5 Small but Impactful Ways to Feel Like You Have Your Finances Under ControlTrust that little steps can add up to make a big difference.
Few things can make a rough day worse than watching digits disappear in your bank account after bills start hitting. If money stress regularly weighs on your mental health, you’re definitely not alone.
“Our livelihood is centered around money,” says Minaa B., LMSW, licensed therapist, social worker, writer, and founder of Minaa B. Consulting. So it’s really no surprise that finances can cause us so much stress. Whether you’re living in poverty, carrying debt, or otherwise struggling financially, money problems can threaten your ability to meet your basic needs, which of course could trigger feelings of anxiety or depression, Minaa B. says. All of this can create a vicious cycle: money problems can impact your mental health, and poor mental health can affect your financial behaviors in negative ways too.
But just because it’s understandable doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. The biggest thing when it comes to financial anxiety is that “you don't want to stay in a state of stuckness,” Minaa B. says. Taking action—even seemingly small steps—can help you gain some clarity and control of your finances. Here are a few ways to feel less overwhelmed and more on top of your money.
1. Start with a no-judgment spending tracker.
Before you think you need some fancy, color-coded budget spreadsheet, hold tight. We mean “budget” in the most basic sense of the word. “Having a clear understanding of how much money you make, as well as how much money you spend on bills, is important,” Minaa B. says.
That’s because, whatever your financial situation looks like, you have to be able to look frankly at the money you actually have. Looking at the comings and goings of your money might also help you pinpoint what about your finances stresses you out so you can work on addressing it. For example, maybe you're anxious because you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck some (or most) months. Spending some time with your budget can help you see what factors are causing that and what you might be able to change about the situation. And hey, if nothing else, it can remind you to unsubscribe from all those premium memberships that you completely forgot about.
Here's a simple guide to starting a budget if you need some help.
2. Choose one spending habit to adjust.
Now that you have a pretty good idea of where all your money is going, see if there's anything you could tweak to give you more breathing room in that budget.
For example, Minaa B. says, if you notice that a surprising amount of your money is being spent on going out to eat with friends every week, try setting a limit that feels both doable and impactful. Maybe that’s sticking to only one friend outing a week or maybe it’s finding a way to spend less money each time you go out (like opting for happy hours, cheaper restaurants, or inviting people over for a potluck-style dinner at your house). If you're looking for inspiration, here are some small tweaks to help you spend less (without feeling like you're missing out).
3. Check in with your values.
One thing that can help when it comes to changing your spending habits is to consider what you value. For example, if you really value traveling or being with friends, you can dedicate a bigger portion of your spending budget to those categories while cutting back in areas where you won't feel it as much (like a streaming service you barely use).
But keep in mind that what you value won’t always match your bank account—and that’s OK, Minaa B. says. If you love designer fashion or beach vacations, your budget isn’t there to tell you to love that stuff less, it's just there to help you set realistic expectations around how much you actually spend on those things. “I have to have a boundary with myself and say, 'Although I like it—I think that it's cute, the shoes are great, the car is beautiful—I can't afford it,'” Minaa B. says.
“There are certain things you might value that right now, in this season of your life, you do not have the income to splurge or spend money on or it's going to lead to a severe consequence on your mental health,” Minaa B. says. Instead of getting discouraged by that, try to reframe it as motivation to make changes so that you can afford those things.
4. Ask for help.
If just looking at your budget makes your blood pressure spike, you’re not alone. “A lot of us don't grow up getting financial literacy,” Minaa B. says. So search around for someone who can take you through the financial planning basics. “Sit with a financial advisor or financial mentor and ask: What are better ways that you can leverage your money? What are the different ways that you can budget more or save more?”
Remember, everybody who knows this stuff had to learn it at some point. The finance world may seem like a big, complicated place, but some of the most sound financial advice is pretty simple—and a financial advisor can help you look at your actual situation and focus on the changes that will impact your life the most.
While this might sound like it will only give you more to worry about, knowing where you’re at and how to move forward can really help reduce your mental and emotional load. “The bigger step to all of this sometimes is recognizing the agency you have over your life,” Minaa B. says.
5. Remember, your worth isn’t tied to your bank statement.
In a hierarchical and patriarchal culture like ours, Minaa B. says, it’s easy to internalize the message that your worth is based on how much money you make or how much savings you have in the bank. But that’s just not the case.
“Those are two separate things,” Minaa B. says. "You are a worthy human being regardless of you being employed or not, or you being poor or rich. Your finances do not determine who you are as a person. You are the person who determines who you are.”
Keep that in mind the next time you start feeling overwhelmed by your financial situation. The faster we can remove the shame and stigma around these money conversations, the faster we can start taking control of our finances. Every financial journey is unique—including yours. For more free resources and candid conversations about money, join Fidelity's Women Talk Money community.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.