Canadians are stressed about finances, to the point of physical and mental distress. If you’re one of the 74% of our members who say they are experiencing major stress as a result of the current situation, or one of the 30% who are losing sleep, you understand the physical and emotional toll on your quality of life.
As the period of self-isolation continues there is also a larger percentage of Canadians who are finding themselves unemployed or living with reduced income.
Although financial stress is always present, finding ways to cope now is becoming increasingly important. We’ve got some tips to help you tackle some of your biggest worries.
Step 1: Make a Plan
It may feel overwhelming, but getting an idea of where you stand, and creating a budget, is a big step to stop worrying about money. If you’ve been avoiding checking your bank account and credit card balances, it’s time to take a deep breath and take a look.
Why does avoiding your financial situation have such an impact on stress? Therapist Vivian Zhang from our friends at Shift Collab explains, “financial stress can be scary because it can activate our catastrophic thinking.” This means that our minds automatically jump to the worst-case scenario instead of looking at all the options and solutions. Zhang recommends you “check and see what your financial status is. It might be helpful to create a financial status log where you write down how much money you currently have, what you owe, what supports might be available.”
If you haven’t checked to see what government options are available, you can see some of the federal and provincial programs here.
Step 2: Weigh Your Options
Now that you have an idea of your situation, you can reasonably see what might need to change. If you’re having a hard time paying the bills, you need to tackle your expenses first, then income.
Start with the things you could live without, then you can see what you can do to reduce your monthly payments. There are options available for those facing financial stress, like payment deferrals, refinancing, debt consolidation or loan modification. Just make sure you make informed decisions that are right for your long term financial goals and situation.
If you know you need to earn more, maybe it’s time to consider heading back to school, taking some online training, or searching for a higher paying job.
You can also look at sites that allow you to earn money through gig or freelance work on your own schedule. You can check out our list here.
Change is never easy, but feeling stuck is much worse. Try making small changes at first, before you make any major ones. That way, you’ll ease yourself into positive changes without adding extra stress.
Step 3. Educate Yourself
Knowledge breeds confidence. By taking the time to learn more about your finances, you’ll feel empowered and build the skills to make better decisions about your future.
Calm your fears and tackle your biggest financial worries like:
Reducing debt (credit card, student loans etc)
Understanding credit reports (what makes up a credit score?)
Saving/qualifying for a mortgage
Making progress toward long-term and short-term financial goals: take a course on managing your finances and budgeting (Sign-up for our credit 101)
Achieving financial freedom: research retirement savings options
Building an emergency fund
Step 4. Shut Down Financial Shame and Guilt
Money stress leads to powerlessness and feelings of shame, which can sometimes cause us to hide our struggles from our loved ones.
Talk about it. Having frank discussions with family or a partner can help you create a plan of action together. There are also lots of support options available, including access to certified therapists through video conferencing, to make you feel like you’re not isolated and struggling alone. For example, online resources like Maple provide access to licensed psychotherapists and psychiatrists ready to help you navigate these stressful times straight from the comfort of your own living room.
Step 5: Celebrate Small Wins
Tracking your progress and celebrating small wins can alleviate stress by helping you feel more optimistic and confident about your future. Change is hard, but seeing that your effort is paying-off can be both mentally and emotionally rewarding.
A great place to start is by checking your credit score and report. Your score is an important indicator of your financial health and is used by banks and lenders to assess your creditworthiness – so it’s something you should be paying attention to. Your credit report is also important to check often because it can give you insight into why your score is the way it is.
The Bottom Line
Worrying solves very little and losing sleep won’t help you pay back debt, build an emergency fund, or save for retirement. Instead, take that energy and use it to push past your fears, get educated about your money, and step confidently toward financial resilience and healthy habits.