Most adults experience their fair share of stress, which can sometimes translate into a seemingly endless stream of sleepless nights. And new polling data from Bankrate reveals that while relationships and work matters are impacting our ability to get some shut-eye, money is a major driver of insomnia for 36% of Americans.
If financial woes are keeping you awake at night, it's time to get ahead of the problem before it impacts your health. Here are a few important steps to take.
1. Have emergency savings
Many adults aren't equipped to handle unplanned bills. But when you own a home or a vehicle, like many of us do, unanticipated expenses are often inevitable. Similarly, you never know when you might get hurt and rack up expensive medical bills, or lose your job and find yourself without a paycheck for weeks on end.
That's why it's crucial to build emergency savings if you don't have much money in the bank right now. Having that safety net will give you some much-needed peace of mind in the face of life's financial uncertainties. Ideally, your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses. But if you're starting with nothing, do the best you can and work your way up to your savings target over time. Having some cash reserves is certainly better than having none.
2. Follow a budget
It's hard to feel financially secure if you don't know where your money is going. If money matters are causing you to lose sleep, it's time to start following a budget. This will help you see where you're overspending and where you have room to cut corners to build that aforementioned emergency fund.
Creating a budget is pretty easy. Just list your recurring monthly expenses, factor in sporadic expenses (like your insurance renewal that comes due once a year), and figure out how much you typically spend each month. Then, compare that figure to your net earnings (your earnings after taxes are taken out of your paychecks) and see how the numbers shake out. If you find that you're pretty much maxing out each paycheck, you'll need to revisit some of your expenses and see about lowering them.
3. Keep your fixed expenses to a minimum
We all have fixed expenses we lock ourselves into on a regular basis, whether it's a rent or mortgage payment, a car payment, or a cable plan. But a good way to reduce your financial stress is to keep those expenses as low as possible so that you have more wiggle room in your budget for other costs that might pop up.
For example, if you're currently spending $1,500 a month on a large rental, and that eats up a large chunk of your income, you might consider downsizing your living space so you're paying just $1,000 a month instead. The same holds true with your car payment. Buying a less expensive vehicle will help keep another major bill more manageable, which will, in turn, give you far more breathing room -- and much less to worry about.
4. Reduce or eliminate debt
Whether you're grappling with student loan payments, credit card debt, or an excessively large mortgage, just knowing that you're on the hook for those obligations can be enough to make you lose sleep. If you're already in debt, the sooner you get a handle on it, the less stressed you'll be. So review your various obligations, figure out which are costing you the most in interest (your credit cards, most likely), and map out a plan for paying them off. That could involve cutting expenses out of your budget to free up more cash, or working a side hustle to drum up extra money.
You should also explore your options for lowering your existing debt payments -- namely, by seeing if refinancing makes sense. Refinancing basically involves swapping an existing loan for a new one, and it's something you can do with credit card debt, student debt, and even your mortgage. Lowering your interest rate on whatever loan you're dealing with could save you a nice chunk of money each month, so it pays to look into refinancing, especially if your credit rating is decent.
Though it's natural to fall victim to money-induced stress, if financial matters are making you lose sleep, it's time to put a stop to the madness. Your health depends on it.