January is Financial Wellness Month. Money worries can have a big impact, physically, mentally, and socially. It can affect the best of us, no matter how resilient.
It comes at the perfect time after many of us have overspent during the festive season, providing an opportunity to get a hold of our finances and plan for the year ahead.
But it’s fair to say that most of us could benefit from finding more ways to manage our finances across the board, with 52% of UK adults feeling stressed or overwhelmed about their finances for several reasons, including debt and upcoming expenses.
So, what can you do to help relieve the pressure and improve your financial wellbeing?
Have a chat
Sharing a worry with a listening, empathetic ear can often reduce (financial) mountains to molehills. You can also compare notes and find the cheapest places to shop or ways to save that you never thought of.
Take an inventory of your finances
To get a full picture of the state of your finances, start compiling your bank statements:
- Note how much you receive monthly
- Make a list of any debts – from missed bills to a tenner you owe a friend
- Categorise your outgoings. Grab a highlighter to differentiate between essential expenses and “nice to haves.” Are these ones you can cut down on?
- Look at your spending habits. Do you spend when you feel low or bored? Try to consider doing something else that keeps you away from the shops/computer when you feel that way
- Consider switching to a lower rate credit card
- Pay off your debts before saving
- Review your providers (mobile, electricity, insurance, etc) and consider moving to a cheaper one
- See if you are eligible for government support. Look at Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills - Citizens Advice and make sure you select your country.
Make a budget
There are many tools available. These are two good ones:
- Work out your budget - Citizens Advice
- Budget Planner | Free online budget planning tool | MoneyHelper
Set an achievable goal
A goal could be a holiday in six months, a new suit or a golfing weekend. You can put any spare change into a jar or open a “rounding-up” bank account. The money will soon build up and you will feel more positive with a goal in mind.
If your debt problems are more serious, the charity StepChange can advise you on how to make a debt management plan and more. They will be able to advise a range of options such as consolidation/ moving bad debt, etc that are outside the understanding of those without specific expertise.
Take action on stress
Stick to healthy habits:
- What we eat has a direct impact on our mood and wellbeing. Make sure you eat your five a day and follow the Eatwell Plan. There are cheap and cheerful options.
- Keep your alcohol intake to a minimum – drinking can make stress and worries bigger rather than smaller – and it’s expensive!
- Keep active. Going for a walk or run is free and there are lots of online apps you can use to make sure you keep on track.
Kill off bad habits
If you know there is an issue that is adding to your financial concerns such as gambling, addiction, excessive alcohol use or obsessive spending – don’t bury your head in the sand.
Seek expert help to address your problems – there are many groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, where you can meet others who have successfully addressed the same problems you face. Everybody needs to start somewhere and admitting there is an issue is the important first step.
Also, speak with your GP surgery if you find you are getting stressed. They may be able to provide advice, guidance or counselling.
It can be incredibly empowering to take back control of your finances and agree a realistic plan to get back on track. Doing nothing where there are concerns is never the best option.
If you feel you need expert help, you can speak to your EAP if you have one or consider these options:
- Citizens Advice: The site covers a wide range of topics including getting help with the cost of living, getting help with bills, how to manage debt and more
- StepChange Debt Charity - Free Expert Debt Advice.: has a range of tools and guidance to help you get on top of your money worries
- Moneyhelper which is a searchable site full of financial wellbeing tools: Use our debt advice locator | MoneyHelper
Quick tip: If overspending in December is becoming a yearly routine for you, why not try saving up now? It may seem like a lifetime away yet, but if your budget can stretch to putting away small amounts every month, you’ll have an entire year’s worth of savings next year, without putting too much pressure on your bank account. You’ll thank yourself later!