Finances can take a heavy toll on your mental and emotional health, especially when you are struggling to get by. To keep your head about you and avoid slipping into a dangerous space, mentally and financially, it’s essential to practise proactive self-care and ensure that you are taking steps to protect your wellbeing and your finances.
Here are some tips for practising self-care in different financial scenarios…
STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET?
There are many of us who may be able to meet our financial obligations each month, but who are far from living comfortably. You may have to give up all non-essential luxuries or leisure activities, borrow money from friends and family, and live with consistent stress because you have no emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. If you are stuck in any of these situations, the following could help:
- Track your expenses every month and, if necessary, go through your past bank statements to find out exactly how you are spending your money.
- Create a realistic monthly budget and stick to it. This is no easy feat, but it is essential for proper money management.
- Draw up a list of short- and long-term financial goals, and work out the amount you need to live comfortably (i.e. the figure you need to meet your payment obligations, contribute to a savings account monthly, enjoy occasional luxuries such as eating out or seeing friends, and live without consistent money stress), as well as an aspirational amount that you would like to be earning so that you can enjoy leisure activities and invest in your passions.
- Consider setting up a meeting with your employer to discuss your financial goals, and ask them if you could work together to create a plan for reaching your desired income through incremental increases or another method.
- Draw up a list of your values and priorities and check whether your spending is in alignment with these.
- Investigate financial activities such as investing, stokvels or potential passive income sources. These might provide some relief and will contribute towards your financial goals. However, do be sure to consult a qualified financial expert before you enter into any of these activities in order to protect yourself.
If you are in this situation, you may feel overwhelmed and concerned that you will be running out of money at any moment. Remember to incorporate healthy eating, occasional exercise or outdoor time, as well as quiet time away from social media and technology. These will not solve your money difficulties, but they will ensure that you are well equipped to handle stress and work on a plan to achieve a more livable monthly income.
Over-indebtedness is defined as a set of circumstances in which an individual is unable to meet their debt repayment obligations as laid out in their credit agreements. This could be because the individual’s financial circumstances have changed in the time since they entered the credit agreement, or because the individual does not have or earn enough to repay what they owe. Being over-indebted is one of the more drastic and desperate financial situations in which to find yourself, but hope is not lost. The best thing you can do for your financial, mental and physical health is to ask for help. Tracking your expenses, setting financial goals and the other tips listed above will, of course, be beneficial. However, the only way to solve the problem is to seek financial solutions such as:
- Renegotiating your credit agreements by speaking with your creditors and explaining your circumstances (if you enter debt review or take out a consolidation loan, a financial professional will do this on your behalf).
- Investigating legal processes such as administration, sequestration and debt review. These services were created to provide relief from debt – use them.
- Seeking professional psychological help. The mental effects of financial stress, particularly over-indebtedness, are not to be underestimated – speaking to an expert will allow you to air your concerns, reassure you that your feelings are normal, and develop a plan for managing your feelings and challenges.
Debtline has a team of expert financial advisors and debt counsellors that are here to guide you to financial freedom and provide invaluable support along the way. We understand, we do not bring judgement, and we want to help.
If you want to talk to a mental health professional, you can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 011 234 4837 (to talk to a trained counsellor between 8am – 8pm Monday to Sunday), or fill out their contact form and they will call you back. You can also contact them via any of the numbers listed here.
UNDER DEBT REVIEW
If you are undergoing the debt review process, you are doing remarkably well because you have tackled the most difficult part of financial management – asking for help. However, it’s still essential to monitor your health and practice good self care. Try doing the following:
- Build good financial habits. Track all of your spending, stick to your budget and create a good relationship with your money NOW in order to ensure that you can maintain a debt-free lifestyle after debt review. However, it is also important to keep finances compartmentalised so that your whole life isn’t affected by financial stress – create a dedicated time to do your financial admin, and carry on with your day outside of that period.
- Create balance. Investigate low-cost leisure and recreation activities in which you can take part and make sure to practice healthy eating, occasional exercise and sufficient down-time. This is the beginning of your new life – start living it and take care of your happiness along the way!
- Keep in touch. Stay in regular contact with your debt counsellor and other financial professionals that you have at your disposal. They will be able to assist and guide you if you are struggling, and they will ensure that you are staying on track.
This is a process that requires patience and perseverance – it may not be easy, but it is so worth it and you CAN do it.
BACK ON YOUR FEET
If you have fought your way back from the financial precipice, congratulations! This is no small feat, and you deserve to be incredibly proud of all you have achieved. It is now more important than ever to keep a close eye on your mental health and ensure that you are taking steps to keep yourself from falling back into trouble.
- Investigate long-term investment and savings solutions. You’ve survived the worst, and now it’s your time to THRIVE. Find ways to create passive incomes and build wealth that will protect you well into the future.
- Check in with a financial professional every now and then to ensure that you are on track and setting yourself up for success.
- Ensure that you have a retirement annuity, pension fund, insurance and medical aid – these are absolutely essential to ensure a healthy future and peace of mind.
If you are struggling, know that you are NOT alone. And, importantly, no matter how you have ended up here, remember that you do not need to be ashamed or guilty, and you do not deserve to live hand to mouth for the rest of your life. There are ways to get back on your feet – use them.