How to Stop Stressing Over Money

There was a time in my life when I was majorly stressed out. I was pregnant and freaking out about how we were going to manage our finances. I knew we had debt, I just didn’t know how much. I also knew we had no savings and if something happened we’d be in trouble. To add to it all my OB wanted me off work early. I was due June 21 and she was talking about putting me off in March. I was suffering from debilitating pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome (I couldn’t even hold a pen to write my name, so doing my job as a dental hygienist was impossible and pain-ridden every day).

I wanted to go off work, the pain was unbearable and I was restricted to the off Tylenol- which, by the way does nothing for inflammatory related issues- but I couldn’t. We weren’t in a position financially to allow me to go off work that early. Even though I was entitled to government issued sick leave benefits I couldn’t take the pay-cut any earlier than we had to (I was already preparing for a 60% pay cut when on mat leave). It sucked.

I didn’t know how to stop stressing because, truthfully I didn’t fully know what was causing the stress. It took a few days but eventually I realized it was my utter lack of control over everything that made me uneasy. I was so used to just dealing with something when the time came that I hadn’t learned to live in a start of preparedness.

If you want to stop stressing about money it is possible but it won’t happen over night. I feel like some financial advice given leads one to believe that if they just stop doing what they’re doing and listen to them it will all fix itself magically, when the truth is that it takes time.

To start, you have to sit down and figure out where your finances are. Calculate your debts (if any- not everyone has debt!), your income, bills, everything. One you have a good idea where you stand you need to come up with some sort of system to monitor your money, a budget is ideal but doesn’t work for everyone. As long as you have a way to monitor your money in such a way you can reach your goals that’s what counts. Sitting down and looking at the numbers will have a strange sense of relief associated with it. Even if you don’t like what you see, there is no more unknown and a burden will be lifted.

You absolutely must have an emergency fund. I don’t care if you’re 18 and single or 118 and married with 267 grandchildren. You need to have one but it doesn’t mean it will be the same for everyone. After all, emergency funds aren’t a one size fits all. If you don’t already have one you must start saving for one. You will be amazed at how much even a few hundred dollars in the bank account will make you feel. You will sleep SO much better at night knowing you could cover a minor day-to-day emergency. You’ll eventually get to a point of building a larger (job-loss sized) emergency fund but start with small steps and feel the stress diminish.

Create a goal and go for it. For us, its debt payoff. Once we came up with a plan we felt so much better. Simply having a direction gives us purpose. We suddenly had a reason for all of our hard work. For us ‘paying off debt’ isn’t enough. It’s the reasons why behind debt payoff. We want to have a better life. We want to travel, we want to move, we eventually want more kids…all of these things will be much more possible when our debt is gone. Having a goal to reach for suddenly makes working that extra shift more appealing too.

Money stress is an awful feeling. I know because I’ve been there. It is possible to let go though and it starts with facing what is bothering you, it won’t be easy but it will so be worth it, I promise.

What was/is your biggest money stress and how do you deal with it?


  1. Isaac Musial says

    Nice post Catherine. Speaking from experience, I’ll tell you that the money stress has never gone away for me even in spite of doing what most consider would be the right things. My wife and I have an emergency fund, paying down debt at a fast clip, paying into retirement plans and insurance programs and RESPs for our kids and still have enough to budget for family vacations and other extras. For me, the stress usually comes from spending the money and less related to the overall financial health of our household, which I would admit is good. I’ve been better able to cope with letting go of earned income by taking care of what matters first and accepting that the rest of the money would just inevitably disappear.

  2. Very good list. I would suggest listing out several goals, but concentrating on one at a time. That way, as you come close to completing a goal, you won’t be stressing over what comes next, because you’ll already know!

  3. I know when I start getting lower back pain and stomach upset it has to do with money. Or money not flowing in enough. Sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled in so many directions that it’s hard to stick to a path. Do I invest in my business to hopefully make more money, or do I just focus on paying the little consumer debt/car loan I have and just save money in general? I think that’s still something I need to work on. Glad you found your path, and can’t wait until you’re done with that to find a new path!

  4. I couldn’t agree more. I really think the emergency fund is key. Even if you don’t have a ton of money in the bank, just having that little extra padding makes all the difference!

  5. My biggest stress is how randomly expenses will crop up. Two people with health problems means we’ll be fine for a bit, then a slew of doctor bills and/or the need for convenience tax, like paying more for milk at Walgreen’s because we can’t go all the way to the grocery store. Blech.

    I’ve pretty much just accepted that we can’t even come close to planning exactly. That’s why we just have a set amount of money each week, rather than trying to budget discrete categories. My mental health is much better since we switched to that.

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