A normal life comes with unexpected large expenses like medical problems or household repairs. Replacing a heating or cooling system can cost thousands, which will unbalance most anybody’s budget. And hospital bills have put many people in debt and emotional distress for years.
Here are some tips to help you reduce your financial stress.
1. Most people have a little (and sometimes a lot) of anxiety when it comes to large purchases. Buying a major appliance, a car or a home can send waves of fear throughout one and make it hard to write a check because your hand is shaking so much. Make sure you can afford what you want to buy -- and don’t rely on credit cards.
2. Spending as an activity can have its rewards when done appropriately. Though blowing bucks with compulsive shopping (or retail therapy) may make you feel better in the moment, it won’t last. And shopping really can become an addiction. Discuss large purchases first with your mate or an adviser.
3. Keeping your emotions in check while money is (or isn’t) in your bank account can be challenging. We worry about the future and immediate needs. Balancing both your emotional checking account and your financial one is important. It is very hard to move forward if you are feeling emotionally unstable.
4. Some people collect money from the government (like unemployment, for example) and then wait until it runs out before they start looking for a new job. Others start looking immediately and find something long before the aid runs out. This attitude is what will help you rebuild what you have lost. Don’t wait. Get out there and see what you can find.
5. Many of us have a sense of pride in being able to take care of ourselves as well as our loved ones. The better we can provide, the better we feel. Unfortunately, the opposite occurs when money gets tight. These times can challenge our self-esteem and our ability to deal with the anxiety of financial instability. This is when you need to seek outside support.
6. When families can pull together during difficult financial times, it makes things a lot easier. If, instead, the fears come out in unpleasant ways, it makes things much harder. Keeping your emotions in check when the money gets tight is an important part of making things work for the long term.
7. Yes, money issues are the No. 1 reason for divorce, but I’ve seen people work through almost every situation, including financial infidelity (where one partner spends money without telling the other). With time, talk and understanding, these issues can be healed.
These tips will help, and you can also enlist the help of financial organizations and nonprofit consumer debt counseling, which is available in most areas and on the Internet. Beware of those charging an upfront fee for helping you. Many will assist you at no cost, but each organization operates differently, so do your research.
Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of “100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence — Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too.”