Taking the fear out of finances: 4 tips from real people who overcame their stress over money

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For most of us, money represents security, so uncertainty related to money can really wreak havoc with our peace of mind. The trick is to find ways to work past the fear and stress, so you can keep moving towards your financial goals.

Many of us feel some stress and anxiety when it comes to money. It’s only natural—for most of us, money represents security, so uncertainty related to money can really wreak havoc with our peace of mind. The trick is to find ways to work past the fear and stress, so you can keep moving towards your financial goals.

Here are four stories from Sum180 members, about how they dealt with specific money fears. Please note that the names have been changed to protect member privacy.

    “I used to be a notorious over-spender. I’m afraid my credit cards will tempt me to backslide into old habits.”

How Andrea dealt with her fear: “I did my research, then took the appropriate action for my situation.”

Andrea’s story:
I carry three credit cards and two debit cards (from two different accounts). Having gotten into trouble when I was younger (I was a notorious over-spender), I get this flutter of fear that I could easily slip back into my old spending habits…especially carrying three credit cards with me. Do more credit cards really mean better credit, or am I just fooling myself into feeling like I’ve got a buffer of protection should anything major happen?

I did some digging and got the facts:

I already knew that I really only need one credit card, as I tend to use cash or my debit card for just about everything these days.

As a travel writer, I also knew that using a credit card vs. my debit card when I check into a hotel means there is no hold on my cash, but rather on my credit card. In other words, I do need at least one credit card.

I learned that there really isn’t a “correct” or “best” number of credit cards to have.

Making payments on time is what we should be concerned with. It turns out that 35% of my FICO score is BASED on those payments, along with payments on other loans like automobile, home, etc.

So, if having too many cards means that I end up making too many payments (payments that put a burden on my day-to-day expenses), then I may have too many cards.

I took the extra credit cards out of my wallet. I figure that if they’re not accessible, then I won’t use them. Now I only carry ONE credit card and ONE debit card. And I no longer stress about the extra credit cards tempting me to overspend.

“I knew I needed a plan for my money but I dreaded tackling with my finances and meeting with a financial adviser.”

How Beth dealt with her fear: “I found the right kind of help, for me.”

Beth’s story:

I’m a busy mom with a full time job. For a long time, I put off the task of getting control of my finances. I had lots of great reasons to delay, but the biggest hurdle was I just didn’t feel comfortable calling an investment advisor. I feared judgment and I didn’t want to take the time out of my schedule to meet with someone.

Then I learned about SUM180, an online financial planning service. While I had not considered a digital platform as a way to set my financial goals, once I did, I realized it was the perfect solution for me. The digital platform is one I feel comfortable navigating. I can fit it into my schedule and in the comfort of my own home. So, I set aside 30 minutes on a weekend morning and with coffee in hand started the step-by-step process. I was guided through at my own pace and in no time the interview was complete. No stress, no judgment, no trouble.

A task I had dreaded for a long time turned out to be a manageable process, and what a relief to finally have a plan for my money.

“I was afraid I would make a bad spending decision on a luxury item and regret it later.”

How Carol dealt with her fear: “My mother gave me some good advice about evaluating a big spending decision by weighing the benefits against the costs, over time.”

Carol’s story:
As a young mom with a one-year-old child, I was afraid to spend any money on what I considered luxury items. But I had been invited to a wedding, and wanted a new dress and happened to fall in love with one that was out of my spending comfort zone. I agonized over buying that dress. My husband (the spender of the family) couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t go out and buy it, but I was afraid to spend the money.

My mom sat me down and taught me something very valuable that day. She told me to pause and look ahead to next week, to next month, to next year and to five years from then. She asked, “Will buying this dress impact your finances in a negative way” at any of those points? Will you be able to pay your bills? Will you be able to still put money aside for savings? What would you have to give up if you buy the dress? Then she asked me how much pleasure would I get from the dress. Would I wear it over and over again? Would it become a staple of my wardrobe or a signature piece? Would it make me feel good about going out or simply be a new dress?

When I stopped and really thought about my mother’s suggestion, the decision became much easier to make. I bought the dress and wore it for at least 10 years. It was a classic, and became a signature piece of my wardrobe. Now, when I look back and do the “cost per wearing” math, I realize that that one dress ended up saving me money over the years, as I always loved wearing it.

“I get stressed out by negotiation and confrontation, so I miss out on possible bargains.”

How Debbie dealt with her fear: “I write out a script beforehand. It takes the anxiety out of knowing what to say in a stressful situation.”

Debbie’s story:
I’m not a good negotiator by nature. I get stressed out by confrontation. This means I tend to avoid negotiating everything, if possible—from flea market purchases to my own salary. But passively accepting whatever the other person wants in every transaction can be really costly. Those lost opportunities to save or earn more add up over time.

One day I happened to read an article online that suggested using a script to negotiate a lower interest rate with a credit card company. The script went something like: “I’m really having to stretch my finances to make the monthly payments on this credit card, and I need to reduce the interest rate somehow. It would be convenient to keep the balance on this card, but I have some other options that could really save me some money—a zero interest balance transfer offer is sitting right here, for one. Could you reduce the interest rate on my account to, say, 9.9%?”

Reading this tip helped me realize that a lot of my stress was related to not knowing what to say ‘on the spot.’ Having a written script could take away a lot of the stress of negotiating anything, because I wouldn’t have to figure out how to find the ‘right words’ in the moment, when I already felt anxious and my mind was likely to go blank.

Now, when I have a negotiation to do, I imagine what the other person will say, and plan how I will respond—often writing the words down on paper, which helps me remember them later. For particularly important situations like a salary negotiation, I discovered that it can also help to role play with a friend. Just repeating the script out loud defuses my stress. By the time I’m in the real situation, it feels familiar and a lot less uncomfortable.

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