Friday, May 30, 2008

Coping With Financial Anxiety

The financial news these days is pretty bleak: The national average for a gallon of gasoline is roughly $4. The housing foreclosure crisis continues apace. And the U.S. dollar looks like spare change when compared with the pound, euro, or even the Canadian dollar! How the mighty have fallen, indeed.

Being surrounded by news of financial distress--not to mention the cold, hard facts of the prices at the pump and the supermarket--is bound to take a toll on one's feelings of financial security. Here's three ideas for helping quiet your financial anxiety.

1. Examine Your Budget. If you've never drawn up a budget before, start with that first. (It's easy to do if you limit your discretionary spending to credit cards.) Look where the money goes. Does the amount you spend raise your anxiety when compared with your income? Focus on the spending categories you can control. Some expenses may be difficult to reduce, like housing, groceries, or utilities, but others, such as entertainment, eating out, or clothing are easier to rein in. Put your savings into a "rainy day" fund or some such account that you can point to when financial anxiety will not stop nagging you.

2. Share Your Strength. You're a fantastic knitter, car repairer, cook, stitcher, gardener, dog walker, or caregiver. Why not barter your services in exchange for something a friend or acquaintance can do for you? (Personally, I would love to trade rhubarb for a pre-natal massage, but then, I gotta find someone who really loves the rhubarb. I've got a lot of rhubarb.) Bartering can help shave a bit off your expenses while allying you with someone else who's trying to make a go of it in this sluggish economy.

3. Talk to Someone. When financial anxiety will not keep quiet, it's helpful to talk to someone who can remind you of all your good financial practices and keep you focused on your budgetary goals. Talking to someone who shares your anti-financial anxiety stance can help keep your attention on the things you can control while letting go of the things you can't.

Coming Soon: Helping Children Cope in Tough Financial Times

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