Are thoughts of your financial difficulties plaguing you in the small hours of the morning? If so, you’re not alone: worrying about finances is causing more than 7 million UK adults to lose sleep and a survey has found that as many as one in three students experience insomnia due to worrying about money.
Money worries can come about for a multitude of reasons, from being made redundant or having to take a pay cut to overspending or addiction. It can often feel like you have no way out of your financial difficulties and you may feel as though you’ll never get a decent night of kip ever again, but that is simply not true.
There are so many ways in which you can get help or help yourself if you’re struggling with your finances, and getting a good night of sleep is a great starting point. If you can relate to counting money instead of counting sheep keep reading because, with the help of experts on finance and sleep, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about catching Zs when you’re stressing about money.
The chances of developing a mental health problem is three times higher for people who are in debt.
Types of money worry
People worry about money for all sorts of reasons and, in most cases, these worries are to do with their future financial situations. Although there are countless reasons for someone to worry about their finances, these are amongst the most common:
Feeling overwhelmed by debt
Unsurprisingly, one of the most common money worries is about not being able to pay off debt.
The weight of credit card bills, payday loans, and student loans, amongst other types of debt, can really get us down, especially when we’re nowhere near settling them.
Taking some time to work out the accumulation of your debts and prioritising them appropriately is the best way to combat feeling overwhelmed by debt; knowledge is control when it comes to your finances, so don’t bury your head in the sand.
Being unable to save for retirement
Being put out to pasture is supposed to be one of the best times of our lives, but many people worry about their finances in their golden years.
Taking the time to draw up a plan for your retirement funds, as much as it may seem like a drag,
Worries about losing your job
Being troubled by what would happen if you lost your job is often an irrational worry, but it can still keep you awake at night. Worrying about this in bed can cause you to lose sleep, which can cause you to underperform at work the next day, and frequent underperformance at work could lead to an unstable job situation.
Although a job loss can be unpredictable, there are lots of ways that you can prepare for the worst, which will alleviate your fears. Putting a small amount of money aside each month as a safety net can be really beneficial in helping you to relax – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly £50 per month adds up!
Living paycheck to paycheck
Many people live paycheck to paycheck and it’s a lifestyle which can cause the individual a lot of stress, particularly at the end of the month when funds are really running low.
Another difficult aspect of living paycheck to paycheck is the inability to save money for the future. The individual may feel as though there is no way out of their financial situation, as they cannot afford to put even a small amount of money aside each week or month for savings.
In order to avoid unnecessary worry, budgeting is essential. Drawing up and sticking to a monthly or weekly budget can really help to take the pressure off those who live paycheck to paycheck.
The average UK household spends £3.78 per day on water, electricity, and gas.
Why do we worry more at night?
It’s not a coincidence that we tend to worry more at night. When we’re in our beds, we’re usually free of distractions, allowing us to let our imaginations run riot and make our anxiety seemingly inescapable.Everything can feel worse when we’re lying in the dark, so you’re more likely to feel helpless at night.
It’s not uncommon for our anxieties to wake us during the night. Whether you wake up from a nightmare, or you wake up to intrusive thoughts, anxiety can strike us even when we’re sound asleep.
When we fall into a pattern of worrying at night, we begin to anticipate not being able to fall asleep which, in turn, can make it more difficult to fall asleep. This is a damaging cycle that can make our problems seem worse than they are, as lack of sleep can play a huge part in us experiencing low mood and depression.
In the UK, 6.2 million households are financially unstable.
The effects of sleep deprivation on your body
Sleep is essential to our everyday functionality and, even if we only miss an hour or so each night, there can be some serious repercussions for our health.
Tiredness and fatigue
Tiredness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation and are embodied by a strong urge to fall asleep. Long term tiredness can lead to fatigue, which is a mental and physical state of exhaustion and weakness – the state of fatigue can heavily interfere with your daily life.
Your body produces two appetite regulating hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin signals to your brain to let it know when you should stop eating and ghrelin signals to your brain to let it know when you’re hungry.
If you’re sleep deprived, you produce less of the leptin hormone, which makes you feel more hungry than you actually should do; this hormone imbalance can lead to weight gain over time. Similarly, when you’re not getting enough sleep your metabolism slows down, which can also lead to weight gain.
Microsleep is the short and unintentional period of attention loss that a person endures when they haven’t had enough sleep. The symptoms of microsleeping can last from anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes can can include eye closure and staring blankly with severe loss of attention.
You’re more likely to engage in microsleep if you’re a driver or an office worker due the the monotonous nature of staring at roads and computer screens for long periods of time.
It has been proven that people who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to depression than those who do get enough sleep. If you’re missing sleep due to stress, you’re likely to experience periods of low moods, which can heighten feelings of stress in the long term.
Your blood pressure falls somewhat when you’re deeply asleep so if you’re not getting enough sleep you’re less likely to experience this fall in blood pressure, increasing your chance of heart problems in the future.
This, along with the stress that insomnia can cause, can have a major impact on your heart health. In fact, people who regularly don’t get enough sleep over time are 48% more likely to develop heart disease than those who usually sleep well.
Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar. A common way for your body to react to sleep deprivation is for it to resist producing insulin, which causes problems with converting glucose into energy. This insulin deprivation is linked to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, as we have seen, sleep deprivation can cause an increase in appetite which, in turn, can cause the onset of type 2 diabetes if you frequently overeat.
Although this is a very unlikely effect of sleep deprivation, it’s not unheard of. In 2011, a man died after going 11 days without sleep. It is alleged that the 26-year-old from China was attempting to stay up to watch all of the games in the European Championship which were televised throughout the night in China. It is still unknown why sleep deprivation can cause death, but this extreme reaction to lack of sleep is possible.
The North East of England has the highest demand for debt advice in the UK.
What to do when your money worries are keeping you awake
Although you need to face up to your debt in order to relieve your financial difficulties, it’s essential that you get a decent night of kip so that you can avoid some really serious health issues.
Sleeping can be challenging when you’re faced with the stress of debt and finance issues, but here are some tips that should help you catch some Zs, even during the toughest of nights.
Get into a routine
If you’re not working, you’re probably going to fall out of a daily routine where you go to bed and wake up at similar times each day. In order to get enough good-quality sleep, it’s monumental that you have a sleeping schedule.
Most adults need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night, so aim to fall within those parameters, try to stick to a bedtime, and try to wake up at the same time each day – this routine will make it easier for you to fall asleep in the long term.
Get up and create a distraction
If you associate being in bed with being stressed, you’re likely to dread going to bed which can cause of cycle of being stressed at night, therefore causing sleep deprivation. So, when you’re feeling stressed and can’t get to sleep, try getting out of bed and only returning when you feel tired.
Whilst you’re out of bed, a calming activity, such as reading, can distract you from your worries. However, you should stay away from simulating activities such as exercise or watching television, as these could keep you from being tired even longer.
Don’t clock watch
Clock watching can cause a vicious cycle of anxiety and insomnia; specialists refer to this as ‘catastrophising’. This is where worry and stress causes sleep loss, but the subject then becomes more anxious about missing sleep, causing them to become even more anxious about the day to follow which, in itself, causes them to miss out on even more sleep.
It might be difficult, but try to relax. If you get an unwanted thought when you’re trying to relax, for example a thought about your financial situation, calmly acknowledge it and then bring your focus back to whatever you’re doing, such as reading. The sooner you relax, the sooner you’ll be ready to get into bed, so it’s definitely worthwhile to focus on winding down.
In November 2016, the average total debt per household was £55,982.
What the sleep experts say…
We faced our sleep experts with the question ‘what are the best ways to fall asleep when dealing with stress induced insomnia?’ and here’s what they had to say…
Sammy Margo – Sammy Margo Physiotherapy
- “Have a good bedtime routine
- Exercise with daylight exposure
- Deep breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation.”
Tammy Ridlington – The Insomnia Clinic
“Daily stress and work can have a great impact on falling asleep. It can be the case of ‘lights off and mind on’.”
“There are a few things that can help, firstly I would advise that you write down any worries or ‘To Do’ lists before getting into bed so that your mind can start to let go of the day.”
August Brice – CEO of Safertech
“Use orange glasses two hours before bed, when reading electronics such as your phone, tablet, or laptop, as the blue light emissions induce insomnia.”
“They are inexpensive (around $10) through Safertech and make a world of difference.”
Lynn R. Zakeri – LCSW
“The best ways to cope with financial stress is with the facts. The ‘what ifs’ can make anyone lose sleep, but the facts can be calming. Ask yourself: what do I have, what do I need, what do I want? Write it out. Meet with a financial expert. Talk with your family. But do not get caught in the ‘what ifs’.”
“As a clinical therapist, I have my clients make a list. In this scenario, I would ask you to list all your money worries. Then break that list into two lists. The worries you have control over and the worries you do not.”
“The worries you have control over you can make a game plan for and tackle and get some peace from the answers. The worries you have no control over, such as ‘what if my house burns down?’ ‘What if I lose my job?’, you can consider, but mostly throw those worries away until they happen.”
Rachel McGuinness – Zest Lifestyle
“1. Have a consistent bedtime when everything else feels like it’s out of control. Your brain likes routine and this is something you can control.
“2. Make sure you build in at least at a 90 minute wind down before bedtime. During this time write down exactly what is stressing you out, and the steps you can take to remedy the situation. This is also when you should switch off your tech and relax before bedtime – this means not using your electronic devices as a TV. Take this time as an opportunity to focus on the positive and write a journal; also do some gentle stretching or yoga to help relax you enough to make you sleepy.
“3. Avoid watching TV that is stressful or too stimulating like the news or thrillers, as this will aggravate your stress levels even further.
“4. Avoid using alcohol to numb your worries and help you sleep, you will wake up in the night dehydrated and need frequent trips to the loo. Plus it disrupts your REM (dream) sleep, which is an important part of your night’s sleep.
“5. Cut the caffeine at least six hours before bedtime, caffeine is a stimulant which means it will keep you awake and it’s also a diuretic which could cause lots of nocturnal loo trips.
“6. Calm your body and mind down with slow belly breathing, there are various things you can do for deep breathing:
“7. Breathe in for the count of six, pause, then breathe out of the count of six to activate the vagus nerve which will help you relax.
“8. Breathe in for the count of four, hold for seven and breathe out for eight.
“9. Breathe in slowly and count until one, breathe slowly out and until count two; count up to ten, and then repeat.
“10. Use an aroma diffuser in the bedroom with relaxing essential oils such as lavender to create a sensory cue for the your mind and body to relax – lavender helps to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure.
“11. Relaxation is key and this is something you can’t force, you have to learn to let go. Learn some progressive relaxation techniques such as starting from the top of the head and gradually relaxing different parts of body as you move down. You could stretch your muscles and then relax them. Listen to some relaxing music, a guided meditation, or a bedtime story which are getting popular for adults.”
Tony Warren – Breathe Simple
“Financial worrying is one of the major causes of anxiety which can impact on general health and, in particular, sleep patterns.
These are the ways to deal with this:
Confront the cause. Ask yourself: “What is the worst possible outcome, how would I deal with it?”
a) Create a plan to deal with the worst outcome. This helps alleviate the anxiety level.
b) When going to sleep, use the technique of progressive engagement. Start with the toes: scrunch the muscles as tight a possible then relax them. Do this a few times then move to the calves etc., travelling up the body one muscle group at a time, making sure that you focus on the muscles and make them as relaxed as possible before you move on upward.
c) Learn the technique of coherent breathing. This means breathing quietly at about 6 breaths a minute. This takes a few weeks of practice before it becomes natural. At this frequency, your heart works very closely with your breathing making your whole metabolism as efficient as possible, reducing the strain on your heart and taking you into a very relaxed state.”
Paige Garrett – OMG Meditate
“Meditating can certainly help one overcome all forms of stress and anxiety, even financial.
“As you may know, meditation has numerous, profound effects on one’s overall wellbeing and performance including increasing happiness levels, reducing stress/anxiety, fighting insomnia, increasing mental clarity/energy levels, and boosting productivity.
“Meditation paves the way for a healthy and happy lifestyle, which is why many of the corporate elite, like Ray Dalio (Founder, Bridgewater Associates), Jeff Weiner (CEO, LinkedIn) and Arianna Huffington (President & EIC, Huffington Post Media Group) have credited meditation to keeping them balanced, fresh and centered.
“OMG. I Can Meditate! is a user friendly, wildly popular lifestyle meditation app! OMG. was founded by a previously Type A, highly successful business executive turned meditation coach, Lynne Goldberg. Now, Lynne helps others – from Hollywood celebrities to CEO’s – learn to do the same by providing the tools to stay calm and balanced in today’s stressful world. Through the OMG. I Can Meditate! app, anyone can have personal meditation sessions with Lynne, right on their phone, including specialty meditations such as ‘dealing with pressure’, and ‘my boss is a jerk!’.”
Nick Wignall, PhD – Clinical Psychologist
“As a clinical psychologist specializing in insomnia, financial worries are a major contributor to difficulties sleeping.
“One of the most effective research-supported techniques for decreasing sleep interfering worry is a practice called Scheduled Worry. The standard recommendation is to take 15-20 minutes during the morning or afternoon to deliberately worry. Sit down and try your hardest to come up with all the things you’re worried about and consider how you might go about solving them.
“Write them down—this is key. The rest of the day (including times when you’re in bed), when intrusive worries arise, remind yourself that you can address them during your scheduled worry time the next day, and re-direct your attention to a relaxing present moment experience (deep breathing exercise, reading, etc.).”
Dr. Melanie Greenberg – Clinical Health Psychologist
“Ground yourself – financial worries can hijack your brain into a state of panic in which you imagine the worst possible outcomes, like being homeless.
“So step one is to get your brain back to a rational state where your prefrontal cortex (executive centre) is firmly in charge. Breathe deeply. Focus on feeling your feet on the ground or your body in the chair. Just bring your attention back to your physical body in the present moment. You may even want to say “right now, I’m just sitting in my living room” to remind your brain that nothing bad is actually happening right now.
“Decide which parts of the situation you can and can’t control and focus your attention on the controllable parts. For example, if you’re looking for a job, focus on networking, getting information, honing your skills and getting applications out. Interrupt cycles of worrying about whether they’ll call you for an interview. You could even imagine mentally putting all the worries about the uncontrollable parts into a container – like a big wooden wine barrel – and sealing them in.
“Formulate a backup plan. For example, decide what you’re going to do if you don’t get a job in 3 months, 6 months, and so on. Or if you see debt accumulating, go on a “debt diet” and actively decide which activities you are willing to give up to get financial peace of mind.
“Don’t get over identified with your financial situation. Focus on other aspects of your identity that you value, such as your role as a parent, spouse or partner, or community member. Don’t evaluate your self-worth just by a number.
“Develop a de-stressing routine that you do several times a week. This could be running, yoga, meditating, nature walking, watching sport, hanging out with friends or family, or reading. You need to get your mind off the stressor so it doesn’t feel like a constant threat.”
Susan Leigh – Lifestyle Therapy
“For many homes, the dread of being seriously in debt is never very far away, in many cases only the latest pay cheque between them and being homeless. A change in interest rates, divorce, loss of overtime, or bonus payments can literally throw a tightly managed household into tragedy.
“Sleeping at times like these can be the last thing on your mind. However, facing up to what’s going on and the reality of your situation is the most effective way to start regaining some semblance of control and feeling better able to let go of stress and helplessness and then start to sleep a little better.
“Let’s consider some things that may be able to help you deal with financial stress and anxiety:
“Concern at what friends, family, colleagues might say or think is often an initial knee jerk reaction to a reduction in spending power.
“In fact many people start to spend more widely when their finances are constrained, almost as a defiant gesture of rebellion. Fear of looking a failure or being diminished in other people’s eyes can cause otherwise sensible, rational people to hide the truth from others, sometimes even from their partners.
“But appreciating that many people are equally constrained by their finances, that their partner will understand and want to help can enable the situation to be dealt with sooner rather than later, before debt starts to mount up excessively. Keeping up appearances can result in rash over-spending and further exacerbating the problem.
“Detail the household expenses.
“Many people automatically pay standing orders without thinking too much about them. Appliance insurances, unused memberships may be able to be rationalised and let go. Investigate changing onto cheaper tariffs, using more efficient providers, shopping at less expensive stores.
“There may be unconsidered ways of earning money.
“Many homes have wardrobes full of quality, hardly worn clothes which have simply been outgrown or become outdated, or you may have stacks of unused gadgets and appliances stored away in the garage or spare room. These items could be sold online or at a car boot sale.
“What about a skill or talent such as cake-making, gardening, or decorating which others would be happy to pay for, that could be done part-time, as and when is convenient? Time is something that many people are short of. Offering to help with their time constraints might support a new source of income; things like shopping, collecting children, or running errands could support a time-strapped family and earn a little extra money.
“Credit cards can be used excessively when income is tight.
“They’re often viewed as money in reserve, or as spare available cash until the statements start to arrive and the balance is unable to be reduced. When only minimum payments are made it’s virtually impossible to pay off more than the monthly interest; it’s like treading water, just about keeping afloat.
“The sole aim of creditors is to get their money back in the most efficient way. By speaking to them as early as possible, it enables a realistic plan of repayment to be implemented. It’s in no one’s interests to institute court proceedings, so pick up the phone, explain the situation and make an offer to pay what you can afford. Mortgage providers are often prepared to go into ‘interest only’ arrangements where they receive the borrowed capital when the property is eventually sold.
“Share with friends that you’re cutting back a little on your spending.
“Real friends will be happy to see you for a lasagna and a bottle of wine at home and miss the expensive restaurant or enjoy a cup of coffee instead of a cafe lunch. They may well be happy to scale down their dining out budget too. Girls nights in can be dedicated to fun pampering sessions instead of booking treatments at beauty salons.
“Children are often a major part of household expenses and children’s education is often the reason why families choose to live where they do; the catchment area for good schools can be seriously reflected in local house prices. Sometimes though, there may need to a discussion about the impact such a heavy financial commitment is having on the household budget. School fees, uniform, trips, and expenses all add together to erode disposable income and may leave the family unable to survive financially. Investigate the possibility of other good schools nearby, do you know anyone who goes there, how easy might it be to change, how might you approach that discussion with your children?”
Dr. Catherine Darley – The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, Inc.
“One strategy that works well is:
First take on the attitude that you only take care of your roles and responsibilities during wake hours – it’s not appropriate to bring your worries to bed with you. Sleep time should be a nightly “vacation” time to refresh and recharge to be ready for the next day.
Next, take 10 minutes an hour or two before bed to write down your thoughts with the intention of setting them aside until the morning. This could be in any format, such as a To-Do list, full sentence diary-like writing, a problem-solution chart, drawing, etc.
Lastly, when you’re in bed, if your mind gets active gently put your thoughts aside acknowledging that you already took care of them, and can pick them up in the morning. Instead focus on slow breathing, a gratitude prayer, reviewing a gentle story or another activity that will help you fall asleep.”
Janis Isaman – My Body Couture
“As soon as you are able, get the data you need regarding your financial situation and get it on black and white, and in paper. You can’t change it while you sleep, so get the facts out on paper during the day.
“If you wake at night feeling anxious or stressed, turn on a Deepak Chopra meditation. Or repeat “inhale,” “Exhale” to yourself as you breathe. Breathing or meditating will downregulate you and hopefully allow you to drift back to sleep.”
David Ezell – Darien Wellness
“Write down all of your concerns and write in longhand don’t type or dictate them. Writing is a different neural process than thinking and you must organize and categorize thoughts as writing occurs. I think about the arm like a pipe, pouring anxiety and worry onto the page and relieving pressure.
“Don’t ignore the issue, no matter how big. Understanding eliminates fear. When we don’t know we can almost always imagine a worse scenario than the reality we face. One of my patients got a registred letter from the IRS and kept it for 8 days. Finally he opened it in the middle of the night and found that he had overpaid $8 and had credit. His insomnia disappeared.
“My patients frequently have money issues and one of the rules (and there are not many hard and fast rules in psychology) is observed behavior changes. The first step in observation is tracking EVERYTHING one spends money on. Every single dime. Two things happen instantly: it immediately makes purchases – especially ones done with plastic – tangible and nd in the long view it allows people to see where their money goes so they can implement more significant change. Having a handle on your money is the best sleep remedy of all.”
Every day, 264 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt.
How to cope with debt
When faced with financial troubles and debt, you may feel as though you’re stuck in a rut, but there are some ways that you can cope with your situation.
Face your fears
The sooner you face up to your debt, the sooner you can get on top of it. You may feel as though you want to bury your head in the sand, but ignoring the issue will only make it worse. Compile a list of all of the debts that you have, along with a list of your monthly income and outgoings, so that you’re fully aware of your situation. Knowing the exact details of your financial income and outgoings keeps you in control and can give you some peace of mind.
Stick to a budget
Budgeting is one of the most important factors when it comes to coping with debt. You may be surprised at how much money you can save each month by cutting costs here and there. If you’re a smoker: quit. If you go out to eat some nights of the week: stay in and cook at home. There are countless ways that you can make a budget work for you, so give it a go.
Live in the moment
Repaying your debt is likely to be a long journey, possibly taking months or even years. But don’t let your debt bring you down too much because you still have a life to lead and you are going to want to avoid as much stress as possible. If you immerse yourself in each moment instead of dwelling on the past or the future, it is proven that you will feel happier.
Get free advice
Struggling with debt can make people feel isolated, particularly because it can be difficult to talk to loved ones about money. It’s important that you don’t suffer in silence and that you realise that it is possible to get help, whether that be speaking to people you trust, or speaking to a debt charity such as StepChange to get free advice.
People who are struggling with debt are much more likely to develop a problem with alcohol, so don’t be another statistic – stay away from alcohol.
Get active and eat well
Exercising is a great way to get your body to produce those feel good endorphins which increase feelings of happiness. If you look after your mind and body with exercise and a healthy diet, you’ll be in higher spirits and will be more able to face up to your debt.
As of January 2017, people in the UK owe £1.52 trillion collectively.
What the finance experts say
We faced our finance experts with the question ‘what are the best ways to cope with financial stress?’, and here’s what they had to say…
Carrie Smith-Nicholson – Careful Cents
“Financial stress is something that I’ve personally dealt with and struggled with over the years. One thing I do to manage it successfully is to set aside 5-10 minutes a couple times a week to do a bit of meditation and breathing exercises. I remind myself of what I already have and am grateful for the savings and other goals I’ve reached.
“I also spend time reflecting on how my financial resources have increased since I was in my twenties. It helps to take just a couple minutes out of the day to put your money worries into perspective; they’re never quite as bad as they first seem!”
Robert White – StepChange Debt Charity
“Debt problems can be extremely stressful and they can affect people in many different ways. Three quarters of our clients have had trouble sleeping because of money worries and nearly half have been to see their GP as a result of physical or mental health problems caused by debt.
“If someone is worried about their finances and cannot sleep at night, it’s important that they act quickly. First, they should write down everything they owe and devise a realistic budget they can stick to, with a list of everything they have coming in and going out. They need to ensure they pay their essential bills first, including their rent or mortgage and Council Tax, with money set aside for heating their home and putting food on the table. Lastly, if they are struggling to keep up with their essential bills, or they are worried about their debts, they should take free, independent debt advice as soon as they can.
“By taking action quickly, they can regain control of their finances and begin to overcome the severe stress that debt can cause.”
“Set a goal. When you’re feeling stressed financially and it’s impairing your ability to sleep, it’s time to take action. The key to successful goal setting is identifying and admitting a certain behavior is a problem and choosing to change it. By outlining your goal and plan, you will alleviate some of the stress associated to worry about how you will ever overcome your financial problems. Write it down and keep your goal somewhere you will see it everyday to keep you motivated and accountable.
Be specific. “Spend less and save more” is something a lot of people need to do, but this goal is vague and undefined and will leave you with little direction. Get on the right track by determining what it means for you to spend less by analysing your financial accounts over the last several months. Where can you cut back? What purchases or buying habits are you willing to give up? Identifying a list of actionable items and writing down the concrete steps you need to follow to reach your ultimate goal will help you succeed.
Be reasonable. Being realistic about what you can accomplish will help you stay motivated and keep frustration at bay. For example, if you want to to pay down your student loan debt by £5,000 this year, determine how much you need to save each month and ensure it’s reasonable. You’ll quickly find out if squirreling away over £400 a month is realistic for you. If it’s not, determine a more practical goal including the amount of money you can comfortably set aside.
Start small. In your eagerness to reach your savings goal, you might start cutting every discretionary expense you can find. You’ll quickly find this level of austerity is not sustainable. It’s a lot easier to commit to a small-level change than a complete life overhaul. Start small and avoid failure by finding one or two easy behaviors to change until it becomes a new habit and move on from there. For example, if you typically dine out four times a week, try cutting it back to twice per week and put the amount you save towards your goal. Over time, your habits might make eliminating weekly take out a much more manageable task which will avoid you from burning out and giving up.
Track progress. An unmeasurable goal won’t allow you to track your degree of success and visualising your progress is essential for staying motivated. Use specific dates and numbers (like debt reduction and savings figures) to identify milestones you want to reach throughout the year. By reviewing your progress and realizing your success, you will feel inspired to continue working hard. Get help using online tools like Mint which lets you setup and monitor your savings goal, all while tracking your spending.
Repetition forms habits. Making a singular savings goal is great, but creating a lifelong habit should be your ultimate goal. One way to make your money-saving routine a habit is through repetition. Whether that means making your next day’s lunch as soon as you get home from work (to save on dining out) or checking for coupons before making a purchase online.”
Tracey Davies – Pay Plan
“Don’t ignore it. Take a deep breath and open documents. Try to share with partner – if not, work the things out and when organised, tell them.
Write out a list of everyone you owe money to – these are credit cards, loans, overdrafts, catalogues and your friendly doorstep lender. Write down exactly what you owe and what they are asking for in payments.
Write out your budget. This includes:
- The things you must pay for – the roof over your head, your council tax, your water rates and fuel bills plus TV licence to keep the roof over your head and to avoid any negative consequences. These are the basics you need to cover.
- Communications – telephone, mobile, internet access and any satellite or cable. Is there anything you could reduce? If there are cancellation charges – is it worthwhile keeping until contract ends or simpler to just cancel and repay rest of contract at a rate you can afford.
- Transport – without which you cannot get to work or do your shopping etc. Public transport? Do you have kids who need it to get to school? Car tax – work it out monthly so you have the money available next time.
- Car insurance.
- Some money for taking an MOT or servicing etc.
- Fuel – to get from A to B.
- Housekeeping and personal costs.
- Food – if you don’t eat, you are too weak to work.
- Cleaning house and laundry – you have a right to a clean house and clothes.
- Prescriptions – do you need the occasional one and have to pay, do you wear glasses so need things checked once a year, dentistry.
- Do you have a hobby – is it affordable?
- Do you have friends and like going out – think of alternatives to the pub…and coffee shops …
- Try writing down everything you spend for a while – is something not right? Keeping a track of what you spend is an exercise in itself and can help you move forward with plans.
- Open post when it arrives so you know where you are, keep an eye on bank statements and see if there are things there you are paying for that you do not need.
- Everyone has different priorities but the basics are always the same.
- Don’t bottle it up – exchange views on open forums anonymously. Be honest with yourself. Speak to your doctor if you cannot sleep due to the stress. Realization that you are not alone.
- Contact a free to client organisation such as PayPlan to help you with your debts if you cannot afford the minimum payments and end up using credit cards to make ends meet. There are always solutions.”
Kimberly Hershenson – Clinical Social Work/Therapist
“(1) Make a daily gratitude list by writing down 10 things you are grateful for. Anything from your family, legs to walk on, or reality TV. Focusing on what is good in your life as opposed to what is going wrong with your finances helps relieve anxiety around money.
“(2) Read affirmations every morning. Starting your day with positivity kick starts your day on the right foot.
“(3) Start a meditation practice. Search for guided meditation on YouTube or download a free app such as 10% happier (which teaches you meditation techniques)
“(4) Practice acceptance. Make a list of what you can control regarding your financial situation (asking for a payment plan, budgeting) and what you can’t control (your current debt, how much you owe in taxes). Focus on what you can control to make change and accept what you cannot control.
“(5) Reach out for help – whether this involves hiring a money manager or sitting down with a friend who is great at budgeting, don’t be afraid to lean on others for support to help you feel more secure around money.”
Sara Williams – Debt Camel
“Financial problems are a very common cause of poor sleep – it can be hard to stop figures and worries going round in your head. When you haven’t had a good night’s rest, it is even harder to concentrate on money decisions the next day!
“The first step to stopping this cycle is to face up to the problem by getting a list of your debts and bills. Even if it feels scary to open the envelopes and read the emails, it’s better than trying to ignore them.
“StepChange is a great place to go for advice on your options. Even if you don’t need a formal debt plan, sharing your situation with an expert can be very reassuring and they will have useful tips to help.”
Clive Williams – Sensible Debt Advice
“If debt is keeping you awake at night, speak to a regulated Debt Advisor as soon as possible. Your call will be in confidence, and you will not be telling them anything they haven’t heard many times before. That first step is the most difficult – but they will be able to help your situation very quickly and life gets better!”
Nick Pearson – The Det Counsellors
“My top tip would be that people suffering financial stress should seek free and independent debt advice as soon as possible. Go to this debt advice locator for details about free debt advice providers.”
It costs an average of £30.23 per day to raise a child from birth to the age of 21.
Who to turn to
When facing up to your financial worries, you may not know who to turn to. There is always someone that you can talk to, regardless of the day of the week or the time of day, and you may even be surprised at how much your family and friends will support you.
There are plenty of debt charities that can give you free advice and some even operate 24 hours a day.
Debt charities are able to offer you well informed support and advice on how best to tackle your financial situation – it can be really helpful to talk things through with someone who understands and is not judging you.
Family and friends
Many of us feel embarrassed when talking to family and friends about our money problems, but it’s still important to have a support system around us.
You may be pleasantly surprised at the support your friends and family can give you – they may have been in a similar situation themselves, or know someone who has, and may be able to offer you both long and short-term solutions and support.
Take matters into your own hands
Even though you may feel completely helpless, there are things that you can do to help yourself when you’re in times of great financial stress. If you seek out advice from debt charities or people close to you, it is essential that you act on it as soon as possible instead of burying your head in the sand.
Looking after yourself by getting plenty of sleep and exercise, along with eating properly, can ensure that you’re on top form to manage your money worries. Sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet play a huge role in lifting your mood.
It can also help to think positive; although your debt might be a long-term issue, it shouldn’t consume your life. Your money worries shouldn’t define you, and you should still be engaging in activities that you enjoy.
In the UK, the equivalent of 25 properties are repossessed every day.
If you’re struggling with the symptoms of lack of sleep, take a look at our post on how to cope and repay your sleep debt.