We all know that money can’t buy happiness. But does that mean that money and happiness are not interconnected? Far from it. The lack of money, or financially caused stress, can be a primary factor in the loss of happiness. Does that mean that you can buy peace and well being? No. But it does mean that in order to be happy, you need to have your finances under control.
In October of 2008, About.com reported:
- Financial stress is a sadly widespread experience. According to apoll on this site, roughly 7 in 10 respondents are “very stressed” about money, and only 1 in 10 report that they are not stressed about finances — and the proportion of people stressed about money is only going up.
In addition, the article goes on to explain that financial stress then impacts numerous other areas of your life, including sleep and health issues. Do you overeat? Perhaps it is because you are financially stressed. Do you have trouble sleeping? Maybe you need to get your finances under control. Do you find yourself angry, sad, or depressed? Have you considered it may be financial stress causing you this unnecessary harm?
It is time to stop being stressed about your finances.
Make More Money
How are you going to stop worrying about your financial problems? Just make some more money. All you need to do is make a few more dollars here and there, and then you’ll be fine, right? Most of us are operating on a pretty tight budget. So we figure that if we just make another $500 a month, we’ll have tons of room to feel less stressed.
Here’s the problem with that solution. Making more money means more work. Sure you can try to work smarter, or work for a greater wage, but in the end, if you want to make more money, you need to expend more energy. You need to put in overtime hours, you need to get a part time job, or you need to start freelancing on the side. And you know what, if you’re drowning in debt, this might not even be an option. You have to. But the more time you spend working, and the less time you spend with your family, friends, and yourself, the more stressed your going to be. You can’t outwork your financial stress.
A second problem. Between lifestyle inflation and the need to “reward” yourself for working so hard, the extra money you make will probably just disappear. If you spend less time with your spouse because you’re working extra hours, you may have to spend some of that money making it up to them. If you are suddenly not seeing your kids very often, they might “deserve” a few more presents here and there. And if you’re making an extra thousand dollars every month, then you can afford that new house/car/yacht that you’ve always wanted – which will reduce your stress levels on its own, right?
Micromanage Every Dollar
Ok, so maybe you can’t outwork your financial stress. You just need to be smarter about your money. So instead of making more money, you’re going to maximize your dollar. You sit down and work up a budget, a spending plan, and set goals for yourself. You watch your grocery shopping like a hawk, you coupon clip like a madman, and you choke the life out of your TV, internet, and cell phone bills. You negotiate your credit card interest rates down, you get a rent reduction and you limit yourself to one Popsicle every six weeks. You manage to make some breathing room in your budget – but all of a sudden, you realize that you’ve actually been choking yourself.
While there is a huge benefit to trimming the excess fat of your monthly expenses, you can’t out frugal your way out of stress either. Restricting yourself to the tiniest of pleasures and eliminating any expense other than the absolutely necessary will slowly clamp down on you living your life as you mean to enjoy it. Not only that, but micromanaging your money takes up a lot of time. Time you could be spending watching a movie, relaxing with you kids, or pursuing your passions. Time that you shouldn’t be wasting balancing checkbooks and logging receipts.
Life is meant for living, and life is meant for enjoying, and if you are so worried about every dollar that you spend that you are paralyzed, then something needs to change.
So what’s the solution? What’s the way out?
Serenity is a simple word that is defined as “the absence of mental stress or anxiety”. Imagine, being free from stress. Being free from anxiety. Being free from the financial strain that is currently your life. The good news is that this is not a get rich quick scheme. Even better, you can have it today.
Take these simple steps
Right now, just stop. Take a minute and stop. Stop checking your bank account balance, stop counting your change, stop rifling through your bills, receipts, and coupons. Just stop.
Stopping will do two things. It will slow everything down for you. Life in our North American consumer society is going so fast that everything has become a blur. The corporations want it to become a blur so that they can profit on your disorientation. So just stop. Nothing will fall, nothing will break, no disaster will come of you taking a break. So stop already. Stop searching for quick money, stop looking for the lottery, stop wondering when you will be able to live the life you always dreamed of. Stop.
Stopping will also allow you the time to focus. Stop doing what others tell you to, and think about what you really want to do. What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to be? How are you going to get there? What do you need in life? What are the essentials? What can do you without?
Take a breath. Breathe. Air in, air out, and repeat.
Take a few minutes to really concentrate on what you need. Food, shelter, clothes. Friends, family, love. Establish a bare minimum. The house you’re living in – could you be content with less? The restaurants you eat out at – could you go less often? What’s your absolute minimum? Does it depress you? Probably. My bare minimum depresses me.
So what do you need to be happy. Really and trully happy. A bigger house? No chance. While it might increase your happiness temporarily, you will grow into it and will return to the same level of happiness as before. More money? Doubtful. The more money you have, the more stress it puts on you. Losing $10 sucks, losing $100 is worse, losing $10,000 or $10 million could cost you your life. The more you have, the more you can lose, the more stress and strain is on you. So what do you want? A fulfilling job? A short commute? A close group of friends? How much money could that really cost? You might already have enough.
So breathe. Because your financial situation – as bad as it may seem, or feel, or look – isn’t as bad as you think it is. Everything is possible to overcome. So breathe.
Now you know what you want. You just have to figure out how to get it. Want an emergency fund? No problem. Want to be able to retire? Piece of cake. Every problem has a solution, it just needs a plan on how to get there. A word of warning, however. You can’t plan your way to fame. You can’t plan your way to unbelievable riches. That’s okay though, because that’s not what Serenity is about. Serenity is not on the front page of newspapers, and Serenity is not the most well known person on your block. Serenity is quiet, calm, and peaceful – and very rarely seen.
So plan to achieve Serenity by taking your large goal and breaking it into a number of smaller goals. Want to retire in 20 years? Break that down into 5 year chunks, 1 year chunks, and 1 month chunks. How much should you put aside this week in order to retire in 20 years?
Then set it and forget it. If you have your online bank account all you have to do is set up your online account to pull a set amount of money each week, or each paycheck, or each month, from your regular account into the online account.
And then, you’re done. Relax. Share a pint with some friends. In 20 years you can retire, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. For each goal or dream of passion you have, just repeat the process. Stop. Breathe. Plan. Automate.
Have too many goals and not enough money? Prioritize. Pick which one (or ones) is the most important to you, and get rid of the rest. You don’t need a new house, new car, new shoes, new friends, a vacation every year all while working 4 hours a week as an artist in your New Year Penthouse studio. You don’t. That won’t make you happy, you know it and I know it.