Money Too Tight To Mention. Managing Financial Stress


Article By: Luke Foster, Psychologist 

As a psychologist with over ten years’ experience, two things have really stood out to me about providing effective advice, guidance, treatment (whatever the case may be).

First, it needs to be simple! We, as humans, need straightforward options/ strategies that we can utilise right away.

Second, sometimes these options/ strategies are NOT easy to implement and DO require work, effort, motivation, commitment.

Before we dive in, I would also like to point out that I am not some cashed-up money guru, writing this from an ivory tower. Like everyone, I have ups and downs in life, and have had periods where I have managed money very poorly and periods where I have experienced financial hardship. I have also had times in my life where I have been earning enough money that spending it and buying the things I wanted was no problem (still no ivory tower – but I have been comfortable).

The primary reason for this brief article stems from a number of emails we have received at LIVIN, and also conversations we’ve had with people in the community about their financial hardships and the adverse effects these are having on their mental health.

We want you to read this article and hopefully gain some straightforward tips to get through this period of financial difficulty, should you be experiencing it. I’m not going to claim that I can solve your financial woes, but hopefully I can help reduce the stress associated with it and help point you in the right direction in terms of good professional support to help with your financial hardship.

Experiencing a mental illness or a deterioration in your mental health can add to financial stresses, and financial stresses can add to a mental illness or a deterioration in your mental health. That’s not to suggest that just because you have a shit load of money you will be mentally well, nor does it mean if you don’t have a lot of money you are likely to be mental unwell.

However, the research does suggest that financial hardship and mental ill health are closely related. Let’s face it, having some money rolling into your bank account consistently probably means you have one less thing to worry about in life, and bloody hell, there are a lot of things to worry about in life at the moment, so any reprieve is likely helpful.

So, what can you do to manage financial stress?

  • First, please understand that if you are struggling with financial stress, you are not alone in your struggles and it is not something to be ashamed of. Studies have reported that personal finances are one of the most common sources of stress for Australians.
  • Put money aside for when bills come.
  • Set a budget.
  • Get ‘appy’ – there are some great free apps available (e.g. Pocketbook) that will help you track your spending; your bank might even have one. This will help you stay on track with said budget.
  • Create an emergency fund.
  • Open a separate savings (not spending) account.
  • Prioritise and pay off the ESSENTIALS first.
  • According to an article pumped out by the brilliant people at the University of Wollongong, financial ILLiteracy is the main underlying cause of financial stress, so actually learning literacy and numeracy skills are essential to avoid financial stress. In other words, increasing your understanding about money and small behavioural changes can decrease financial stress.
  • This might seem obvious, and as I said at the outset of this article, “straightforward”, but can be extremely difficult to “implement” – spend less on alcohol, drugs, gambling and ‘retail therapy’. Replace these activities with some of LIVIN’s healthier tips and tricks offered here. In fact, a strong commitment to self-care can help with all kinds of stresses, including financial stress. YES, we know it probably won’t solve your financial woes, but good self-care can help put you in a better mind frame to approach your financial situation more calmly and pragmatically.

Think budgets are boring? Here are some tips to keep the fun:

  • Look for deals like Scoopon, Groupon, ShopBack (this is a new app and involves getting cash back in purchases - brands like Woolworths, EBay Chemist Warehouse, etc.) and 'cheap Tuesday' deals. 
  • Keep the car parked in the garage and walk to places where appropriate. Fuel is bloody expensive (we might be getting a reprieve currently, but the price will rise again)!
  • Take advantage of nature – go hiking, bushwalking, surfing, skating, do outdoor exercise.
  • Plan your meals and cook at home! Honestly, check your Uber Eats account and cringe at how much money you have spent on food over the last few months. Consider shopping at your local farmer's markets and shopping seasonally (e.g. avocados when in season are about a buck, when they aren't, even unripened shitty avocados are almost four.)
  • And again, just because I like repeating myself, focus on self-care. Seriously, read the article linked above. THIS STUFF WORKS!!!

To do a bit more of a deep dive into financial management, we caught up with Nathan Moss, a Wealth Management Partner (aka. PRO at this stuff) from the MBA Partnership in Southport. Check out his tips for wealth management to alleviate financial stress here. 

For those of you reading this article who are really, really struggling with financial hardship and may even be thinking that these problems seem impossible to overcome, please know that you can get help and take steps to improve your situation.

Or, perhaps you don’t even realise that you’re experiencing financial hardship. Here are some signs you might need help with your finances and debt:

  • Late bill payments or often seeking extensions
  • Minimum or missed payments on credit cards
  • Spending less money on necessities 
  • Increasing debt from credit cards or loans
  • Legal action for debt recovery
  • Fear of eviction by being behind in rent or loan repayments
  • Not enough money coming in to cover required spending

If any of the above sounds like you, a family member or a mate, here are some quality professional support options that can help out with financial challenges and debt.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/financial-problems

National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007

https://ndh.org.au/

 “It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy”. (George Lorimer)
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