really stretch the money you can spend on presents it to make some lovly frugal gifts right in your kitchen.

Here’s what I’d like you to do today:

  1. Review your holiday budget and make sure you’re still on track.
  2. Sit down and figure out how you can decorate your home for the holidays this year without spending much.
  3. Choose some of the frugal gift ideas and decide who you will make them for.

By the way, I also have an ebook about getting out of holiday debt that has lots of hands-on advice to make sure you don’t spent too much.

Unexpected Expenses – How To Deal With Them Without Blowing Your Budget

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayDoes this sound familiar? You are finally getting comfortable with your budget and are living within your means and then all of a sudden something breaks, someone gets sick or some other unexpected expense shows up and is ready to wreak havoc on your personal finances.

Let’s take a look at how we can deal with this situation – no matter what the unexpected expense is for without totally blowing our budget.

There are two basic scenarios I want to look at. The first is what to do if you’ve already build up some emergency savings, the second what to do when you’re not at that point yet.

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Curb Emotional Buying – Tight Fisted Thursday

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayThis week I want to talk to you about emotional buying and how you can curb those impulses by understanding what you want vs what you need.

Let me introduce you to a pretty neat little tool I discovered recently. It’s a pyramid, very similar to the food pyramid that you are probably familiar with. But instead of illustrating what foods you should eat (and in what relative quantity), this pyramid illustrates your needs and can be used to determine how much you should be spending, and on what.

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Time To Stash Some Cash For Christmas – Tight Fisted Thursday

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Tight-Fisted ThursdayIs it really the middle of September already? Time sure seems to be flying right now and we only have a few short weeks left before we head into the holiday season and that means … Christmas Gifts.

Even if you’re really good about not going overboard on holiday gifts, entertaining and decorations, the holidays always seem to put an extra strain on our budgets. This year, ease the burden by spreading it out over several months (and no, I’m not talking about using your credit cards for Christmas shopping).

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A Simple Money Saving Technique – Tight Fisted Thursday

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Tight-Fisted Last week we talked about the power of compounding. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, go ahead and do that now. It’ll be a great motivator to put the technique in place that we are talking about today.

Since then I’ve had a chance to talk to a few readers about setting up a savings account. All of them didn’t make any regular contributions to such an account, and most of them didn’t have a savings account set up in the first place.

I’ve been thinking about how I could get you to take action and get started setting some money aside in savings. Here’s my simple money saving technique.

Go open a savings account today or Monday at the very latest. You should be able to open one with your current bank and ususally don’t have to put more than a few dollars in there to begin with. My bank for example requires you to put $5 in to start a savings account.

While you’re there, ask them to set up a monthly autodeposit from your regular checking account to your savings account. If money is tight, just make it $5 per month. If you can afford $10, make it that. If you think you can make it $100, go with that. You get the idea.

Next month increase the amount you are depositing into savings by $5 (or $10 if you’re ambitious) and keep doing that every single month.

If you are starting with just $5 and increase your savings by $5 each month earning 2% interest in your savings account, you’ll end up with $494.61 after one year and $2,412.66 after 2 years. And after 10 years, you would have $107,247.94 in your savings account. Now we’re talking some serious savings.

My point is, don’t get discouraged if you are starting small. Make that commitment today to start putting just $5 into a savings account this month, then make it $10 next month and keep going that way. Before you know it, you will have a nice little savings account going for you that will give you some piece of mind that no matter what happens you and your family will be financially secure.

What’s Compounding?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Tight-Fisted

We’ve all heard how saving consistently and putting into a high-yielding savings account can provide passive income and help us reach our long-term goals. But for those who do not have much money to set aside into , it may not seem worthwhile. When you consider the effects of compounding, however, it’s easy to see just how much sense saving regularly makes.

Compounding occurs when savings or investments of any kind for that matter, give returns on both the original amount saved and the interest or returns previously gained. That means you can increase your money even if you do not add anything beyond the initial savings. Compounding takes time, but once you’ve left that money untouched for several years, you can experience impressive gains.

To illustrate how compounding works, consider a savings account that provides a 5% annual return. If you were to save $1,000, you would get a return of $50 after a year. With that additional $50 drawing interest as well, you would have $1,102.50 a year later. These gains may not seem like much, but after 25 years, that initial $1,000 investment will have earned you $2,481.29, for a total of $3,481.29. Basically, you’ve earned an average of about $1,000 per year for doing nothing.

Compounding is powerful when you only save once. But just imagine the gains you could experience if you made regular contributions. This is how retirement and college savings plans work. People make a small contribution each week, month or year. All of the money that was previously in the account earns interest, as do the new contributions and the interest previously earned. Savings accounts at most banks work the same way.

The key to taking full advantage of compounding is to start saving as early as possible. For college funds, that means starting when your children are young (or even before they are born). For retirement funds, it’s wise to start contributing as soon as you enter the workforce. And as far as your regular savings go, it works to your advantage all along so start when you can no matter how little it is to begin with.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you put your hard-earned money into savings and do not see big returns right away. But if you give time for compounding to work its magic, you’ll find that your money grows more each year.

New Credit Card Rules Take Effect Today – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

credit card wallet webIf you’re feeling like the credit card companies have been running roughshod over you lately, it’s probably because they are.  You may have been receiving surprise rate hikes, been getting hit with fees you don’t recognize or understand, or maybe you’ve even been receiving your statement closer and closer to the date due.  These unfair tactics will soon be a thing of the past.

Effective today, August 20th, some of the provisions of The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 will finally put a stop to several of consumers’ most frustrating issues with credit card companies.  This law will limit a credit card company’s ability to raise its rates, it will require them to have better, more clearly stated, disclosures of the rules and fees, and will eliminate some of the most misleading practices.

Most of the provisions don’t take effect until February 22, 2010, but a few that you should be aware of take effect today.  They are the following:

  1. Credit card issuers must give 45 days’ notice before increasing the annual percentage rate.
  2. Credit card issuers must give 45 days’ notice before changing any significant terms of the credit agreement.
  3. Credit card issuers must mail statements to you at least 21 days before the payment’s due date.

Some credit card companies are not playing fair and are making quick changes to agreements with card holders in anticipation of the new law.   Consumers are telling us of credit card companies suddenly raising their interest rates without notice, increasing various fees, reducing credit limits, increasing their minimum payments, and even dropping them entirely.

Be prepared to battle if any of these tactics apply to you and your credit card companies.  It’s crucial that you thoroughly read any letters your credit card company sends to you, especially now.  If you don’t like what you see, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere for a good, reliable, and trustworthy credit card company.  They still exist and are eager to get your business, especially if you are a good credit risk who’s just been dealt a dirty hand by your credit card company.

You’ve done so well with your tight budget, it’s a shame that some of the credit card companies aren’t on your side.  And, soon, it won’t just be a shame, it will be illegal.  Just be sure to pay close attention to your credit cards, especially over these next few months before the final provisions of the bill go into effect in February next year.

Keep that fist tightly closed around that cash… it’s YOUR money… fight to hang onto it!

Is Your Credit Card Debt Beyond Your Ability To Pay – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Empty WalletUp until the last six months or so, most people I’ve talked to have been mainly interested in how to create tighter budgets.  The big issues have been cutting back on groceries and other household expenses, paying off their credit card debt, saving for retirement and college, and other what I call “just staying afloat” issues within the family’s personal economy.

What’s changed?  Not so much the cost of living, but the fact that many folks have lost their job.  Many households require two incomes to make ends meet, and when one of those incomes is lost, it can mean the difference between paying the bills or not.  Some folks are faced with an even more dire situation in that their entire income has been lost and are now living on unemployment, which will run out eventually.  A few part time jobs now and again are keeping the family fed, but certainly not getting the bills paid.

Familys who are relying on every skill they have to generate some income are exhausted, and many are ready to throw in the towel.  Bankruptcy is being discussed in many homes as we speak.  This is not a pleasant discussion, I assure you.  Bankruptcy, contrary to some belief, is not like dusting off your hands and starting fresh.  It is a nightmare, albeit sometimes a necessary nightmare.

If you are staring at a pile of credit card bills that you simply cannot pay at this point, and you are about ready to give up, you may want to stop and consider a few options.

According to Gerri Detweiler, the Personal Finance Expert at Credit.com and author of “Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress”, there are negotiation tactics to discuss first.

In a recent discussion with Gerri Willis of CNN, Detweiler suggests dealing directly with your credit card companies before you consider bankruptcy.  Once you’ve fallen behind in your payments by three, four, or five months, and your only choice appears to be bankruptcy, your creditor may be ready to settle on your bill for a lesser amount.

Detweiler  has seen a change recently in the way creditors deal with their delinquent accounts.  In the past, it was customary to automatically charge off delinquent debt and send it off to collections.  Now, creditors are more likely to approach you directly with a settlement offer.

A creditor will not talk about a settlement with someone who is current with the account, or someone who just doesn’t want to pay their bills.  Creditors will talk to people who are three or more months in arrears, who are in a hardship situation, and have the money to settle the account.  If you have fallen behind on your payments, and you are trying to avoid bankruptcy, the creditor may be willing to settle in order to receive some money on your account, rather than no money at all.

Talking first with a bankruptcy lawyer will give you the information you need before you decide how or if you should settle your debt.  Most bankruptcy lawyers give a first time consultation for free.  They will be the first to tell you that bankruptcy is not always a good option.  You need to get the facts about what bankruptcy will entail and what debt settlement will entail.  Show them your credit card statements, discuss any settlement offers that have been made, and find out about your legal rights should a credit card company sue.

This being said, there are some practical matters to consider if you are unable to pay your credit cards.   Of course, when you are trying to strike a settlement deal with a creditor, you have to have the money.  Creditors will be looking for lump sump payments.  You may settle for 25% or 50% of the amount due, but if you don’t have the money to pay it off, your negotiation won’t go anywhere.  That may seem like a Catch 22, and it most certainly is, but if you decide to go this route, you’ll need to raise the money to pay the settlement.

Another practical matter to consider is forgiven debt is taxable income.  Don’t let this surprise you at tax time.  Your creditor will send out a 1099 declaring your balance forgiven as taxable, so be prepared.  Talk to a tax professional before having your debt forgiven to find out if you can prove that you are insolvent, and therefore able to get that tax bill forgiven, as well.

Be aware, also, that your credit score will be seriously damaged by a debt settlement. But, if you’re looking at bankruptcy because you are in a hardship situation, having a bad credit score may be a better alternative than having a bankruptcy on your record.

If you’re looking at four or five credit card bills that are delinquent, you may be tempted to just turn everything over to a debt settlement company.  Beware!  There are companies out there that have really taken advantage of these situations and have hurt families further.  Again, you may want to discuss going to a debt settlement company with a bankruptcy attorney.  A debt settlement company may seem like the simplest solution to all your debt headaches, but you may be looking at even more serious headaches down the road.

Reducing or eliminating your debt may be the most pressing issue in your household today.  If it is, do yourself and your family a favor and don’t let another day pass before you find out what you can do.  If you have not been able to pay your credit card bills for the last three or four months, talk to a professional to help with your debt relief… and your stress relief.

Bulk Shopping Day Shared With Friends – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Shopping Cart web picThe last time I was in one of those big warehouse stores, I walked out with almost nothing.  Why?  Because I don’t need and can’t store multiple gallon jugs of cooking oil.  I thought the savings you get when you buy in bulk would be worth it, but there is no way I can store that much stuff, nor can we even use it up before it spoils!

So, what is the point of shopping the big bulk stores?  I love the IDEA of stocking up, as well as the price savings, but the actuality turns out to be something entirely different.

I’ve started talking with some of my friends who feel the same way as I do about this super-store bulk buying situation.  It is just not suited for an average family.  So, we’ve started looking at the bulk shopping experience as a personal co-op of sorts.

Consider this possibility; four friends gather at one home to plan for a shopping day. They head out in one car to the giant bulk shopping warehouse, armed with their grocery lists.  Along the way, they compare lists and find many of the same items are needed by several families.  Now, family A and family B can buy the cooking oil duo, or the freight-load of toilet paper, and split it between them.

When the families arrive back at their meeting place, they divide up the goodies, settle the cash, and the shopping is done.  Of course, the details need to worked out to rotate the driving, and to figure out the money exchange, but the idea is simple – divide and conquer.

I’m betting you’ve heard from at least one friend about how much they loath going to that big mega-size store.  Give that friend a call and see if you can’t arrange a “shopping date” to take advantage of the savings without ending up having to rent a warehouse to store your purchases.

Sharing the chore makes for a less difficult day.  Sharing the savings makes for a less pinched grocery budget.  And, sharing the day makes for some much needed friendly laughter.

Hold on to that money and have a good time doing it!

If Your Debt Free Plan Has Derailed, You Need To De-Stress – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

There are many reasons why a well thought-out plan to rid yourself of debt may not be working for you right now.  Perhaps you have some unexpected bills to pay, like medical bills or car repair bills.  Now, each paycheck is getting divided between these unexpected expenses.  So, instead of the path you laid out to becoming free of your credit card debt, your plan has derailed.

Perhaps, like many people, you have lost your job.  If your income has been reduced, or worse, eliminated, you can’t expect to keep on track financially speaking.  You have other concerns than paying off credit cards – like how to get food on the table.

Re-grouping after these unexpected downturns may take some time, but there are things you can do to put your mind at ease.  Here are just a few suggestions for a struggling household to help get through these difficult times.

Eat Healthy – This may seem silly at first, but the truth is the better you feel the better you can cope with the stress.  Start your day with a healthy breakfast.  Eliminate fast food, which is too expensive anyway, and other quick snacks.  Replace sugary drinks and food with wholesome drinks and food to boost your energy and get you through these days, weeks, months, and, yes, even years.  Be sure the entire family is on board with this new-and-improved diet.  Everyone will benefit when you serve and eat meals that contain only wholesome proteins, vegetables, fruit, eggs, dairy, and grain.  Cook up big pots of bean soup, potato soup, and vegetable soup to warm the belly as well as the troubled soul.

Discuss Your Feelings – Talk to your family about how you feel about your money situation.  Most people who financially support a family feel a great deal of sadness when they can no longer support their family the way in which they intended.  Be honest with your family about what you can and cannot afford to buy.  Don’t try to make everyone happy by trying to keep the status quo.  You’re in this together, and you will get out of it together.

Quit Talking To Your Creditors – This may be exactly the opposite of what you might expect me to say, but, for your stress level, it may have to come to this.  One call, and one call only, to each credit card company’s customer service number is all you need to make.  With that one call, firmly tell the customer service person that you are no longer able to make payments due to an unforeseen financial hardship.  Be clear and concise.  They will want to discuss setting up a payment schedule and they will press you to commit to making regular payments.  Repeat your earlier statement and end the call.  That’s it.  When you get back on your feet, call again and set up a reasonable payment schedule, one that works for you.

Never Talk To Collectors –  First of all, there is no “debtors prison” so the idea that collectors can harass you by phoning you or sending you letters threatening you with lawsuits is absurd.  Hang up the phone, tear up the letters, and don’t give it another thought.  These outstanding credit card balances are farmed out to collection centers all over the world and their days are filled with trying to get financially strapped folks to buckle and pay up.  They get a healthy percentage of that payment, so they will keep trying.  You never have to discuss your financial business with a collection agency.  There is no law that supports their claims.  I am writing this from my perspective in the USA, so keep that in mind when you read this advice.

Get Some Financial Advice – Gaining a feeling of control may be the perfect thing to help you feel stronger, and happier.  Sitting down with a financial planner, NOT a debt consultant or consolidator, is often a real stress reliever.  Laying out your financial woes to an impartial person who has expertise in the area of budgeting is an excellent means for turning your household budget worries into a plan that will actually work.  You may be missing some simple ideas that will turn things around a little for your family.  People mired in the pit of their own financial despair are often not able to see any way out.  Many financial planners offer a one-time consultation free of charge.  Take advantage of that free visit to find out if you can trust the person enough to share personal information.  Interview more than one adviser before you choose.

Of course, you are doing everything you possibly can to avoid drowning in debt, but sometimes we are handed a challenge that we didn’t expect, or want.  When this happens, and your plan derails, take time to re-group, re-organize, and re-energize.  Take care of your family needs first.  Take a bit of time to connect with your needs, as well.  Your budget will be waiting for you when you get back!

Low-Tech High-Results Budgeting Methods – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Since you’ve gotten your household budget calculated right down to the last penny, your plan for financial security can’t possibly fail, right?  Or, is there something happening each month to your budget that keeps you from feeling confident that all the bills are getting paid on time?

What about your savings account?  Is it building as quickly as you want it to, or need it to, or do you keep “borrowing” from it?

Every family needs to make sure they pay their bills on time, plan for the monthly and yearly expenses, set up a savings account, and watch their “cash flow” in a way that’s easy to follow and convenient to use.

Simple methods like the following may seem almost archaic, what with all the fancy computer-based budgeting systems you can find.  You may even recognize some of these methods from your parents or grandparents stories about how they used to manage their household budgets.  The following are just a few of the tried-and-true budgeting tools that have worked for families I know.

Post An Income-Expense Calendar – In a discreet part of your house, perhaps on the back of a cupboard door or at your computer or bill paying station, stick a nice big monthly calendar.  Some folks are better at visually planning their lives, using calendars to keep track of where they should be and what they should be doing at any given time.  Recording your paydays and regular bills on a calendar works well for people who need to see the money trail.  You’ll get your bills paid on time, as well as record unforeseen expenses so you can more closely track where the money is going each month.

Keep A Running Balance On Your Calendar – Some people find this method valuable because they can see the money disappearing. It sort of puts a halt to that nickel-and-dime trip to the poor house when you can actually watch the balance drop.  Start each month by recording the balance in your checkbook as well as the cash on hand.  Now, when you spend money, no matter how small, jot down the amount.  Add in paychecks and deduct out bills paid and cash spent.  If you keep this up for several months, it can really be an eye-opener.

Divide And Conquer – Take your monthly bills like mortgage, rent, insurance, or car payments, plus your yearly or semi-yearly bills like property taxes, school tuitions, or pet vaccinations, and total the expenses.  Then, simply divide that figure by four.  Then, each week take that 1/4th out of the family checkbook and set aside in a separate “bill paying” account.  Some folks like this method because they don’t ever take an entire paycheck to pay just one bill, possibly delaying other payments.  This method grows your fund over time, so be patient… it’s well worth the effort.

Open A Separate Household Bank Account – Many of our grandparents used this method.  The “household money” was separate from any other spending money.  That way the household obligations were not a concern and the money was there when the bills came due, not disappearing into day-to-day expenses.  Nowadays, a separate bank account where you can have your bills automatically withdrawn saves many families time and stress.

Use An Envelope System – People may find this method a bit old fashioned, especially in this day of plastic and automatic payments, but other people find that the simple pleasure of building cash funds can be quite rewarding.  Just get an accordion file or as many envelopes as you need to have one for each household expense.  When payday comes, divide cash between the envelopes.  When it’s time to write checks or use your bank card to pay your bills, just deposit the cash before you make the payment.  I’ve even talked with people who take deposit tickets and blank checks and put them in the envelopes so it becomes a one-stop bill paying method.

You can make all sorts of changes to your monthly household budget, but if you’re not finding convenient ways to track your expenses quickly and easily, your money could continue to leak right out of your pocket.  If your budget seems to be slipping, maybe it’s not the budget at all; maybe it’s the method you’ve chosen to track your money.

Give one of these simple solutions a try and see if you can’t get that household budget back where it belongs – working for you and your family’s financial security.

Don’t Let Financial Stress Consume You – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Many of us have been around the bend a few times lately with financial collapse seemingly right around the corner.  The stress of hanging on to our income and our lifestyle may have you battling your fair share of depression and anxiety.  Financial stress is quickly rising to the top of our family’s all time most often reported concern.  A family member’s illness used to be the number one concern, but now the feeling of financial strangulation has moved to the top of the list.

Financial stress and illness actually may be running neck-and-neck pretty soon if we’re not careful.  Stress is a cause of many illnesses, so it goes to follow that worrying about our finances will soon make worrying about our illnesses inevitable.  How can we stop this vicious cycle?  By hanging on to our tight-fisted budget and knowing when we are falling victim to stress.

There are some telltale signs that indicate we are about ready to “throw in the towel” and give into our stress.  Some symptoms of despair are obvious, some not so much.  The symptoms most of us recognize include overindulgence in mood altering substances, whether that is alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, food, shopping, or any other method you may use to relieve, if only for a moment or two, the stress and anxiety of the situation – for this discussion, your financial situation.

Another sign that your stress is overwhelming your ability to cope with your financial situation is your sleep pattern.  Some folks sleep too much, avoiding the inevitable, while some people sleep too little, therefore depleting their ability to think clearly.  Either way, if your sleep pattern is skewed by stress, you are not able to function as you need in order to maintain your financial plan and budget.  Perhaps you’re missing work due to your sleep pattern, only increasing the anxiety you feel, which starts that vicious cycle once more.

Sounds rather ominous all this stress related anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior.  But, does it have to be like this?  The answer is no.  Not with a little bit of straightforward, honest discussion.

The first thing any family needs to do is recognize when financial stress is beginning to show, and take action long before it gets to this point.  Honesty will be your best friend here.  Any member of the family should be able to voice their concern when they see the budget start to fail, see credit card bills start to increase again, or see the savings fund at risk.  Simply saying out loud “I’m scared we won’t be able to pay our bills this month” takes the weightiness from the problem and puts the solution in your hands.  You are back in power and have gained control.  When you feel in control, you don’t fall into self-destructive behaviors.

Sounds like a bunch of psycho-babble, doesn’t it?  That may be true, to some degree, but money problems are emotional problems.  If you treat your financial stress as you would any other stress, you will see that gaining control, and feeling powerful, are universal strategies for solving any problem that causes you stress which results in self-destructive behaviors which result in more stress.

Your financial security is within reach.  You have a good budget worked out.  It is inevitable that there will be bumpy times along the way to recovering a solid financial structure, but facing your fears and stress head on, honestly and out loud, will keep your budget intact and your family’s financial freedom within reach.  Hang in there!