4 Things You Should Do When You’re Stressed Out About Money

Joanne Poh



There’s any number of things to get stressed out over in Singapore, from work to public transport. But being stressed out about money is without a doubt one of the worst, especially in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the world. Financial worries can, whether unfounded or not, have a profound effect on one’s physical and mental wellbeing. And you don’t have to be in actual financial trouble to feel its effects, either.

A friend of mine who earns more than three times the median income in Singapore recently confessed to me that he worries about money all the time despite his salary being a five figure monthly sum. “I’ve realised that I really need to be earning a lot more in order to have a comfortable life,” he complained when his plans to buy a Rolex fell through after he had a good look at the prices. Self-created stress? You be the judge. Here are four things you can do to alleviate the pain when you’re stressed about money.


Challenge yourself to have a fun, free day

Like my friend who wants to buy a Rolex, often we create our own feelings of financial inadequacy. After a while, we start believing that if we don’t have tons of money, we’re doomed to being miserable. For a quick and comforting change in perspective, take some time out and challenge yourself to have a fun day without spending much money.

Have an inexpensive hawker centre meal and then spend a day in a tent at East Coast Park, pamper yourself with a bubble bath followed by a movie in bed or invite your friends to your place for an all-night mahjong session. Then congratulate yourself for having a great day without spending tons of money. If nothing else, it will boost your self-esteem and reduce your panic about not being able to live the high life.


Get your finances in order

Often, we panic about our finances simply because we don’t know exactly how much we have. If you’ve got multiple bank accounts but have no idea how much you have in them or a stack of credit cards you no longer use, it’s time to spend a day getting your affairs in order.

Take stock of all the accounts you have whether they be bank accounts, loan accounts or credit card accounts. Then, tally up your assets and review all your investments. Close any accounts that are no longer useful to you and shuffle your assets around so that they’re working hardest for you—for instance, you want to shift most of your cash to the highest interest savings account you have. By the end of this exercise, you’ll have a more accurate picture of your financial situation—and it might not be as dire as it seemed before.


Write out a 10 step programme to improving your finances

So you’ve realised your finances aren’t exactly in good shape, and that’s thrown you into a state of panic. If you have credit card debt that’s spiralling out of control or recently lost your job, you need to get a grip on your financial situation as quickly as possible. Or perhaps you’re just not saving as much as you might like and think your monthly expenses could be reduced.

Identify all the areas in which you can improve, and then write out a 10-step programme that will enable you to systematically improve your financial situation. For instance, if you’re being severely underpaid at your job, you’ll want to put applying for new jobs at the top of your list.

If you spend more than you earn, one of the first things you must do is analyse your expenses and draw up a monthly budget, making cuts in areas where you’re spending unnecessarily. And of course, if you are in any credit card debt at all, paying it off in full should be a top priority. Putting it all down in writing should make your plan more actionable.


Find a way to relax

Sure, all of us wouldn’t mind earning a little more cash. But if you’re in good financial health and are doing your best to save and invest, there’s really no reason to lose sleep over money. Some people are just more easily stressed out than others. Are you comparing yourself incessantly to others? Do you have an unrealistic view of the kind of life you’d like to lead? Or are you just being too kiasu?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you need to find a way to relax instead of constantly reminding yourself that you don’t have as much money as you might like. Meditate, talk to a friend or find a low cost way to pamper yourself, perhaps by hopping over the Causeway for a massage. Identify the cause of your stress and then take active steps to control it.

How do you handle money-related stress? Share your tips in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.