April is Stress Awareness Month, and after the most stressful year in decades, so many are still feeling the emotional, physical and financial weight of this pandemic. If you are experiencing constant stress, anxiety and worry about your financial situation, please know, you are not alone. The financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted countless American families, and we are sensitive to that.
If you’re looking for small ways to help reduce your financial stress during this time, consider some of the ideas below. If your income has been greatly impacted and you are simply doing your best to get to the next payday, that is okay. What matters is you are taking small and manageable steps over time.
Revisit your budget
The idea of creating a budget and coming face-to-face with your bills can feel daunting, or even be a little scary when you’re not seeing the income you’re used to. I totally get that. Following a budget is not going to fix your financial situation overnight, but taking small steps each day can help lessen the stress you’re carrying.
Even without the weight of a pandemic, this process can feel overwhelming and like yet another “to-do”. Consider this idea of prioritizing your expenses. It may be a more manageable place to start as you begin adding up the costs in your household.
Rate your expenses with a 1, 2, or 3:
- A ‘1’ is an expense that really just doesn’t feel good. It’s not truly something you need and you may have feelings of guilt or discomfort after the purchase.
- A ‘2’ is something you feel indifferent about but is a necessity, such as your rent/mortgage or utilities.
- A ‘3’ is something you have zero guilt spending on, it brings you joy and/or improves the quality of your life.
After rating your expenses, do you have any 1’s? Start by prioritizing the “1’s” first, and see if there are any you can cut out. You may find a bit of breathing room in your budget and feel a little less weight on your shoulders as you near the next payday.
Digest your bookkeeping in small bites
If you’re a business owner, one of the best things you can do to reduce stress once tax season rolls around is to keep track of your expenses throughout the year. When you stay on top of your bookkeeping and know your numbers, you’ll be ready to make an important decision for your business in a split-second, without the worry of “Can I afford this?” You will also be able to plan ahead for your taxes instead of having anxiety and wondering, “how much will I owe?”
I know that bookkeeping can leave you with ideas of spending several days or even an entire week catching up. And even for someone like me who loves accounting, this sounds daunting and painful. That’s why I recommend doing your bookkeeping in frequent small bites. Try scheduling it into your weekly calendar. Consider blocking out 15-30 minutes on your calendar one day each week, maybe every Tuesday afternoon – or whatever time block works best for you to help you stay on top of it.
I promise you will be shocked how much you get done by simply showing up for your bookkeeping every single week!
Comparison is the thief of joy
All too often we are competing with ourselves in our own heads when it comes to our financial journey. The internal battles with ourselves often sound like…
“I thought I would have more money saved at this point.”
“I thought I would have a higher salary by now.”
“I thought I would have this loan paid off at this point.”
“I didn’t think I would be starting over at age XX.”
“Or, I should have planned better for this…[insert emergency that literally no one can possibly plan for, err, um, like a pandemic, maybe?]
Instead of beating yourself up over so many things out of your control, ask yourself “what can you do to move forward?”
First, start by showing yourself some grace and compassion, and letting go of the guilt and shame you are feeling. Take a minute to remind yourself that you did the best you could with the resources you had at that moment.
Now, what can you do today to learn from your experiences and what new action do you want to take to set new, realistic and attainable goals for yourself?
I personally find these steps to be helpful:
- Practicing gratitude – This helps me shift my entire mindset. When we can reflect on the things we are grateful for, we can instantly relieve stress. Meditation is a wonderful way to start. It isn’t always an easy practice for all, so there are some fantastic guided meditations focusing on gratitude on the Calm app or even YouTube.
- Journaling – Write down all the thoughts floating in your head can be its own form of therapy. Being able to let go of those thoughts by physically writing them down is a great way to let go of negativity. Journaling is also helpful for drafting goals and figuring out where to go from here.
- Take action – After you have taken time out of your day or week to JUST BE and reflect on the things in your life that bring you joy, it’s time to take action. These action steps don’t have to be huge, drastic changes. Small steps each day can lead to serious results over time.
Hire an accountant
If you’re a small business owner and you don’t have an accountant, you are putting more stress on yourself than you need to. Give yourself the peace of mind you deserve by taking the guesswork out of your financials. Many business owners think they are saving money by DIY-ing in Quickbooks or other software. Quickbooks is an excellent tool, but a CPA isn’t merely “doing” the numbers.
I’m in no ways saying you should have to hand over your books and never look at them again — to be honest, that could be even more stressful. A CPA should help you understand your numbers so you can make more empowered financial decisions and, of course, save on taxes, too. If you’re ready for more support with your business (and less stress), Monarch CPA is here to help.
If you’re ready to work with an accountant who wants to help you relieve stress while empowering you to embrace your bookkeeping, book a call with me to find out how I can support you in your financial journey.