Whether it’s due to student loans, rising rents or our love of brunch and impulse shopping, millennials are saving less than any generation before. Surveys show 7 out 10 millennial employees constantly have a balance on their credit cards and 45% are forced to use these to pay for monthly necessities. Debt is not just an inconvenience, it can lead to stress, sleepless nights and depression. 48% of young people say their finances is the number one cause of stress in their lives.
If checking your bank balance gives you anxiety or you find your card is getting declined soon after payday, maybe it’s time to look at the state of affairs. Being in control of your finances may not sound sexy but it is in fact an act of self-care. Plus less debt and more discipline for a short while means, that holiday or handbag you’ve been yearning for becomes a little less out of reach.
Face the facts
The first step in reducing your financial stress is admitting you have a problem. Hiding from debt will not make it go away, in fact it’s likely to grow. Write down your monthly outgoings, direct debits and any debts you may owe. Evaluate which are non-negotiable and which are luxuries. Can you go now to a financial service and see if you can consolidate your debts or refinance them into a more workable solution? Talk to a financial expert and work out a realistic budget. Don’t be too harsh as you won’t stick to it and find a budget app to keep you in check. Small changes will make a big difference, for example turning your daily coffee habit into a Friday treat.
Speak to someone
You are not the first, nor will you be the last person to deal with money worries. You may be embarrassed but opening up to someone will take a weight off your mind. A trusted friend or family member may be able to offer you a fresh perspective. If you would rather talk to a stranger, try Samaritans, BetterHelp, a therapist, life coach or your local Mind branch.
Identify your triggers
It is likely that the motivation you now feel may ebb if you’ve had a bad day. Acknowledge situations that cause you to overspend and take away the option to fail. Simple hacks include: not taking your card out on a night out, deleting your card details from ASOS, taking your credit card out of your purse and removing the Uber app from your phone. If you know that you love junk food on a hangover, plan to spend less on dinner earlier in the week.
Don’t beat yourself up
It may be tempting to become angry with yourself for getting into this position. Questions such as ‘why was I so stupid’ and ‘why did I let it get this far’ are likely to come up. Counsellor and life coach Dr Mariette Jansen says these questions only “aggravate stress” and “even when you get the answer, it doesn’t change the current situation.”
Focus on the now
Try not to focus on the stress and learn to be in the moment. You cannot change your past decisions and the worst case scenario you are imagining isn’t here yet. It is also unlikely to happen as you are taking action! Just focus on what you can change about your spending right now. Thinking about negative ‘what ifs’ only “takes you into a dark, worrying and negative future. It invites the negative outcomes and creates a chain of negativity”, says Mariette.
Be aware of your emotions
The practice of ‘mindfulness’ is proven to combat over thinking and reduce anxiety. Mariette suggests training your mind by doing regular mindfulness meditations, which can be found on apps such as Headspace. If you are feeling overwhelmed, she encourages you to “feel how emotions are manifesting in your body (shoulders, neck, stomach), pay attention and connect with that [negative] energy before you do an exercise of releasing it.” Breathing into these areas will allow the tension to melt away.
Learn a new way to treat yourself
Find a new way to de-stress that does not involve spending; run a bath with candles, listen to a podcast or cuddle a pet. Mariette recommends doing “physical exercise to allow endorphins [to be] produced and imagine they are like little pacmans, racing through your veins and eating all your stress hormones”. Whether it’s running outside or dancing round your bedroom, there are plenty of ways to keep fit for free.
Remember you won’t feel like this or have this debt forever, you can do this. For more support with stress, find an accredited life coach in your area.