Thinking about my $33,000 student loan from grad school, my rent, my car insurance, Christmas gifts and unpaid vacation (because I work for myself) doesn’t make me jump for joy.
This is something they never teach you in school: how to make good financial decisions even when you’re under financial pressure.
Because let’s face it: bills are never going to disappear. The only thing we can change is the way we respond to them.
The cost of NOT remaining calm under financial pressure
In his book Turn It Up, Jeffrey Spencer says that feeling overwhelmed is similar to action paralysis and kills any initiatives to complete tasks.
Feeling overwhelmed is the oldest excuse in the book, he writes; it’s a protective mechanism—fear manifesting itself in a different manner.
What’s the cost of feeling overwhelmed?
1. Avoidance behavior. When you’re overwhelmed about your finances, the last thing you want to do is look at your financial situation, so you’ll find a way—any way!—to avoid your finances.
2. Increased debt. It’s easy to lose track of spending and other expenses when you feel overwhelmed, because something as simple as checking your bank balance or drafting your budget feels like too much, which only worsens the situation.
3. Bad investment decisions. To make good investments, you have to be willing to do the research and understand your financial needs, which is difficult to do when you’re avoiding them.
4. Procrastinating. Overwhelm over money leads to action paralysis with your finances and leaves you feeling lost.
How to remain calm under pressure and eliminate financial overwhelm
We feel overwhelmed about our finances when we lump all our financial problems under one umbrella without taking the time to deal with each one individually.
So, how can you eliminate financial overwhelm?
1. Use the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule). This principle states that 20 percent of something is always responsible for 80 percent of the results.
Not all of the actions you have on your to-do list will improve your finances. To be more productive, prioritize the actions that’ll make the greatest impact on your finances.
For me, that action is earning more money (rather than frugality) so that I can pay off my student loans faster and focus on my entrepreneurial ventures.
2. Break up your financial vision into quarterly goals. It’s not enough to say you want financial freedom. Define what financial freedom looks like to you.
Become clear on what you want financially: extra income, more investments, more savings or no debt. Trying to meet all of these financial goals all at once will leave you feeling overwhelmed. Instead, choose the goal you feel most passionate about now and focus on achieving that one.
When you become clear about what you want to achieve, the actions you need to take to make that a reality will become very clear. See the vision and then take the ONE action that will bring you closer to that vision. Clarity makes taking action a breeze.
3. Focus on your strengths and delegate the rest. You become overwhelmed when you try to do everything yourself.
Get to know yourself. Know what you’re good at, and delegate the tasks you’re not good at. For five bucks, you can hire someone on Fiverr to do the things you’re not good at.
4. Budget and automate your expenses. Eliminate decision-making fatigue by budgeting and automating monthly expenses or bills.
I even go so far as to draw up a monthly grocery list so I know exactly what to buy every month. This saves me time and money.
5. Meditate. Neuro-science research by Dr. Kabat-Zinn has shown that meditation shifts brain activity to the left frontal lobe, which makes meditators calmer and happier. The research also shows that people who meditate produce less cortisol (the stress hormone) than people who don’t meditate.
How do you cope with financial overwhelm?
Vangile Makwakwa is a money coach and writer who’s passionate about wealth building and changing the way people feel about money. She is the author of Heart, Mind & Money: Using Emotional Intelligence for Financial Success.