Not many people on planet Earth like to admit to struggling with money problems. They would rather ignore them, than figure out how to solve them.
Call it pride, call it whatever you would like, people hate to concede they are bad stewards of their money. Even worse, even fewer seek help until it is too late. All because money shame is a real thing.
Now, if any of you have been there, you know the feeling. It’s that awful pit in your stomach type feeling you get when you know you just made a bad financial decision, but you're stuck with the consequences.
You swear to yourself you will not make a similarly bad decision again, only to repeat it just a few months later.
The blame game starts. You look to explain away your money problems as if the “system” is rigged against you. And while that may be true, there are more than likely a few lifestyle choices on your end of things that are holding you back, financially speaking.
For a minute though let’s assume that we ourselves are entirely to blame for our own financial difficulties. Are there spots we could improve? Most likely there are.
Sometimes the needed changes are obvious. Other times poor financial choices are ingrained in our personality — in who we are.
4 Easy-to-Fix Lifestyle Causes of Your Money Problems
Today I want to look at four leaky lifestyle choices (that we have control over), how they impact our spending decisions, and how we can score easy wins when it comes to common causes of our money problems.
1. You Binge Spend
Every year I hear about these mythical people smart enough to save throughout the entire year for the gift-buying bonanza that is the winter holiday season. And every year I think, Hey! I should do that! But I never really get around to doing it.
Instead I end up guilty of spending a ton of money, in a really short amount of time, without really having planned for it. Christmas, a big vacation, an unexpected car repair — these are all things we know are coming, yet very seldom actually save for.
Fixing this problem is simple: Get serious about regularly putting aside money each month during the first 11 months of the year.
Think of each monthly deposit as an immediate victory, as opposed to a bigger, delayed victory when you’re working overtime to put away extra money and you finally get a single big paycheck.
By doing this, you’re actually playing into a natural cognitive bias known as hyperbolic bias. It works like this: The sustained satisfaction of saving consistently, and visualizing your progress, trumps larger but delayed payouts. In other words, take a moment each month to revel in the glory of your saving.
One smart way I’ve seen people start saving for specific things is with this nifty little app called Rize. It allows you to set specific goals, like if you want to buy a particular item, and then it tracks your progress as you start saving for them. It’s basically a high-yield savings account, except way cooler.
Their rates typically exceed the national average for most savings accounts. (No, really! At approximately 1.43-percent APR they’re 25 times higher.) Plus, the user interface is ultra-sleek. With automatic deposits and a free $5 bonus for signing up, you can do a mini happy dance each time a little bit of money hits your account.
Think about how much less stressful the holidays will be later when you’ve already won the savings game today.
2. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
Before we talk about working out as a way to stop worrying about money, I want to briefly touch on how sleep can have its own bevy of benefits.
There are oodles (that’s a technical term) of scientific studies showing that a lack of sleep is linked to obesity, lifespan and longevity, memory, concentration, mood, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Cognitively speaking, when you don’t get enough sleep, you have fewer resources available to process stressors.
The opposite is true when adults are well-rested. When we get adequate sleep:
- Emotion regulation is stronger.
- Self-control is better.
- Working memory is sharper.
Taken together, that means more sleep equips you to cope with stress and worry in a healthy way.
Arianna Huffington is on a mission to help Americans learn about sleep and why we need more of it. Do you ever think you might literally keel over from stress (about money or otherwise)? Well, in the midst of her booming career, Huffington did.
She fell and hit her head on a desk because she was so deliriously sleep-deprived, stressed, and overworked. It took a come-to-Jesus moment for her to realize she needed to make time for her own well-being.
Even though her major stressor wasn’t primarily money, the principle still translates. If you take better care of yourself, you're better equipped to shut down unfruitful worry in your life.
3. You Don’t Exercise
Besides the low back pain associated with those extra pounds, your lack of exercise is hurting you in another place: your wallet.
Sedentary lifestyles directly correlate with increased incidences of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. To add insult to injury, all three appear on a list of the top 10 most expensive reasons for hospital admission.
At more than $15,000 per hospital admission, having a once in a lifetime battle (negating future re-admissions) with these conditions is enough to completely ruin many people financially.
Putting resolution trends aside, the psychological, social, and physical perks of routine exercise cannot be overstated.
Feeling stressed about a bill? Go for a run. Unsure of what to do after an unexpected expense completely drained your life savings? Queue up that YouTube HIIT video.
There's no right or wrong answer here. Just being active releases endorphins, elevates your mood, and provides focus. To let go of money-related stress through exercise, the key is to prioritize time to do something you enjoy, and then do it regularly.
Furthermore, getting in 30 to 60 minutes of cardio several times a week doesn’t have to be a big financial investment. There are plenty of affordable ways to work out that don’t break the bank.
Budget-Friendly Workout Ideas:
- Get paid to lose weight.
- YouTube has quality workout videos for all types of exercise.
- Walking your dog is a classic way to get in 45 minutes.
- Doing a circuit from a Pinterest printable in your living room is free.
- iTunes has free guided workouts.
- Take advantage of gym trial memberships. They're often discounted or free this time of year.
- Ask friends for “buddy passes” at their gym to test drive classes.
- Do strength training with your baby.
- Get in 30 minutes of steps in place at your desk and 2,000 more on an afternoon walk around the office.
- Inquire about membership discounts for assistant teaching. (For example, my yoga studio offers a free unlimited membership perk.)
In 2017, I managed to form something resembling a habit. Finally. Yoga has been instrumental in helping me manage my stress, and that includes the perk of being more clear-headed about my finances from week to week.
4. You’ve Got the Wrong Mindset
One of the worst things you can do when you find yourself in a sticky money situation is to ignore the problem. And yet that’s what most of us do. Talk about counterintuitive.
Instead of ignoring your money problems, bring them to the forefront of your mind.
Visualize the exact steps you’re going to take and then make them happen. One way to achieve just that is through meditation. It may sound silly, but hear me out.
The benefits of meditation are similar to those from sleep and exercise. Focus, attention, stress management, and increased compassion are a few of the benefits associated with this ancient-turned-fashionable practice.
In fact, monks, from whom the practice of meditation originates, are so skilled they can neurologically alter their heart rate. Fascinating, right? If they can enter and maintain a peaceful trance for hours or days on end, maybe they’re onto something!
Great Options for Beginner Meditators:
- Headspace describes itself as a “personal meditation guide, right in your pocket.” That’s perfect for beginners! Headspace lets you set up a basic membership to test-drive some features. Full-feature membership fees range from $5.83 to $12.99 per month.
- Have you ever tried a guided group workout on YouTube? Why pay for an expensive workout program when there is a variety of free content available online. If you’re a beginner and want to explore different types of meditation or different instructor styles, this is a great place to start.
- Meditation workbooks are also great for learning core techniques of meditation to take them into the wild of everyday life on your own.
- When I first went to a meditation workshop in grad school, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, even though I knew the science of mindfulness was sound. It’s an integral part of cognitive-behavioral therapies these days, and it’s commonly integrated into modern yoga practices.
Take breaks throughout the day to come back into the present moment and let go of your money-related stress.
Your Money Problems Probably Won’t Disappear Overnight
Start small. Sleeping, exercising, meditating, and pre-saving for large expenses are but a few ways we can reduce our worry about money.
Choose one item on the list and start working on it today.
Addressing just one thing will boost your confidence, and have you feeling more ready to tackle anything that comes your way.
This article originally appeared on DollarSprout.