If you’re feeling the financial pinch, know that you’re not alone. According to 2020 research cited by the American Institute of Stress, 77 percent of Americans feel anxious about their financial situation. While there is no magical elixir that’ll make those financial stresses disappear (excluding the lottery!), there are some quick changes you can implement in your life that will at least help. Here are three life hacks you can use to at least lessen that financial pinch.
Recognize and Get Rid of Avoidance Strategies
As odd as it may seem, one of the biggest problems many people face with their finances is a simple matter of avoidance. We’ve all been in a position where we deal with looming stress by pretending it isn’t there. The problem with that strategy when it comes to finances is that this only makes the situation worse.
A crucial step in digging your way out of financial difficulty is as simple as recognizing and getting rid of those avoidance strategies. And that begins with a good baseline of data. Know your disposable income. Be aware of your recurring essential expenses like your mortgage, insurance premiums, food, and medical expenses. Finally — and yes, this is a bitter pill sometimes — quantify your disposable income and know the point at which you have to say no to additional purchases.
Let’s be honest here and admit that budgeting isn’t the most fun you can have on a day off. Solid budgeting practice boils down to good record-keeping and requires discipline. If budgeting is a headache for you, consider using a budgeting app to smooth the process along. Or, if you prefer a more hands-on method, financial guru Dave Ramsey offers multiple budgeting forms. Print them off, join the financial dots, and you have a good beginning.
Building a solid baseline like this makes it easier to take control of your purchasing decisions. Moreover, revisiting this data regularly will help you set realistic financial goals you know you can meet.
Find a Credit Card That Works For You
In terms of using your credit card the right way, it really boils down to not letting yourself forget that you’re dealing with real money — and even worse if you don’t have it managed — real debt. The trick here is to keep that credit card debt to manageable levels and never lose sight of the fact that credit is a powerful tool if you use it wisely. Most importantly, know how much you owe, know the interest rate you’ll be paying, and place your credit card repayments as a high priority when planning your financial expenditure.
Additionally, take a look at the different credit cards on offer. USAA offers a wide range of credit cards, each with unique rewards to match a variety of lifestyles. Adding to these travel and retail benefits, USAA can also offer money-saving features like no annual fees and no penalty percentage rates.
Get a Step Ahead of the Unknown
Many of our worst financial stresses come out of the blue. An unexpected illness or injury, a broken-down car, or suddenly finding yourself looking for work — these and similar experiences happen to most of us at some time in our lives, and inevitably they also come with an unwanted dose of added financial pressure.
You can prepare for these situations, though, by building a contingency budget into your financial planning. By having an emergency fund in standby, you’re giving your future self an all-important financial stress release valve right when you need it most.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers this guide for calculating a suitable contingency fund amount, and building strategies to accrue it over time.
Small Changes Can Add Up to Big Results
While there is no quick fix to alleviating financial pressure, a few small changes can add up to make a big difference over time. By dealing with avoidance strategies, choosing the right credit card, and contingency planning for a rainy day, you’re setting yourself up for better financial stability in the long run.