It’s no surprise that people of all economic backgrounds are feeling a greater sense of financial anxiety according to several national polls.
Recent years of pandemic, inflation, war, and ongoing economic swings are taking their toll.
So we thought it might be helpful to share some quick practical insights for taking control of financial anxiety.
We sourced these common-sense tips from the Tiller Community, as well as our experience in talking to thousands of Tiller customers about what helps them feel calm and confident about their money.
- 1. What you don’t know is always scarier than what you do know.
- 2. Use a tool that aggregates your finances in one place
- 3. Review your daily transactions like a hawk
- 3. Make a quick, simple budget to see what’s really available to spend
- 4. Run a report to uncover and cut subscriptions and hidden fees
- 5. Build your emergency fund
- 6. Pay down high-interest debt
- 7. Sharing your financial anxiety can help you feel better
- Bonus: Find ways to increase your income
1. What you don’t know is always scarier than what you do know.
The first, best step for feeling better about your finances is simply to engage with them on a regular basis.
Millions of Americans dread looking at their bank balance. Even high-earning people avoid checking their finances, afraid to face the reality of their situation.
Avoidance is of course a common behavior when anxiety strikes. But in a cruel cycle, nothing provokes more fear than the unknown.
What helps? As this Help Scout article explains, “The most effective, scientific approach to eliminating fear is to systematically expose yourself to the thing that scares you, starting small and building tolerance as you work your way up.”
Tiller was founded on the insight that the most financially confident people – regardless of income, debt, or net worth – are simply those who regularly engage with their money.
2. Use a tool that aggregates your finances in one place
Most people have multiple credit cards, bank accounts, and loans – each with its own separate login and user interface. This adds time-consuming friction to knowing about your money.
Instead, use a service that aggregates all your accounts into one dashboard so you can easily review them at a glance.
We recommended cloud-based spreadsheets (especially those powered by Tiller, hint hint).
But use whatever tool works best for you. It could be a spreadsheet, it could be an app, it could be working with a financial advisor.
Above all, look for a service (or services) you’ll actually use.
3. Review your daily transactions like a hawk
Libby Kane, CFEI (and Executive Editor of Insider Personal Finance) believes the “best, most critical first step you can take to improve your finances is to track your spending.”
“Understanding your spending is the first step to gaining more control over your finances. It’s the foundation on which you can build a rock-solid budget, responsible saving habits, and a foolproof investment strategy.”Why You Should Track Spending Before Making a Budget
Close, detailed awareness of your spending will transform how you feel about your money. It will give you confidence about where your money is going. And it will empower you to spend more on things that matter, while cutting those that don’t.
Take three minutes each day to open your spreadsheet or financial app and review your latest transactions. Read more about tracking spending here.
3. Make a quick, simple budget to see what’s really available to spend
Making a budget is proven to reduce financial stress, confusion, and uncertainty.
Even if you don’t intend to follow a budget month to month, making one is an incredibly valuable exercise.
After making a budget, many people are surprised to find they actually have more to save or invest than expected.
And even if you find the opposite, a budget can help you course-correct and align your spending with your goals. (Or it may show you truly need to earn more, perhaps by renegotiating your salary, finding a new job, or starting a second income – see below.)
See more budgeting tips here:
4. Run a report to uncover and cut subscriptions and hidden fees
The average American spends about $270 per month on subscription services. Needless to say, these subscriptions quickly add up over time. Even worse, many are zombie subscriptions for unused products and services.
You can use an app like Trim to help you cancel your unused subscriptions.
But if you prefer using a private spreadsheet to track your expenses, here are two links and a free Google Sheet template to easily uncover recurring expenses and control subscription spending:
5. Build your emergency fund
“My main goal is to consistently save $1,000 a month so we can knock out our emergency fund goal and start saving for a home down payment.”Amandaleslie122, Tiller Community
Experts recommend you keep at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses in savings in an emergency savings account. Hopefully, you never have to use it, but you’ll certainly feel more financially secure having one in place.
For many people, building multiple months of savings sounds incredibly daunting, but even $1000 in savings can make a huge difference to your economic well-being.
Review your budget mentioned above. This will show you how much you can afford to save each month. If you can automate even a small amount of savings each pay period into your emergency fund, you’ll soon have the momentum to reach your goal.
With Tiller, there are a few ways you can easily budget and track your emergency savings:
- Set savings goals directly in the Foundation Template
- Use the Savings and Debt Payoff tracker spreadsheet from Tiller Community Solutions
6. Pay down high-interest debt
After your emergency fund, cutting credit cards and other high-interest debt should be a priority. This goal is especially pressing now, as interest rates are going up fast.
The Debt Planner Spreadsheet makes it easy to track all your debts and liabilities in one simple dashboard that always shows your latest credit card spending, balances, and payments.
The spreadsheet also helps you evaluate different payoff strategies such as the snowball and avalanche methods.
Many people prefer the “snowball” method for paying down debt. Research shows it’s the most effective overall approach for the largest number of people. It’s based on a simple formula: “pay off the smallest debt first.”
7. Sharing your financial anxiety can help you feel better
In a study from Umpqua Bank, 70 percent of respondents said they felt better about their personal financial stress after talking about it with friends or family. Meanwhile, this NBC article details how “not talking openly about money can have a huge negative impact on your financial health.”
Research consistently finds that talking about stress and traumatic events alleviates distress, leading to better outcomes.
You don’t necessarily need to confide in family or friends. There are dozens of online forums where you can ask questions, get advice, and vent about your money stress. Personal Finance on Reddit is helpful. Wisebread has a roundup of 9 Online Forums That’ll Help You Reach Your Financial Goals.
Additionally, the vibrant Tiller Community is here with helpful budgeting advice and motivation to help you succeed.
Bonus: Find ways to increase your income
For many people, earning additional income is necessary for truly feeling better about their financial situations.
The fastest way for most people to increase their income is by asking for a raise or moving on to a new job.
If you’re looking for ways to earn a second income, check out this free spreadsheet ranking 145 side hustles.
When you start earning side income, Tiller provides two templates to make managing cash flow and taxes easy:
- Tiller Simple Business Spreadsheet: Effortlessly track business expenses, know your cash flow, stay organized, and mix and manipulate data from multiple sources.
- Quarterly Estimated Tax Google Spreadsheet: Track expenses and easily estimate your small business quarterly tax payments, all in real-time, all in Google Sheets.