Medically reviewed by Susan Vachon, PA-C on February 4, 2022
Stressing out over money is not fun. You might worry about making ends meet and having enough to pay your bills. Or, if you’re comfortable enough in the short-term, you may be panicked about saving enough to safely retire on. It’s estimated that 51% of Americans suffer from some kind of financial anxiety.
Whatever your money woes, there are plenty of ways you can help put your mind at ease. Consider some of these financial moves to keep your mental health in a good place.
1. Create a Monthly Budget
The best thing you can do to improve your mental health when it comes to money is to make a budget. This will help you keep your spending on track so you aren’t flabbergasted when your credit card bill comes in. A popular method is the 50/30/20 rule, which dictates you should spend 50% of your income on your needs, 30% on your wants, and 20% for your savings.
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First things first, consider your average monthly income after taxes. This will help guide what you can spend each month. Then, write out all of your regular necessary expenses. Consider things like rent, utility bills, insurance premiums, and groceries.
After you’ve tabulated your necessary spending, add it up and see what it comes to. Hopefully, you have enough to cover this — if not, you may want to look into state assistance or low-income housing to help reduce your bills.
With any income you have left over, you can then divide it into other, less essential categories. Thirty percent can go to the things you like but don’t necessarily need, like your Netflix subscription or your daily Starbucks. Then, 20% should go into your emergency fund or other investments.
2. Give Yourself a Personal Spending Allotment
It’s important not to blow your budget on personal things. That said, it’s also not good to be all work and no play. Giving yourself a small amount each month to spend on yourself is crucial to your mental health.
Research proves this. One study gave participants with severe mental illness an extra financial contribution each month to spend as they pleased. After nine months, the group who received the money had significant improvements in their sense of self, depression and anxiety, and social networking.
Try to set aside a specific amount each month just for yourself, whether it be $10 or $100. Then, use this money to treat yourself in whatever way feels best. Perhaps you’ll take you and your friends out to a fancy dinner, or maybe you’ll buy yourself a new bottle of nail polish for a DIY manicure. Whatever you decide, these small moments of pleasure can really help you feel better mentally.
3. Put Your Money to Work
If you’re lucky enough to have some savings, unfortunately, keeping it in a savings account is not always the best approach. As of January 2022, the national average interest rate for savings accounts is a mere 0.06% APY. That means if you have $1,000 in your account, you’ll only earn $0.05 a month. After a year, you’ll have earned a whopping $0.60.
There are higher interest savings accounts you can find, some with interest up to 1% if you’re lucky. But still, with that rate, you’d only get $10 a year with $1,000. If you have money that you won’t need to touch for a while, a better option is to invest your money in an IRA or 401(k).
Naturally, the return rate for these types of investments varies depending on the market. But on average, you can expect a solid 7-10% return on your money. Using that same $1,000 example, you’d get $70-$100 a year back.
Just keep in mind, the money you put into investments like these can’t be withdrawn without a penalty. So make sure this is disposable income you won’t need to pay the bills.
Knowing your money is working for you can give you huge peace of mind. You may find yourself less stressed out over having enough to retire on.
4. Create an Emergency Fund
A lot of anxiety about money can arise when you don’t have enough to cover an unexpected emergency. You’re not alone if you feel this way. Research shows that over 40% of Americans wouldn’t have the savings needed to cover a $400 emergency. Mentally, this might always be in the back of your head, causing you to feel stressed and anxious on a daily basis.
Ideally, you should have three months’ worth of income saved up. This will protect you if you suddenly lose your job or have a serious medical bill. But for most people, this isn’t feasible immediately, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
Luckily, if you follow the 50/30/20 plan we mentioned above, 20% of your income should be going to investments and your emergency fund. However, if that’s not possible, there are other ways you can slowly build up money for unexpected situations.
First, if you can’t contribute 20%, see if you can contribute 10% or even 5%. Anything helps, even if it’s small. These little contributions build up over time.
If saving money is an issue, you can try automated saving solutions. Some apps, like Acorns or Chime, round up all of the purchases you make and then put the extra amount into your savings account.
Don’t Let Money Issues Wreck Your Mental Health
It’s natural to worry about money — after all, it’s what our society thrives on. That said, you can’t let these fears overtake your daily life. If you think these tips won’t be enough to combat your stress over your financial woes, then you may need a little additional help.
Consider speaking to a mental health professional who can help you work through your emotions and get in a better place. It might also help to get in touch with a financial wellness expert who can better assist you in planning out your financial future. Whatever path you decide on, know that there are people out there who can help!
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes.