That below is I guess relatively obvious to most, but I was asked to write this by a friend who said that “sometimes the obvious is the stuff that gets missed” and that there are always people who need help.
Christmas can be a difficult time of year. There is pressure from so many directions and it all seems to be directed at spending more for a better Christmas. Whilst we all know this isn’t the case it can be a “sell” that’s hard to resist.
It’s possibly the most stressful time of year when it comes to thoughts on your finances and as a consequence it can effect everything else in your life. Family, relationships and work can all be affected. Right now you might feel you are carrying around a huge weight or that something is hanging over you all of the time. It’s not a nice feeling.
Now would be a good time to reduce that financial stress but what can you do?
There’s no magic formula and no quick fix but we’ve put together 6 points below that I think should be the basis of helping you start.
Sit down and look at your finances. It can be a frightening prospect taking on your finances, particularly when you feel your finances are already “beating you”. Problems don’t go away when they are ignored, no matter how much we all wish they would. The first step is to take control. Establish exactly what’s coming in and going out and decide what you are going to spend your money on. Find out what you are spending and where. Below is a tool to help;
You won’t get everything sorted straight away and it will take time to work it all out but knowledge is power. If you know where your money is spent and what you buy with that money you can get the control you need.
They used to call this “rainy day” money. It’s money that you have set aside just in case there’s an emergency like a boiler not working or your car needing a repair.
Finding extra money probably seems crazy at the moment but this is a sum of money that you build over time. You save a little each week or each month. Once you have control of your finances this sort of thing is often easier.
Make use of the resources that are available. Seek expert advice from financial planners and finance professionals. Firstly though, start with free financial help websites.
There’s no better place to start than the Governments own Money Advice Service;
Much like the one above, but instead of speaking to experts, speak to friends and family. Many who struggle financially do so in secret without friends and family knowing. Don’t hide the problem. Share your financial concerns with them. They have probably experienced similar things, they may have used strategies that have already worked. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.
Work out exactly what you can change. Perhaps you aren’t earning enough money but have simply accepted that rather than looking for another job. Sometimes it’s easier to accept where we are as it’s easier than doing something else.
Maybe you spend too much on one particular aspect of your life. It could be a hobby, branded food or home entertainment for example. Is there one particular thing that’s costing money that doesn’t have to?
We’ve saved the best to last. This is personally my favourite, and if I’m honest the one that when I started it years ago, was the one I thought was the most ridiculous. This is the one that won’t change your finances but might change you and how you feel towards such things.
It’s just a simple exercise.
Just spend a few minutes each day focusing on some of the good things that have happened.
Every night – before you go to bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened – things that went well, that you enjoyed or were grateful for. These can be small (e.g. a delicious sandwich or a child smiling on the bus) or of bigger importance for you. You’ll probably find it varies. Try doing this for a week to start with.
Note them down – this is important. You may want to get a small notebook just for this purpose or you can track them online using an app or website.
Think about why – for each thing you’re grateful for, write down why it happened and why you feel good about it. This may feel a bit tricky at first but you’ll soon get the hang.
Look back – after a week, have a look back on what you’ve written. How does it feel when you look at all these good things? Do you notice any themes?
Keep it up – try keeping it up for another couple of weeks at least. Many people find it becomes a bedtime habit. After a while you may find that you don’t need to do it every night. Three times a week or even once a week might be enough. You may also find that you start to appreciate the good things more as they happen.
Now I know many will read this one with an enormous amount of scepticism. As I said above, I was exactly the same.
Just give it a try. It’s free and it might help.