If you're wringing your hands and lying awake at night because you're worried about money, a survey last week from Harris Interactive shows you're not alone.
When more than 2,700 adults were asked whether they worry about a series of life's hassles, 74% of people said they fret about rising prices. Not having enough money for emergencies was a fear among 53%, a stressor tied for third place with "trouble sleeping." (Maybe that's no coincidence.)
The poll also showed that Generation X -- the group consisting of adults aged 30 to 41 -- has the most worrywarts:
- Gen-Xers worried about rising prices: 79%, higher than the 74% average.
- Gen-Xers stressed about not having enough money for emergencies: 65%, quite a bit more than the 53% average.
- Gen-Xers fretting that they don't have enough money to pay for basic necessities: a full 50%, much more than the 36% average for all adults.
The survey didn't probe the psyches of this worried group, but I'll speculate that they're perhaps feeling the pressures of the adult financial world while still coping with the financial hangovers of their more youthful days. They're buying houses, saving for retirement, and trying to stash away money for Junior's upcoming college costs, but they may also have student loans remaining from their own days on campus, or credit card debt left over from their days dishing lattes at Starbucks.
The oldest generation polled -- those 61 and older, whom the surveyed referred to as "matures"-- reported feeling the least stress. They must have learned something about managing life and money that the rest of us have yet to figure out.
What to do?
So, how to relieve a little of that stress keeping everyone on edge?
Let's look first at rising prices, which can strain the budget when the paycheck doesn't keep up. A lot of us may be worried about prices because, for example, it's almost impossible to open a newspaper without seeing a story about the rising or falling price of gasoline.
According to the Labor Department, the Consumer Price Index -- the prices that consumers pay -- rose by a slight 0.2% in August. That figure is a little deceptive, though, because prices for some goods may rise more quickly than others.
A quick reality check may help ease the worries. Are the prices you're paying for the things you buy going up? If they're not, well, you can rest a little easier.
If the cost of that daily muffin or weekly dry-cleaning is rising, it's time for a little strategy on your part. Can you cut back? Can you do without? Can you cut back someplace else? Is there a cheaper alternative? Maybe a gas station a little further down the road can save you a few pennies per gallon.
Those are the everyday concerns. But you can also ease your worries about the cost of big-ticket items -- like Junior's college or a new car -- by having a plan to save some money, or at least to do some comparison shopping for those purchases.
Now for the emergency fund. Our Foolish Savings Center can answer all of your questions about how and why to get one started. But the key is to just start. Saving just a little each week or month may help ease your worries, since you'll know you're making progress toward your goal.
Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple is a card-carrying member of stressed-out Generation X. She never worked at Starbucks, nor does she own stock in the coffee giant, but she welcomes your feedback. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.