Budgeting 5 Strategies to Deal With Financial Stress By Miriam Caldwell Miriam Caldwell Miriam Caldwell has been writing about budgeting and personal finance basics since 2005. She teaches writing as an online instructor with Brigham Young University-Idaho, and is also a teacher for public school students in Cary, North Carolina. learn about our editorial policies Updated on January 19, 2022 Reviewed by Margaret James Reviewed by Margaret James Twitter Peggy James is an expert in accounting, corporate finance, and personal finance. She is a certified public accountant who owns her own accounting firm, where she serves small businesses, nonprofits, solopreneurs, freelancers, and individuals. learn about our financial review board Fact checked by Leila Najafi Financial stress can stem from being in debt, not earning enough money, the expense of raising kids, or even being married to someone who isn't good with money. If you can reduce your financial worry, you will be able to focus on other important areas of your life and relax, knowing you have a plan to handle your financial situation. Here are a few things you can do now to relieve your financial stress and make it easier to function each day. Create a Budget You may feel overwhelmed and think that a budget is only going to add to your financial stress, but it is the best tool you have to get control of your finances and stop worrying about money. A budget allows you to decide when and how you are going to spend your hard-earned dollars. This spending plan makes sure you cover your immediate expenses, while still working toward your savings goals. It can also help you find extra money to put toward debt. The first few months of planning and sticking to a budget are the most challenging, but once you understand what to do, you can often reduce the amount of time you spend on it and, in turn, reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about money. Get an Emergency Fund An emergency fund is a savings account meant to cover unexpected expenses and financial emergencies. Although a car repair can be expensive and stressful, if you know you can tap into your emergency fund to cover it, a lot of the stress will go away. It is also easier to use the money in your budget the way you planned if you know you have the extra money in the bank ready to cover the unexpected emergencies that may crop up. You should have at least $1,000 in your emergency fund until you are out of debt. Then you should aim to have three to six months' living expenses set aside. Building an emergency fund may seem tough at first, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet each month. Start by putting aside a small amount, whether it's $10 or $100 each month, so you can build up your emergency fund. You may also consider selling any unused items around the house to build up that cash as quickly as you can. Get Outside Help If you are really struggling with getting a handle on your budget and spending issues, do not be afraid to get outside help. You can take classes on basic money management and investing, which will help you plan out a budget and do the things you need to succeed financially. A financial planner can also help you create a long-term saving and investing strategy that will help you take care of your current needs and plan for the future. If you are feeling overwhelmed by debt, you can work with a credit counseling service to help you restructure your debt and, in some cases, negotiate with creditors. You can also take financial classes that coach you through budgeting and other aspects of your personal finances. Determine What You Can Change If you are having financial issues, you may have an income issue, a spending issue, or a combination of the two. If you know that you do not make enough money to keep up with your current bills, decide what you can do to change the situation. It may include options such as going back to school to qualify for a higher paying job. If you think you have a spending problem and it's a compulsive behavior, you may want to attend a specialized group or get professional help dealing with the issues you are facing. Once you have a plan that will help you change your situation permanently, you should be able to reduce your stress. Track Your Progress While this may sound like it's not a solution to your financial problem, it can make a big difference in the amount of stress you feel each day. Find positive aspects of your financial situation by tracking your progress toward your financial goals. Looking at the positive aspects of your current financial situation can also help alleviate stress. Remember, you can change your financial situation and you will find it easier to do if you are not living in an anxious state all of the time. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) How many people cannot comfortably pay their bills? As of October and November of 2021, 24% of U.S. adults indicated that they were having trouble paying all their monthly bills or that they were close to it. Another 10% said that they wouldn't be able to pay their bills if they had an unexpected expense of just $400 during the month, according to the Federal Reserve System. What are some options if I just don't earn enough to meet my budget? You might have to consider some big changes if you think the situation is long-term, such as relocating to a less-expensive home. But numerous government programs stand by to help as well with rental assistance, energy bills, medical bills, and even groceries. Contact your local social services agency to find out what's available in your area. What is a financial stress test? A financial stress test has nothing to do with measuring the reactions of individuals who can't meet their monthly expenses. The Federal Reserve and other agencies use it to gauge whether banks are prepared to deal with the situation if the economy tanks. But, of course, the state of the nation's economy has a direct effect of consumers, so it's somewhat related. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "Economic Wellbeing of U.S. Households in 2021," Page 36. USA.gov. "Help With Bills." Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "Stress Tests."