We all have things that cause us stress, from work deadlines to social pressures to family drama. But in a recent survey by investment management service Wealthsimple, millennials cited money as their biggest source of stress -- more so than job pressure, health issues, and politics. Within that subset, younger women were more likely to be stressed about money than younger men were -- perhaps due in part to the fact that women tend to earn less than their male counterparts.
If money matters are causing you to lose sleep, it pays to get a handle on your finances before they truly wreak havoc on your sanity. Here's how:
1. Create a budget
It's hard to feel financially stable when you have no idea where your money is going. If you're stressed about money, one of the best things you can do is create a budget. Doing so is easy: You simply list your recurring monthly expenses, factor in one-time expenses that pop up throughout the year, and compare your total spending to your total earnings to see how well you're doing. Ideally, you should have enough room in your budget to be saving at least some money each month, and if you're not, it's a sign that you'll need to cut corners somewhere.
Having that budget will make reducing your expenses easy, since you'll have an opportunity to identify those spending categories with leeway, like your entertainment and food bills, and those without, like your rent or student loan payment. From there, it's a matter of setting priorities and deciding where you want to spend and where you're willing to cut back. If you hate to cook and can't imagine not ordering-in four times a week, for example, consider canceling your gym membership and downgrading your cable package. The choice is yours, but make sure you're not maxing out your paychecks on expenses month after month.
2. Have an emergency fund
A recent study by financial services company Bankrate found that 23% of Americans have no emergency savings whatsoever. If you're one of them, it's time to start establishing that safety net. You never know when an unplanned expense might fall into your lap, whether it's your vehicle breaking down or an injury landing you in the hospital. And if you don't have some money in the bank, your stress level is going increase exponentially once you're faced with that bill.
A better bet, therefore, is to sock away enough cash to cover at least three months' living expenses. If you can save up six months of living costs, even better. Having that emergency fund can help reduce some of the money-related anxiety you're experiencing, so make an effort to build some reserves. Cut expenses in your budget even further, or get a side hustle to drum up the cash. You might even take inventory at home and sell some belongings you can learn to live without.
3. Stay out of debt
When you're living in the shadow of debt, financial security can be hard to come by. So if you make an effort to avoid running up a credit card balance, you'll eliminate one potential source of mental upheaval right there.
As a general rule, you should never charge more on a credit card than you can afford to pay by the time your bill comes due. If you don't trust yourself to follow that rule, stop using credit cards. It's really that simple.
If you're already in debt, you can use the above tactics to knock it out sooner. This holds true whether you're dealing with a credit card balance or student loans.
It's natural to worry about money, especially when you're younger, your career is in its early stages, and your earnings leave much to be desired. But if you make smart financial choices, you can avoid much of the stress that so many of your peers are apparently falling victim to.