Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? Do you worry about how you’re going to put food on the table to keep your family fed? Have you ever led awake at night, anxious about growing bills and the state of your finances? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.
Everyone struggles with money from time to time, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world, the cost of living is rising, and people are anxious about the future. As a former social worker and financial adviser who once struggled with his own debts, I know that there is a way out.
Here are five practical money tips on how you can take control of your finances, improve your outlook, and survive through the hard times.
1. Track Your Spending
When you ask for financial advice, you’ll often be told to create a budget and stick to it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the cure-all solution it’s made out to be. Budgeting does work, but only when you’re realistic about the financial choices you make.
Too many people start out by cutting back on life’s pleasures – social activities, tasty food, and hobbies. These are the things that make life worth living, and they shouldn’t be sacrificed just for the sake of tightening your budget. In fact, eliminating these factors from your financial plan could cause you to stop following your budget altogether.
Instead of creating a strict financial plan, it’s better to start by counting up all of your regular costs and outgoings. This will give you a better idea of what you’re spending and where there might be a cash shortfall. With this information, you can proceed with small tweaks that will help you to gain control without the need to change your lifestyle altogether.
2. Switch to Spend Less on Utility Bills
Energy prices are going up, and that means many households are being confronted with higher gas and electricity bills than ever before. Other costs like water and internet have risen too, leaving ordinary people paying more just to keep the lights on and their homes running.
It’s unfortunate that loyalty to a utility provider just doesn’t make that much of a difference to your rates anymore. These days, many firms reserve the best deals for new customers and that means you could find a bargain by hunting around for new utility providers. Comparison websites make it easy to find cheaper alternatives, while switching over can be as simple as signing a few contracts.
3. Eat Well, Shop Cheap
There are other sensible choices you make to cut the costs of running your household, not least shopping around to find the best deals on food and groceries. Discount supermarkets have made it far easier for shoppers to buy food at lower prices and making the swap from your go-to retailer could have an immediate impact on your finances.
In addition to changing where you shop, it’s also important to think about what you buy. When you’re struggling with money it’s often tempting to purchase low-cost ready meals and fast food. While these options may appear to be cheaper, they’re unlikely to give you the same nutritional benefits as quality homemade food. Eating a balanced diet including whole foods will keep your family fuller for longer, meaning that you’ll be able to get more food and better nutritional value for less money.
4. Cut Back on Bad Habits
Some reports suggest that the average smoker spends over £3,000 (NOK 35,699 / EUR 3,596) per year. It’s true that old habits die hard, but that’s money that could be used elsewhere, or even saved for tough times in the future.
Major lifestyle changes are unlikely to be sustainable and could lead to you giving up on your financial plan before it has the chance to make a real difference. Despite this, there are some types of spending that can damage your mental and physical health as well as your bank balance.
Smoking, regular drinking, and gambling can all harm your chances of securing a better financial future. In addition to costing a lot of money, they also harm your health and encourage addiction – making it more difficult for you to make positive changes in other areas of your life.
5. Ask for Help When You Need It
Money is one of life’s taboo topics. That means that we very rarely get the opportunity to discuss it in an open and honest manner. This lack of dialogue results in many people making incorrect assumptions about the financial circumstances of those around them, while the embarrassment of dealing with money issues prevents some people from seeking help when they need it the most.
The truth is that financial problems are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they’re universal. Some of the most successful people to have ever lived went bankrupt before found their path, including Walt Disney, Elton John, and Mike Tyson.
Asking for help can make a huge difference to your life. Most people are happy and honoured to help others, and sharing your problems could help you to feel better almost immediately. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved!
Be Brave, Take Control of Your Finances
Money troubles can be soul destroying. They keep you up at night and distract you from your work, hobbies, and family. They can also make you feel isolated and weigh heavily on personal relationships. Fortunately, financial problems are often easier to solve than you might expect. Small, consistent steps could help you to conquer your fears and take control of your personal finances.
Find a better way forward with Brave Money.