Most of us have been there – more bills are landing on the doormat, one of your child’s birthdays is looming or the car breaks down, and you can’t see how your income will cover your outgoings.
The most important thing to remember in this situation is that you aren’t alone. The UK debt charity Step Change had over 650,000 people contact them in 2018 with debt concerns. And in the first six months of 2019, over 330,000 people contacted them about money worries.
Money matters and mental health
Not only can financial difficulties cause worry, upset and sleepless nights, they can also lead to anxiety, low mood and mental health disorders. Unfortunately, it can be a vicious cycle – money worries impact mental health, but those with poor mental health often find managing money harder.
If you’re struggling financially, month in month out, and especially if those pressures are causing health issues, it’s time to start taking steps to sort them out. These three steps might help get the ball rolling.
1. Understand the main issues
Write down all your outgoings. This can help you work out where and when you’re spending too much money. Are there any aspects of your life where you could cut back?
2. Talk it through
Many people bottle up financial worries for fear of judgement or embarrassment. But talking it through with a family member or close friend can help unload the weight that’s hanging over you. There are also financial charities on hand to offer advice on many aspects of money and debt. See our ‘Helpful contacts’ at the bottom of this article.
If financial difficulties are causing stress, anxiety or depression, see your GP. Getting the right support if you’re experiencing mental health issues is another step to being able to manage your finances clearly and rationally.
If you’re struggling to pay a bill, don’t ignore it. Call the respective company and be honest with them. Most organisations and companies will be able to offer payment plans or extensions.
Also, your place of work will most likely have specialist teams that can offer support and advice and may even have schemes to help with financial issues.
3. Get organised
Sometimes, simply putting aside an hour or so to organise your paperwork, bills and documents can make you feel more in control. If you’re clear on what you need to pay and where your documents are, you’re in a better place to create an action plan.
Everyday ways to save the pennies
The saying goes “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” And there is some truth in it. Try some of these small changes to help keep both you and your purse strings healthy.
Adjust your commute. Is there a cheaper way to get to work? Could you cycle or walk all or part of your journey? This is not only a good way to fit exercise into your day, but it could be cheaper than taking the bus or car.
If you need to travel by train to work, it can be costly. Buying an annual ticket can save you hundreds in the long run, and most larger companies offer season ticket loans to help you make the initial purchase.
Get creative with leftover food. The fridge may look bare, but it’s surprising what you can create with a bit of thought.
- Vegetables that are starting to look a bit old are still fine for soups – healthy, filling and warming.
- Over ripe fruit can be blended into a tasty smoothie or used in baking. Very ripe bananas can make delicious banana bread.
- Raid the tin cupboard. All you need is a tin of tuna or baked beans to add to a jacket potato for a filling, healthy meal.
- Cook in batches. Try to make a bit more than you plan to eat. You can then freeze half for another day, or you can take the leftovers to work for lunch the following day.
Limit eating out. It’s difficult to turn down an invite to join friends or work colleagues for dinner. But eating out can be costly and alcohol can push the bill up even further. Instead, save dining out for special occasions and invite friends over for a dinner party.
Ditch your gym membership. If you aren’t using the gym that often, but pay for the privilege, think about how you can stay active for less.
- Pay-as-you-go exercise classes mean you’ll only fork out for those you can attend.
- Running outdoors is free and can do wonders for your mental health. Head to parks, green spaces and scenic routes to improve both your mood and health without any cost.
- If you love going to the gym, look for cheaper monthly gym memberships elsewhere. Some gyms may be more basic with fewer facilities but have equally as good equipment.
Small changes can make a bit difference in the long term to your finances. Habits can be hard to break but thinking about each aspect of your life and where you can save could help reduce your overall outgoings.
If things are getting out of control and you can’t see a way forward, the following organisations are there to offer free advice and support.