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Five things to do with money worries

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

By The Rev Ian Dewar

There are hundreds, if not thousands of sites out there telling you how you can get a loan, reschedule your debt and solve all your financial woes. But do they work?

Well, they may have some benefits and some sensible advice, but you don’t need to ‘buy’ into any great scheme to solve money worries. We’ve put together five simple steps that we think can help anyone with money worries and here they are:

1 - You know that you have got money problems

This is an excellent first step. Most people don’t realise that they have a struggle with money until it is almost too late, or they suspect it but avoid it. The first step to dealing with any problem is to accept the fact that there is one and the same is true of money. An honest recognition of the fact that there is a problem is the first step to finding an answer. You’ve made progress, that’s good.

2 - Ask yourself, why?

This doesn't have to be a precise answer, there's no need for detailed analysis of every penny. The reason is that deep down, intuitively, you know the answer already. It’s just a question of writing it down or saying it. In short, admitting it to yourself. So, let’s take an example.

Imagine that you have money worries because your energy bill has gone through the roof. The question to ask is: what was your expenditure before the energy bills went high?

If you were only just making ends meet, then your financial worries are not caused by an increase in energy bills, they are caused by a long-term shortfall in income. In the immediate crisis this isn’t going to solve your energy bill, but it is very important knowledge for sorting out your money worries going in to the future. This is because you now know that in order to avoid money worries you need to increase your income.

Increasing your income is not always easy – despite what some MPs think! It can be extremely difficult if you are on benefits or unemployed, but life’s bills will always fluctuate and we can't control the energy market, or any other market for that matter.

We can control, to some extent, our income. Our income will depend on the job that we do and, if we need to claim benefits, our knowledge of the system. Are we getting everything that we are entitled to? The possibility of increasing income, may be the one power that we have left and we have to exploit that to the full.

3 - Have a money makeover

We can often think of money makeovers as something done by people with lots of money, not us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many people with a large income think that they will always have a large income and so spend accordingly, in the end that can turn sour.

For the rest of us, a money makeover can be one of the most liberating things that we can do. It can be as simple as going along to Citizens Advice for a chat about money, getting help from them to talk to energy companies about spreading costs, checking that you're on the right tariff, right benefits.

It can be finding out about food clubs to cut some costs, getting some different ideas – do you have family and friends who can help spread costs by meal shares. A money makeover can give a sense of control, you know and understand the situation better and can make decisions with that understanding.

4 - Learn to breathe

Sound mad? It’s not as mad as you think. There is neuroscientific evidence that controlling our breathing can control our stress levels and our decision making. How does this work? Well here goes.

There is an argument that we don’t make decisions rationally, or emotionally, we make them physiologically. Imagine the following situation. You’re lying in bed of a night time and you hear a loud bang.

What do you do? Most of us would jump up or freeze, panic or feel aggressive and threatened. After a while you hear nothing else and try to work out what the noise was. It turns out it was a noise from next door. Breathing a sigh of relief, you go back to sleep.

Question, when you heard the noise, what reacted first, your rational brain - ‘I wonder if I can explain that sound’? Maybe it was your emotions - ‘Oooh, loud noises make me jump!’ Or maybe it was physiological, you had an unconscious reaction to protect yourself, either by fighting or getting away from danger. It’s what we call: fight or flight. The money is on physiology, an ancient defensive instinct to keep us alive that reduces every threat to its bare essentials – defend yourself or get away from danger. This happens every time we are threatened and money is no exception. Money worries are a threat. We react to them physically, we get a knot in our stomach, we feel a bit sweaty, our head becomes a bit tense.

So, where does the breathing come in? When you hear that loud bang, breath rhythmically three times and you will quickly enter a state of calm alert. Breathing rhythmically is as simple as breath in through your nose to the count of six, and out through your nose to count of six – three times. Job done!

Now, let's apply this to money. The bill drops onto the mat, or comes via email. Your immediate physiological response is to either (a) ignore it or sink into a chair in despair – flight! Or (b) rip it open with gritted teeth and mutter aggressively what you think about this company, organisation, bank - fight!

Either way your stress levels are up. The third option is to breath – rhythmically – open the letter or email and carefully and calmly read what it says. Two things will then happen:

  1. You can see your ‘enemy’ the bill that you have to pay. It is no longer a bogeyman.

  2. You can make a calm decision. This is unaffordable, I will try and speak to the company. I have a meeting with Citizens Advice or a work established advisor next week, I will take it to them.

Your problems will not disappear, but you will stop them ‘bullying’ you as much as they might have done, and that not only affects you but the people that you share life with.

5 - Remember that you are bigger than your problems

There is a very short, profound book by a man called Viktor Frankl. The book is called 'Man’s Search for Meaning' and in it Frankl tells the story of how he survived the concentration camps in Germany the Second World War. He states:

‘Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.’

You too can choose your own attitude to your own circumstances; you too have that power!

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