8 Tips for Managing Financial Stress


Money can be a major source of stress, especially when you’re dealing with an emergency. When the future seems uncertain, it’s common to feel worried, scared, sad, frustrated, overwhelmed or even angry.

These feelings are perfectly normal, but don’t forget to treat yourself with kindness. Here are eight ways to do just that and cope with financial stress.

1. Determine what’s driving your stress.
Write down your main sources of financial stress, whether it’s maxed-out credit cards, intimidating medical bills, hard-to-manage mortgage payments or something else. Stare at them, take a deep breath and acknowledge the stress you’re feeling.

Browse top tips from UW Credit Union.

2. Banish guilt and shame.
If you feel ashamed of your financial difficulties, do your best to put things in perspective. Many, many people go through a money crisis. You are not alone, and circumstances beyond your control have likely played a role in your situation.

Even if you made a financial error, it’s not the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes, and blaming yourself can hold you back. You need to focus on how to move forward.

3. Find silver linings.
Your situation may feel overwhelming, but there’s usually a sliver of hope to be found. A job loss could lead to a more fulfilling, higher-paying position. A large debt could motivate you to find a side hustle that you love. A medical crisis could motivate you to improve your nutrition and exercise habits. Look for positives, commit them to memory and place them in the spotlight.

4. Remind yourself that staying calm promotes financial well-being.
A clear head and a focused mind are powerful tools for improving your financial situation. You’re likely to lose clarity and focus when you stop prioritizing and start thinking about all of your financial challenges at once. When you feel overwhelmed, you’re more likely to lose track of your spending and avoid tasks such as reviewing your budget, bills and bank statements. When you’re in a cycle of procrastination and avoidance, you’re also less likely to do your homework about financial resources, investments and more.

One key to staying calm is preventing yourself from feeling overwhelmed. You may find it helpful to list your three most important bills, budget categories or financial goals. You could even read this list out loud. Then write the lower-priority items on another sheet of paper and file it away. You’re unlikely to forget these items because you’ve written them down, and you’re less likely to ruminate on them if they’re out of sight. Plus, dropping your worries into a file box can help you compartmentalize them in your mind.

5. Talk to financial experts and create an action plan.
A credit counselor, a financial specialist at your bank or credit union, or an investment advisor can help you take stock of your situation. These professionals can also help you locate resources, identify realistic goals and map out a specific plan for managing your finances.

UW Credit Union members have free, confidential access to credit counselors and online tools from GreenPath Financial Wellness, a nonprofit organization designed to assist people facing financial difficulties. Members can also set up a no-cost credit consultation with one of UW Credit Union’s financial specialists. With help from these resources, you may discover strategies for avoiding bankruptcy, ways to lower your loans’ interest rates and more.

6. Retool your budget.
Whether you’re struggling to make ends meet or worried you’ll never pay off a debt, updating your budget can help you feel more control over your situation. It can also help you reach your financial goals.

As you comb through your budget, ask yourself what you’re willing to adjust. Can you dedicate more of your paycheck to loan payments or trim your entertainment expenses? Could you split the cost of a subscription with a friend, relative or roommate? Do you just need to follow your budget a little more closely? Chances are, there’s something you can change for the better.

7. Monitor your credit.
Keep close tabs on your credit score if you’re making the minimum payment on any of your loans or credit cards. Also keep an eye on it if you’re in danger of missing a payment deadline. Skipping a payment or paying late can hurt your credit score, so avoid it at all costs, even if money is tight.

If you’re a UW Credit Union member, you can monitor your credit score for free through Web Branch. Our credit monitoring tool, SavvyMoney, also lets you view your credit report.

8. Celebrate progress.
As you build your financial plan, incorporate small steps toward your goals. Each time you take a step forward, it’s cause for celebration. You don’t need to do anything lavish, but pausing to pat yourself on the back can motivate you to keep going. Then, when you reach bigger goals, mark the occasion with something extra special.

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During a pandemic, banking online is a safe, smart choice. If you’re a UW Credit Union member, you can do these things and more from a smartphone, tablet or computer:

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