Money anxiety! Is it ever real these days. Not only are we in a pandemic dealing with a huge health crisis, but also one that has lead to economic insecurity for a majority of Americans. I don’t think I can ever remember a time in US history since I have been alive where people en mass lose their jobs in an instant. That’s right — one minute people are working for business serving the needs of people in society, the next an order has come down that closes all business for no set time frame.
The message — Go home until the virus recedes. Now, not only do we have to worry about our health and that of our family and friends, but also how we will survive and pay our bills. Some relief is on the way after weeks of negotiation at the federal level, but it’s one-time check without a lot of certainty of when this will end. It will no doubt help, but it’s not the complete answer to our money anxiety.
Most people have a pile of bills to pay – not only rent, utilities, and food, but also many other expenses that may include school and child care, insurance, and many other everyday expenses to keep life moving along on time and paid in full. For most Americans, all of these expenses are paid out of what we earn. If we aren’t earning there is no money to be able to pay our obligations. Further, most Americans have no extra money to save for times like these. We are a nation of people who live paycheck to paycheck. Many are living close to the edge of their money budget even when things hum along.
Bring along a pandemic that closes all business for weeks with no end in sight and people’s money anxiety takes hold in a way that almost feels like strangulation. Now what?
Well, the first thing to remember is you are not alone. Almost everyone is in the same boat. Often when we don’t have enough money to meet our bills and obligations, we feel shame with the thought that everyone else can manage well, but us. Such thoughts can be dropped when we feel we are in good company with the majority of society. We are not alone.
Next, in order to calm anxiety, particularly around money, it is important to sit down and look at one’s budget. That’s right. Many people don’t even know how much money they have and where it is going. Now is the time time get out pencil and paper and track one’s spending to see where it is all going. During this time, much of the way you spend money may no longer be relevant. Eating out, movies and other entertainment is closed off to all of us. That is money that you will no longer spend.
Track what you will still need to spend to live – rent, utilities, and food. Those are the basics for now. How much money do you have to cover these categories? How much do you need? Once you have these questions answered, it is time to get on the phone to your creditors to see what you can work out as far as payments during this time without interest and penalties. This is the time to advocate for yourself.
Once you drop any shame over your money situation and have done all you can to cut expenses and negotiate with your creditors, it is time to bring a mindful approach to the situation. This will not last. A new day may dawn where things do not look exactly the same as before, but that time is not here yet. Grounding one’s self in the present moment and shoring up a sense of security in the now is what is required. Do you have all you need for today? It is important to not get too ahead of one’s self here. Be in the now and think about your money security in the present.
It is an acute time for money anxiety, Sharing your stories, recognizing you are not alone, taking stock of your budget, and taking action to reduce expenses and payments are all concrete steps you can take to ease your money anxiety. Further, practicing being in the moment will also help ease the concerns you have for tomorrow.