Taking time to care for your body and mind is crucial for your overall health. Whether it’s sipping a green smoothie, doing yoga or reading a drugstore paperback in the bathtub, a good self-care routine prevents illness and injuries and promotes a general sense of wellbeing.
But one area of self-care that you might be neglecting? Your finances.
Especially now, amid a global pandemic that’s turned people’s financial lives upside down, it’s crucial to reclaim some control over your financial life.
“Focusing on your finances is a form of self-care,” said Jamila Souffront, a Digital Federal Credit Union partner and budgeting expert. She explained that money can be an overwhelming part of people’s lives, especially when it feels like there’s more going out than coming in. Incorporating money management into an overall self-care routine can help restore a sense of order.
The Money-Mind Connection
Even though we engage with money daily, it’s a huge part of our overall well-being that is rarely discussed, according to Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a financial therapist.
Our financial situation can have a major impact on our mental health and overall happiness. One survey by Bankrate found that 48% of U.S. adults lose sleep over money worries. The biggest culprit was everyday expenses, followed by saving enough for retirement and health care or insurance bills.
Studies have also found there’s a correlation between money and happiness, which has only grown stronger over the years.
“Anyone who says money doesn’t buy happiness is a person who hasn’t truly experienced the stress of not having money,” Bryan-Podvin said. “It’s really hard to focus on relaxing, self-care or restoration when a person is worried about paying their bills.”
But money doesn’t just affect your mind. There are real physical consequences of financial struggles, too. Not having enough money can mean being unable to afford important health procedures, medications or nutritious foods. Plus, stressing over money can cause high blood pressure, stomach issues, headaches and even increase the risk of stroke.
Ways To Practice Financial Self-Care
That doesn’t mean your money woes can be wiped away with a simple self-care routine. Just as drinking a green smoothie won’t reverse years of poor diet and exercise, spending a few minutes on your budget won’t catapult you out of poverty.
That said, money management is an essential part of self-care, and making small changes over time can help you get to a more comfortable place. “It’s not nearly as glamorous or fun as long bath sessions, but having your money in order can free up time and energy and help you avoid stress,” said Melanie Lockert, host of the Mental Health and Wealth show and founder of MentalHealthandWealth.com.
When you’re mired in debt, she said, you’re anxious and stressed that part of your paycheck automatically belongs to someone else. “It can also make people feel stuck or limit their life choices because of money.” Being able to cover your bills and know you can put food on the table enhances feelings of security and safety.
So if you want to incorporate money management into your self-care routine, here’s how to start.
Before you jump head-first into your finances, Souffrant said you should first take an inventory of your situation. Make a list of all your accounts and where they’re located. If you owe money, what’s the balance and interest rate?
Putting together this inventory is the first step in getting a handle on things, according to Souffrant. But you don’t have to go big and overwhelm yourself.
“It doesn’t mean you’re going to sit down and do everything at once,” she said. “It can be as simple as getting the logins for your bank accounts and going from there.”
To incorporate money into your self-care, Lockert said you should set aside time and create a routine. For example, every Sunday, she spends 20 minutes reviewing her personal checking and savings accounts, business checking and savings accounts, credit card, PayPal account and expenses. Doing so, she said, gives her a sense of control and a snapshot of what’s going on with her money.
Does your bank treat you more like a dollar sign than a person? If so, it could contribute to an overall sense of dread when dealing with money.
“Financial institutions have a lot to do with how you manage your money,” Souffrant said. So if your current bank nickels and dimes you or fails to address your concerns, consider making the switch to a community bank or credit union. These smaller institutions are more invested in the local community and helping customers thrive, and are often known for fewer fees and better interest rates.
“Not only how you manage your money, but who you manage it with, is important,” Souffrant added.
Look for ways to improve cash flow.
During these tough times, you might be carrying more debt than usual. And that’s OK ― you don’t have to wipe out your debt overnight. As part of your financial self-care routine, look for ways to chip away at it instead.
For example, consider refinancing to a lower interest rate. If you have any bank accounts that charge monthly fees, switch to a fee-free version and apply the savings to your debt.
Automate as much as possible.
Managing money is much less stressful when you don’t have to think about it all the time. Automation can help with this. For example, Lockert suggested setting up Google calendar reminders to pay certain bills.
“When possible, I would also set up autopay to ensure I don’t forget a payment (and keep track of the balance so I don’t overdraft),” she added.
And to take away some of the pain of saving money, set up an automatic transfer from each paycheck to a savings account. It doesn’t have to be a lot ― even $20 at a time adds up.
Finally, Podvin recommends giving yourself a regular allowance for rewards, such as a weekly latte or monthly massage. It’s about taking care of yourself, after all, not living a life of restriction. Make sure you budget for things that bring you joy.