Posts Tagged stress

5 ways to reduce financial stress

Financial stress can be crippling. It can affect your work, your relationships and even your health. Whether you’re worried about making your rent this month, actively dodging collector calls or worried about how you’ll retire, money issues can influence your entire world.

When I graduated from college, I had about $26,000 worth of student loan debt. I wasn’t making much money writing obituaries for a local newspaper (since I didn’t track my income, I’m still not sure exactly how much I was making, but it was less than $24,000/ year.)

Going from five figures in debt in my early 20s, to now being debt free and in control of my money and financial future in my late 20s took a lot of work and persistence. It also would not have been possible without taking the following steps…

1: Know your situation

Knowing the full scope of your money situation is the first and foremost way to become less stressed about it. I wish there was a way to plug your ears, close your eyes and hum and for it to just go away, but that isn’t reality. Fortunately for those currently in the dark, the unknown is always worse than the known.

When the six-month grace period on my student loans ended, I started getting a dozen-plus bills in the mail, due immediately. Each one had its own required minimum payment and I was living hand to mouth – so I ignored them.

A couple months passed and the letters got a little scarier. They had big, red “overdue” stamps on the envelopes and I started getting phone calls about all the money I owed from less-than-pleasant people.

I didn’t know how many loans I had, how much I owed, or any idea if I was close to defaulting or getting into serious, long-term financial trouble.

Needless to say, I was pretty stressed.

I decided I had to know how much I owed and who I owed it to. There was no way to start to attack my debt while still in the dark.

Once I tracked down all of my loans and student loan carriers, and added up the total amount now owed, interest had compounded the debt up to just under $33,000.

Knowing that number was scary.

Knowing that number was horrifying. I screamed. I cried. I had several cocktails I could not afford.  But then I was able to begin to make a plan.

2: Make a plan

In it’s most simple form, a budget is a plan for your money.

Without knowing how much money you are bringing in and how much is going out, you run the risk of spending more than you have available.

America’s three biggest banks earned more than $6.4 billion in 2016 from ATM and overdraft fees, according to CNN Money. That is a high cost for miss-remembering how much money you have in Checking.

By knowing and tracking your money with a budget, you get to give every dollar a job to do in your life. Without a budget, my money tends to just disappear. I have no idea where, when or what I spent it on, and it certainly isn’t helping my financial future. With a budget, I get to plan for expenses, savings and even having fun – all guilt free because I know everything is covered in my plan.

3: Have an emergency budget

In the middle of a crisis, no one is the best at managing their money. We spend emotionally. We panic .. We don’t have the stability and guidelines that our budget normally provides us.

Enter the Emergency Budget, your new favorite tool for peace of mind in a crisis.

Building one is simple and lets you know exactly how much money you need to live off in an emergency situation. This will give you some peace of mind as it’s likely much less than your current income. Second, it allows you to make hard decisions with a clear head, versus later during crisis mode.

By creating an emergency budget NOW, you’ll know the amount of money you really need to survive the month with a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly.

4: Work toward building an emergency fund

Even just $500-$1,000 saved in an account to be used only for emergencies can have a hugely relaxing effect on your mental stress.

That is enough money to pay for an unexpected medication or a blown tire.

It’s enough to turn something disastrous into something annoying.

While it won’t cover every situation, it will certainly help. Once you have an emergency fund, you’ll never want to be without it.

5: Set track-able money goals

Once you have a firm grasp of your money situation and spending habits, you can start to alter your daily choices to better your financial future.

Making room in your budget to prioritize saving for your emergency fund, paying down your debt or saving money for future expenses will all allow you to work toward things you want and will benefit you in the long term. Setting and following a plan to accomplish those goals will bring you a sense of achievement and joy as you complete them.

You will be in control of your money and much less financially stressed.

Your Turn!

  • What is the most stressful money-related thing in your life?
  • What was a money-related stress that you’ve defeated? How?

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Getting Ready For The Holidays

The holidays are fast approaching and that means a really busy time here at the tiny house.  With family in town and holiday parties with friends, it can get a little crazy so I decided to try to get all my to do list done so I could just enjoy the time.

First off, I decided to get a tree this year, something I haven’t done in a long time, but I found the perfect solution one day while I was picking up some wood filler from the hardware store.  It’s a rosemary bush that is shaped and pruned into the form of a Christmas tree.

christmas tree tiny house

I haven’t decorated it, YET!  But I really like the look of it and it smells great, plus come spring time I plan to drop it into the ground and let it open up some so I can use it for cooking.

In a small space it can be tricky to do holiday things, but this little tree is perfect for the season.  At only about 2 feet tall and about 10 inches round, its a great little way to decorate for the holidays.

how to fix floor noises

The next big task I had to do was fix my floors.  I have solid wood floors made of maple and I love the look of them, but they are noisy.  There were several places where the floor would flex enough to make noises and I have wanted to fix it for a long time, but didn’t know how.

I found this neat little kit for sale called the Squeak No More Kit which was exactly what I needed.  The screws are specially designed to snap the head off, so you can drive them into your floor and then they break off below the surface of the wood.

floor noise fix

I was a bit hesitant to put holes in my nice floor, but this kit made a very small hole and then can be almost completely hidden with some wood filler colored to match the wood tone.  To use it you first drill a pilot hole with the jig, then drive the screw through the middle hole of the jig and then you hear a snap!  Give it a little wiggle and you have the screw recessed below the wood surface.

The trick to this is you need to be confident, if you go slow you will run into issues with the snapping.  So when your drive in the screw, go in with a lot of speed and torque, I used my impact driver to put the screws in.

before and after stair build

One my floors were nice and quiet, I decided to update my stairs.  The old one was very sad looking and wasn’t super stable, so I wanted to install a nice set.  I wrote all about this in this post about how I built my stairs.

gifts for christmas

Finally I’ve decided to buy and wrap all my gifts way ahead of time so that I don’t have to worry about it.  While people are still thinking about Thanksgiving, I want it all to be done with.

A lot of these things are things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but they just hung over me, always at the back of my mind that I needed to take care of.  So I just decided to go to town on them and get setup for the holidays early this year.

Your Turn!

  • What things are you going to do to get ready for the holidays?
  • What things do you do to reduces holiday stress?

Five Ways To Slow Down

It seems like so many people today are suffering from Busy-itis:  the affliction of seeming or being way too busy.  It’s become an all too common phrase, “I’m so busy.”  Recently I’ve been doing some reflecting on how my lifestyle has changed over the past few years and then comparing that to others who have said they wish they could live The Tiny Life.  Today I thought I would give some tips on how slow down, remove the busy, and bring focus to your life, tiny or not.

too-busy-people-workplace-ecard-someecards

1. Look at your calendar this week and choose one thing to cancel

It doesn’t really matter what it is, just choose one thing and cancel it.  What do you do with that time?  Nothing.

2. Start doubling the time you schedule for something

We often underestimate the amount of time it takes to do certain things, usually by a good bit.  This, of course, relies on scheduling out your days, which is a good practice to take up if you don’t yet.  Worst case scenario, you have extra time before your next engagement to just relax for a few minutes.

3. Schedule time to do nothing

If you don’t make time for it, it will not happen.  The truth is we can’t all be engaged at all times. We aren’t made to do that.  One counterintuitive lesson I’ve learned is that there are times when you can be more efficient by stepping away from for a while and coming back at it fresh.  There are a million things competing for your attention in this world. If you don’t schedule your time, it won’t happen.

4. Removing urgency

Take a moment to think about what could happen in your home life, in your work and in your social life that if you didn’t respond to right away it would be disastrous.  There are very few things, (outside of someone getting hurt or dying) that require you to be 100% on it at all times.  It can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking something is urgent and important.  The more things you have on your list of truly urgent things, the less happy you will be; its a direct correlation.

Many people argue on this point, “I have things that are so important” or  “my job/boss is always last minute” or some other excuse.  We all need to pay bills and be adults, but the truth is we allow most of these things to happen to us.  Every time something urgent comes up and we don’t later ask the question “How can we prevent this from happening in the future?” we are giving that person or situation permission to do it again.

If you have a job that is always last minute, then work to change the culture or seek out a place that doesn’t have that culture.  Same thing with friends – if you have a friend that is always in some sort of drama or tragedy, that will take a toll on the friendship. Work to change it or seek new friends.

5. Get rid of internet, your microwave and freezer

This is a pretty extreme, I have to concede that fact.  I decided that when I moved into my tiny house I was going to not have Internet, cable TV, a freezer or a microwave.  What does this mean?  When I get home, I don’t immediately feel drawn to the internet, I settle in and take a moment to just relax.

After taking a moment to detach, I start cooking. I don’t have a freezer for convenience foods or a microwave for fast cooking.  This forces me to take my time while cooking, something that I enjoy doing.  It forces me focus on the task at hand, to block out the world for a while and make a good meal.  There is just something about such a hands-on analog activity that provides separation from my work which is digital.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you find helpful to slow down?

Cage Homes

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I found this story over at CNN, its about cage homes in Hong Kong.  If you haven’t heard about these, they are essentially bunkbeds that are sealed off with cage wire so that people can lock them when they aren’t there.  They are the size of a single bed and are about 4 feet tall for each “unit”.   You have to share a bathroom with everyone, but the kicker is this, guess how much it costs for one of these in Hong Kong?  $167 a month!

There has been recent outcry about the deplorable living conditions which a large number of people live in.  Above is a photo of one of these cage homes that was used in an art exhibit to raise awareness of the growing trend.  Among the cage homes, cubical farms have been cropping up where people pay to live in, about the same rate.  In a city where houses have sold as much as $9,200 per square foot, no wonder why people go to these extremes.  The questions is, what is the solution?  With such densely populated urban centers, space is getting less and less accessible.

Read more about it at Reuters

Practical Tips For Downsizing….Everything Part 3

Just Say No!:

This is your brain, this is your brain when you have so much stuff to do that you literally can’t do it all.  That where saying NO comes into play.  Saying no is harder than you might thing, try it.  Someone asks you to join in on some committee for a volunteer organization, your church needs a Sunday school teacher or you are asked any number of things which add strain to your life.Busy_Woman

It’s not that you don’t want to do these things, it’s not that you are lazy, it is the simple fact that there are 24 hours in a day and at a point you are booked solid and you didn’t leave any time for you.

You need to factor in time for you, again it’s not selfish, its not greedy or lazy.  It is taking time for you to take a break and unwind a bit.  You aren’t any good to anyone if you can’t focus, you are always tired or you are running late to everything.

But how to determine what to say yes to and what to say no to?

Read more