The surprising ways that money can affect your mental health


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Whether we like it or not, money is part of our lives. We need money to pay for our everyday essentials — like food, shelter, and clothing — but it covers other important things as well, including cars, electronics, and entertainment. As such, we think and stress about money a lot, which can affect our mental health.

According to the American Psychological Association, 60% of American adults consider money to be a significant source of stress. Also, the Money and Mental Health charity finds that people with mental health issues are 3 1/2 times as likely to have problems with debt.

So what’s the solution?

You can learn how to manage your money and find ways to thrive between paychecks to help decrease your stress levels. You can also work on pinpointing the financial habits that are stressing you out in the first place and then take action to reduce the amount of stress they cause.

In this guide, we’ll go over 15 ways money can affect your mental health and give you actionable tips you can take to reduce your overall stress levels. This will help you identify pain points in your financial situation and push you to take action to decrease your stress and improve your mental health.

Related: 8 clever moves when you have $1,000 in the bank

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1. Overspending

Overspending can be a vicious cycle. You may spend money to alleviate stress in the moment, but then end up creating more stress in the long run because you spend too much money. Overspending can easily lead to debt, which is a huge stress inducer.

The answer for overspending is simple enough: don’t spend money you don’t have. However, that’s not always the easiest solution to implement. Still, you can start with one small step to counteract this habit.

Consider creating a budget so you know exactly how much you’re spending and where the money’s going. This can help you be more focused and present when it comes to your finances. Once you know how much money you need for essentials, including savings and emergency funds, you can budget what’s left over for leisurely activities and purchases.

It might also help to learn how to make extra cash on the side, apart from your main source of income. This can help offset your spending habits by giving you some extra money to move around in your budget.

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2. Paying unnecessary bills

Seeing a bill in your email or mailbox is stressful because you know it’s something you have to pay unless you want a collections agency coming after you. Some bills are essential, like utilities, but many bills and subscriptions may be unused or not worth paying for.

To reduce your stress over bills, get rid of the subscriptions and other monthly or yearly bills you don’t need. There are plenty of subscription services available to us these days, so their recurring costs can add up quickly. The $10 per month for one subscription becomes a lot more when you multiply it by the three or more subscriptions you have.

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3. Overpaying bills

Sometimes you may just be overpaying on your bills. Have you ever seen your cable or internet bill increase from one month to another even though you didn’t change your services? It’s not uncommon to see an increase in your monthly bills, which can also increase your stress levels if the payments are getting out of hand.

Did you know renegotiating your bills is an option? Talking to your cable or phone provider might sound stressful in itself, but feeling a small amount of stress for a short phone call can help reduce your stress for months and years to come.

Or you can just use a service like Truebill to go through the negotiating process for you. Truebill, which is free to sign up for, can help identify your unnecessary bills and negotiate the cost of some utilities on your behalf.

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4. Having too much debt

For one reason or another, you may be in debt. It’s not uncommon for people to have debt, but it’s also not the best feeling to be in debt. You feel like your financial freedom is taken away and it stresses you out thinking about how you owe money to someone else.

The best way to reduce that stress is to get rid of the debt. If it were that easy, though, everyone would immediately pay off their debt and feel happier.

If you feel like your debt is out of control, consider debt consolidation or debt settlement. Otherwise, stick to a firm budget and pay off your debt as quickly as you can. As you see your debt start to shrink and eventually disappear, your stress levels will go down dramatically.

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5. Not saving

You know you should be setting aside money as savings, just in case you need it in the future. But it’s not always easy to get to a point financially where you have enough savings to feel comfortable. Knowing you don’t have much in your savings can be stressful, especially if you’re unsure how to remedy the situation.

To feel better about your savings, try starting small. Even putting a few dollars away at a time can start to add up, and it gets you in the habit of always thinking about increasing your savings. Once you build your savings up a bit, consider a high-yield savings account or other financial tools to maximize your deposits.

One possible way to get your savings started is by using Digit. Digit is a finance app that analyzes your spending habits and automatically takes extra money from your existing funds and puts it into an FDIC-insured account. Whenever you need it, you can withdraw your money from your Digit account. Digit takes the stress out of savings because the process is automatic and there’s very little for you to think about.

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6. Using credit cards

Credit cards can be an excellent financial tool when used correctly, but they can cause a lot of stress if you don’t understand them. People often think they have more money than they actually do because of the amount of credit they have available. Or they pay only the minimum amount on their monthly bill, not realizing the interest they’re accruing is costing them a lot every month.

Unfortunately, these are only some of the many common money mistakes that people make. In general, you shouldn’t get into any debt unless you have a solid plan to get out of it. And if you’re going to carry debt, make sure you’re doing it on one of the best 0% APR credit cards.

With any credit card, review its terms and conditions before you apply and find out about any fees it may have. Then make sure you pay off your balance as much as possible each month. This will help you stay out of crippling debt and reduce your stress levels.

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7. Paying high interest rates

It can often be disheartening to see how much of your monthly payments are going toward the interest charges instead of the actual debt. This can lead to a lot of stress because you see how long it will take to pay off debt when high interest rates are taking most of your payments.

To help reduce your stress levels, look into negotiating lower interest rates on your debt. Depending on how long you’ve been a customer of a financial institution and your customer history, you may be able to call and get a lower interest rate. Depending on your debt, you might also consider refinancing a loan to get better terms.

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8. Obsessing over your credit score

It’s not a bad thing to frequently check your credit score because having good credit provides you with loads of financial opportunities you might not otherwise have. But if you obsess over your credit score, you might be doing more harm than good. Your finances are important, but so is living a happy and fulfilled life.

Credit scores fluctuate, so it’s normal to see a score go up or down a few points every now and then. To avoid spending too much time obsessing over your credit score, learn the basics of good credit scores and how to achieve them. This will help you form habits to keep your credit score high so you don’t have to think about it all the time.

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9. Missing payments

Missing a payment on a bill or credit card can be extremely frustrating and stressful because of the consequences. If you miss multiple payments, your credit may take a hit or you could have to deal with a collections agency. You may also pay hefty late fees or incur a higher penalty interest rate. But this stressful situation can generally be avoided.

After you’ve already missed a payment, there’s usually nothing to do but accept the consequences and move on. To avoid missing payments in the future while also keeping your stress levels in check, be sure to set reminders for yourself.

Most major financial institutions have alerts you can set up in your online accounts about when payments are due. You may also be able to set up automatic payments on certain bills and completely negate the chance you could miss a payment. Reminders and notes on your phone work, too. So does a note on the fridge or in your daily planner. Whatever works for you is the best way to avoid missed payments and the stress they can bring.

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10. Paying unnecessary fees

Have you ever been hit with a surprise late fee or minimum balance fee? Most credit products and bank accounts have their conditions and fees available for anyone to see, but it can still be confusing. When you get hit with a fee, you might not understand why it happened and it stresses you out. You might even feel financially inept or foolish that you let it happen.

The best way to avoid any fees in the future is to carefully read over any contracts or agreements before getting a credit card, loan, or other financial tools. If you’re a new customer with a financial institution, you can call to request an explanation and see about getting the fee removed. This would also be a good opportunity to get further information about how the fees work so you’re better prepared in the future.

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11. Not getting a raise

If you haven’t received a raise at work, it doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t good at your job. It can come off that way, though, because it may seem like the effort you’re putting in isn’t deserving of more money. This can impact your self-esteem and increase stress.

To combat this, it’s best to make everything perfectly clear with your boss or supervisor. If you were expecting a raise and didn’t get one, try to find out why. There’s no easy way to go about this other than getting it out in the open.

Even if you don’t end up getting a raise, you’ll have cleared the air and you won’t be wondering anymore, which can do wonders for your stress levels. It also allows you to decide on your next steps.

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12. Not sleeping

Your money woes might literally be keeping you up at night, which poses a significant health risk to you both physically and mentally. If this is the case, you’re clearly stressed out enough that some action is needed so you can stop losing sleep over money worries.

Your best bet is to identify the issue at the root of your stress. If it’s debt, what’s causing the debt? Are you overspending? Did you lose your job? Are interest rates too high? Whatever the issue is, it needs to be identified.

Then, you need to create a plan to work on your issue. For instance, you could be in debt because you buy too many things. You may have to make some serious lifestyle changes. With a plan, you can put everything out in the open and consistently work toward goals to overcome whatever it is that’s stressing you out.

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13. Looking for a new job

Whether you needed a career change or were laid off, looking for a new job can bring on a lot of stress and anxiety. Staying at a job for a while gets you into a certain routine. You’re familiar with your tasks and you know the people you work with. Looking for a new job involves going through job boards, going to interviews, possibly learning new skills, and much more. There’s the potential for failure or not finding the right fit. You also may not have an income while you’re on the job hunt.

To make it easier on yourself, create a list of things you’d like from a new position. Maybe a certain salary, the type of work you’d be doing, the size of the company, and anything else you can think of. This can help take some of the uncertainty out of your job search.

Also, be sure to do your best when researching potential employers, especially before interviewing with them. The more prepared you are to have a good interview, the better the chances you’ll have one. Preparation can also decrease your stress in a meaningful way by helping you focus and be ready.

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14. Reading your bank statement

It can be stressful to look over a statement that you don’t understand when you’re trying to manage your finances. There’s a lot of information, and you know it’s important, but you’re not positive what it all means, so it’s frustrating.

You can always call your bank and get some clarification about items on your bank statement. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about it because you’re trying to understand the information you’re being handed so you can better manage your finances.

In the end, a quick and informative call or chat with a helpful representative can grant you some extra knowledge and diminish your levels of stress.

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15. Being too thrifty

It may sound unusual, but being too thrifty with your purchases and other expenses can cause some stress in your life. It makes sense to look for deals and keep your costs low, but that doesn’t mean you have to always find the best deal on everything. At a certain point, the time you’re putting into being thrifty ends up having its own cost.

It makes sense to lower your costs to reduce your financial stress, but always worrying about being thrifty can also raise your stress levels. It can help to find a middle ground where you’re not worrying about every little expense, but you’re also not overspending. Find something you like and splurge on it every now and then. It’ll help boost your mood without breaking the bank.

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Bottom line

If you haven’t noticed the different ways money can affect your mental health, be sure to take a step back every once in a while to assess your situation. Money is important, but not as important as your mental health. Look through the ways we’ve listed to find ways you can take action and work on creating a better balance between your own finances and mental health.

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