When it comes to self-care, we focus a lot on taking time out of the day to destress. We focus on reading, exercising, meditating, even watching TV, as a way to give our minds a break from the build-up of day-to-day anxiety. But financial self-care goes deeper than that, it helps you to not only take a break from, but actually remove, one of the biggest stressors that everyone has to deal with in life. Money.
We know that money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly help your peace of mind. In a recent survey 48% of people questioned said that they lose sleep over money worries. And stressing about not having enough money is cited as one of the main causes of anxiety and fear in women.
Even though it is the norm for women to go to work, in many households women also manage the day to day budget. The fear of facing facts about how much is going out, compared to what you are taking in, the worry of accepting that you have nothing in place for the future, can make many women bury their heads in terms of their long-term financial needs, and ignore warning signs about the need to change their financial habits.
Knowing that you have a plan for the future or that you have a safety net ready for a rainy day, even being confident that you can cover the bills when they come in, can lift such a weight of worry from your shoulders. The sense of security that comes with having a financial plan in place is priceless and it will greatly enhance your overall mental wellbeing.
Just as one salad won’t fix years of unhealthy eating with a fad diet, there is no quick fix to improve financial self-care. It is a habit you must learn and build upon over time. But the rewards for doing it are well worth any little sacrifice you might make.
1) Getting started is easy.
The first thing you need to do is simply assess your finances as they are now. What are you spending where? How much is going on bills? How much is going out on luxuries? Don’t just glance at the last line of your credit card bill and pay it without thinking. Read the statement, take note of what was charged and when, know your own spending habits. Once you have a clear picture of your spending, you’ll be able to see where your money can be redirected.
2) The next step is to think about what you are saving for.
Ask yourself are you only living for today and not thinking about tomorrow? What will you need as you get older? Have you thought about a pension, healthcare, college funds for your children? What about the shorter future, next year will you want to buy a bigger house? Are you thinking of another baby? What about a holiday or a car upgrade? Write out a list of what you need and want to save for, so that you can see what your goals are.
3) The next part is budgeting.
Over the past year we’ve all gone out less and spent less. So, this is an ideal time to make this kind of change in your spending. What have you gone without over the past year that you won’t need going forward? Maybe it’s buying your coffee every morning on the way to work? Perhaps you don’t miss going out for dinner every weekend? Maybe it’s a change to meeting friends and entertaining at home instead of heading to the pub (and the new outfit that that entails). Once you have taken stock of your current budget, you’ll see that there are ways to cut back your spending, remember even little habit changes (like making your coffee at home) can add up to a big difference over time.
4) Now you need to start a plan for saving.
You can start small, so that it doesn’t feel like a huge change (even just €50). But keep in mind that the plan will be to increase your saving amount over time. Set up a direct debit to your savings account and have it come out the day after you get paid – if it’s never in your account, you can’t miss it.
5) Increase your saving.
As you get into the saving habit try to increase the amount you are putting away little by little. Remember that this isn’t some great sacrifice, this is still your money, and it is for your future.
The past year has given everyone a little bit of a shake up when it comes to their finances. The uncertainty for many about where their money would come from and would they have enough, has given lots of people the impetus they need to start a savings habit.
So, before you go out and splurge in the newly reopened shops, stop to consider what, and how much, you need. Think of it as a balance between instant gratification and long term happiness Could that money be better spent on your future and your family’s security? At the end of the day the sense of achievement of watching a nest egg grow and the reassurance that there is money there should you need it, far outweighs the joy of a new top. So, buy what you need and occasionally what you want, but try to think “save first, shop second”, your mental wellbeing will thank you for it.
If you’d like more information, tips and expert advice on savings, investments and being future-ready, sign up to thecareerclub.ie where you’ll find resources from our team of experts.