If you’re older than 25 and broke, you likely know what you’re supposed to be doing with your money but choosing otherwise—and it’s stressing you out.
Sound familiar? According to a recent study by Northwestern Mutual, more than half of millennials (64%) report that they recognize the need for a financial plan and one-third admit to falling prey to spending temptations (you can thank credit cards and great marketing campaigns for that). But there is a downside to doing it big— anxiety. Money woes are consistently on the minds of many young adults, with almost one-third reporting that it impacts everything from job performance to dating and, perhaps most importantly, sex.
Don’t let your cash flow, or lack there of, keep you off your A-game. Here are four tips on how to get a handle on money stress today.
1 Downsize Credit Cards
How many credit cards are in your wallet? If the answer is more than two, you’re tripping. According to creditcards.com, the average American reports having 2.35 credit cards—but the average American also has between $5,000-$8,000 in credit debt. Your credit card shouldn’t have more charges than you can pay for at the end of the month. If you’re spending money on cards your income is never really yours— it belongs to VISA, American Express or your favorite department stores. Review the interest rates on your cards, settle on the two best (lowest rates) and cut up the rest.
2 See a Financial Planner
You don’t have to be rich, or even middle class, to see a professional planner. Once you’ve started your first full-time job or business it’s time to build a relationship with someone to make sure your income is working for you—and that doesn’t mean having a chat with the homie who’s good with money or your nana who’s saved her whole life. Start seeing a certified financial professional annually. During that meeting share your long and short term goals, make a plan for the year and schedule a check-in for the following year. Be honest about your ambition and stay accountable.
3 Lower Your Credit Limits
You may have 1-2 cards but if the limits are crazy high, say $5000 or more, and you’re racking up a balance, you’re still in a terrible debt cycle. Don’t use the excuse that you need a high limit because you’ll use your credit for emergencies—you should have a fund for that right? (And if that is the case, and you’re building your fund, the card shouldn’t be in your wallet for daily use.) Call your credit card company and have them lower your limit to an amount you can pay off by the end of the month (for some it may be $500 and that’s cool)—base the number on what you’ve budgeted for petty cash. There’s one note: Don’t lower that limit until you’ve gotten your balance below it or you may be charged an over the limit fee.
4 Listen to Your Gut
You know when you’re not supposed to pull out the card. Whether it’s for tech gadgets that you don’t need, lunch money or dates, it’s time to exercise a bit of self-control. If you have to pay with credit, you can’t afford it. Stop giving yourself a pass to live beyond your means. When you’re tempted, remind yourself of how it felt the last time you were stuck paying off a crazy credit card bill and just say no. Bring lunch. Find cheap things to do on dates. Look for vacation deals. Do whatever it takes to avoid creating a debt you don’t want, or need.