They say that money doesn’t make you happy, and that’s true to an extent, but try telling this to someone with financial anxiety. I remember when my money worries were at their worst, I’d had to give up my flat in London and move to Bristol to couch surf with a friend for a few months. Money was all I could think of during that time, wondering when my next paycheck would come, when I’d be able to get out of my overdraft and fix my spiralling debts. It was an incredibly stressful time in my life, and money definitely would have made me happier. But I did get through it, and I did find a way to alleviate my financial anxiety to allow me to focus on other things.
Lockdown has triggered financial worries for a lot of people and we all find ourselves in very different circumstances. I also know that money is still a taboo subject that can be difficult to talk about, so I wanted to share the practical tips and tricks that have helped me along the way.
Print out your last few statements and make a list of all your outgoings.
Whenever I find myself starting to worry about money, it’s usually because I feel a lack of control with both my outgoings and incomings. By printing out your statements and writing down your outgoings, it gives you an immediate sense of control.
Try to shave all your outgoings.
Once you’ve got your outgoings written down in front of you, try to see if anything can be reduced or cancelled.
At the beginning of lockdown, my earnings changed dramatically, there’s not a huge demand for DJ’s right now, so I immediately wrote down my outgoings, and managed to make significant savings in the following areas:
- My phone bill: I realised I was due an upgrade, and because I’m on a sim-only contract, managed to decrease my monthly contract by a few pounds.
- Pet Insurance: I always thought your pet insurance just rolled on every single year, but wasn’t aware they could keep hiking the price up. I cancelled my old pet insurance for my dog, Snoop, and managed to get a better deal.
- My TV Package: It’s been over a year since I first got my Sky TV, and I realised a few of the initial deals had expired. I cancelled packages I wasn’t using, and checked I was on the best package they could offer me.
- Gas and Electricity: It’s also worth checking you’re on the cheapest tariff for your gas and electricity!
Cancel any free trials.
This may sound like an obvious one, but the amount of free trials I sign up to and then forget to cancel is a joke. I now set alarms on my phone to remind me when a free trial is coming to the end, so I don’t get caught paying for something I don’t want.
Create a Budget.
Once you’ve shaved and cancelled as many outgoings as possible, next up is creating a budget. Take your monthly earnings and subtract all your bills, then budget the rest of your money out of what’s left. It sounds really obvious, but it took me ages to do this, and it really helped me to feel a sense of control, which in turn lowered my financial anxiety.
I like to categorise all of my other outgoings and then add up the monthly totals, these categories really depend on what you like to spend your money on. Mine look something like this: Eating out (including any takeaway coffees), eating in, pets, clothes, makeup, house expenses, taxis. Seeing how much I’ve been spending in each of these categories can help me to see where my money is going, and then I aim to reduce them, or set myself a monthly limit (especially on Ubers).
Create a Debt Pay-Off Plan.
If you have student loans, an overdraft, or credit card debt, it’s really important to add a debt pay off plan into your budgeting. Whenever I’m really stressed about something, like a credit card bill that has got out of control, I tend to want to bury my head in the sand and ignore it. Sometimes looking at these debts can be really uncomfortable and make us squim, but ignoring loans and debts really adds to financial anxiety as it feels out of our control.
Making a plan to pay off a set amount every single month is very empowering as it allows us to take back control of our finances. Even if you are able to pay back £10 a month and then know it will take 2 years to pay it back, it gives you a manageable goal to work towards.
Don’t compare your finances to other people’s.
Whether your friend has just got a brand new Mercedes, or someone you follow online has just bought a designer handbag, don’t get sucked into the trap of presuming their finances and comparing them to your own. We never know what is in someone’s bank account, or how they are funding their perceived lifestyle; it could be paid with credit cards or loans.
Also, we often don’t see the hard work or sacrifices that go with these purchases, perhaps they have been saving in other areas. Comparison culture can affect us all, and it is never good for our mental health.
I hope you have found some of these tips are useful, and they help you to overcome any financial anxiety you are experiencing.
Ashley James is a DJ, television presenter, activist, empowerment coach and lifestyle influencer. She is well known for her articulate social commentary and campaigning for mental health, body confidence and social media honesty. She’s a regular contributor to TV and Radio, frequently appearing on national news channels including BBC News, Sky News, Good Morning Britain, and The Week to discuss topical issues drawing on her own personal experiences. She has also written columns for the Huffington Post and Closer Magazine.
Known for her quick-wit, goofy sense of humour and authenticity Ashley’s inspirational Instagram account has won her legions of fans, with a following of over 345k. Ashley lives in London with her toy poodle Snoop and cats, Biggie, Toulouse and Lady.