Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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It is really easy to fall into the worry trap. Especially when it comes to worrying about money.
Worry is a natural human response. We all do it. It is meant to help us plan for the future and fix up coming issues or learn from past mistakes.
The problem is that we can get stuck in future or past problems which can be entirely debilitating.
Basically, worrying about money or anything else will hurt you long term unless you deal with it.
The Negative Effects of Worry
You are finally figuring out how to be money conscious and the outlook isn’t good. You have a substantial amount of credit card debt and student loans. On top of that the bills are still due, and your income just isn’t growing fast enough.
Then your kid breaks their leg and you are suddenly hit with a large hospital bill. You know that you can’t afford the bill and the darkness of doubt starts to creep in.
Your brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out how you’re going to make it through this month.
You start to tell yourself that you’ll never get out of debt. And you feel like giving up.
Does this situation feel familiar? It should. We’ve all been there in one form or another. Whether it was about money or not, we’ve all felt worried.
How Your Body Reacts to Worry
Worry is a form of stress. Much like any stress response, your heightened senses are meant to help you overcome a particular situation. The problem is, we can worry about something that is hours, days, weeks, months or even years away.
That doesn’t give our body time to calm down and reset after a situation has been dealt with. Staying in that highly aware state will start to take a toll on your body.
Being in this heighten state can cause all sorts of problems:
- Lack of sleep
- Memory Loss
- And More
Lack of Sleep
In my opinion, the number one issue is lack of sleep. If something that is worrying you literally keeps you up at night then that is a problem. Lack of sleep not only leads to poor health, but poor performance which can lead to more worry.
Your heightened stress can also lead to depression, which makes sense considering that worrying is a close cousin to sadness. And depression is an oppressive blanket of sadness. Taking steps to remove worry then is a big deal for overcoming depression.
As you spend time not sleeping and keeping your body going at a higher level, your body will wear out. That means you’ll be more likely to catch diseases, but also your body will start to malfunction. Heart disease, autoimmune disease, and random pains can all be caused by stress. Your health is not worth the time you spend worrying.
This one is perhaps the scariest consequence. The idea that you spend so much time focus on one thing your brain ceases to code information correctly and you can no longer remember things well.
Basically what I’m saying is allowing worry and stress into your life is a recipe to die young.
How to Stop Worrying (About Money) and Start Living
In 1948 the well known author of How to Win Friends and Influence People* Dale Carnegie wrote another, less well known book that changed my life. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living* breaks down, through story telling, the ways we can put our worries aside, deal with them in turn, and conquer feelings of dread.
I had recently returned from a couple of years of religious service in a foreign country and it seemed like my years of childhood were over. I had a lot of big decisions to make and everything started to pile up.
Worry overcame me and I started to be consumed by it. Unsure what the future held and what the right decision was I could think of nothing else. My brain was in a constant loop of concern and analysis.
I would lie down to sleep thinking about my worries, and wake up to be troubled by them immediately. I had no rest.
Then I remembered this book that was recommended to me. I poured over it and discovered within the secrets to reducing worry. After months of analysis and consideration I was able to largely just let my problems go and trust it would all work out.
Now, years later, I’ve run into worry again from time to time, and I’ve been able to combat it with lessons from this book. I will now apply these lessons, and others, to how to stop worrying about money.
20 Tips to Stop Worrying About Money
Before we can get into the tips from the book, there are some basic financial principles that need to be in place. The only way to stop worrying about money is to be in control. So first I’ll go over how to get in control of your money, then we’ll talk about how to stop worrying about it.
Get Your Financial House in Order
These are basic financial steps everyone must take before they can stop worrying.
1 Get the Fact: Track Your Spending
It is impossible to fix any financial problems you may be worrying about without know your finances. That is why the first step is always to track your spending. Know how much is coming out and how much is coming in. This can also be summarized as getting the facts about your financial situation.
In the book, Carnegie has this to say about getting the facts, “Get the facts. Why is it so important to get the facts? Because unless we have the facts we can’t possibly even attempt to solve our problem intelligently”.
If you are worried because there never seems to be enough money to repair your run down car, then you need to track where your money is going to make the necessary changes to address your problem. Before you do anything, get the facts.
2 Spend Less Than You Earn
Once you know how much money you’re spending and how much you are bringing in you can start cutting back your spending so you spend less than you earn.
Once you spend less than you earn you’ll stop going further into debt and start coming back out. Since debt is the biggest cause of money stress, this is a no brainer.
If you can’t spend less than you earn then money will be worrisome for the rest of your life.
3 Build an Emergency Fund
Contrary to what may seem like the best course, the first thing you should do once you’re spending less than you earn is to put money in savings. Not pay off debt.
Building an emergency fund first helps with two things. One, a sense of security that will give you more peace of mind as you move forward. And two, the ability to handle financial issues as they come up without going into more debt.
Having an emergency fund is having a sense of financial security. Obviously that is a big deal when trying to get rid of money worry.
4 Reduce Your Debt Load
Now that you are in a position to pay down your debt, you can start doing things that reduce your debt load.
You can consider refinancing your debt to get a lower interest rate. Selling the things you have debt on to pay it back.
Using a no interest for one year credit card on balance transfers to really attack your debt hard for a year.
Anything that can help you owe less money and have more power to pay it back can be huge win for your financial peace of mind.
Tackling Your Worries
Once you have firm financial footing you can actually address your worries. Here is how to remove the teeth from worry and make life more manageable.
5 Focus on Today
The problem with worrying is it takes time today for something that isn’t happening today. If there is an immediate effect then it is important to handle that, but if the worry is abstract and in the future, then it is just robbing you.
Carnegie had this to say, “the best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
So in other words, by focusing on the here and now you will be better prepared to handle your worries in the future.
For example, If you have a huge debt, focus on making more money today and not how crushing that debt seems in the future.
6 Accept the Worst Case Scenario
People often say, “What’s the worst that can happen?” to justify doing something stupid. But in the context of worry it is actually a really good question to ask.
By addressing the worst case scenario and coming to terms with it you are no longer scared by what worries you and you can stop worrying.
For example, if you worry about having enough money to pay the bills remember that the worst that can happen would be losing your job, having to leave your house, and having bad credit.
Would you still be alive? Yes. Could you come back from it? Yes. Now that you realize that the worst case scenario isn’t the end of the world you can move forward with confidence because you can probably avoid the worst case scenario through your own effort.
This is what Carnegie says about accepting the worst. “After discovering the worst that could possibly happen and reconciling myself to accepting it, if necessary, an extremely important thing happened: I immediately relaxed and felt a sense of peace that I hadn’t experienced in days.”
I tried it myself and I must say it works!
7 Write Out the Problem and Potential Solutions
The reason worrying is such a big problem is that it gets you stuck in a loop of over analysis and dread that never seems to end no matter how much you analyze the same problem.
To break this loop consider writing down the answer to these two question: What am I worried about? and What can I do about it?
Carnegie said, “I used to try to answer those questions without writing them down. But I stopped that years ago. I found that writing down both the questions and the answers clarifies my thinking.”
Once it is written out you can plan a course of action and stop worrying about it.
For example, you might agonize over refinancing your debt because of the cost of the new loan. Instead, write out exactly how much it will cost for each option then go from there.
8 Hedge Against Catastrophe
Once way to reduce worries is to take steps to avoid the outcome of the most tragic situations. For example, we have home insurance for the slim chance our home burns down.
By thinking through, and writing down, the things that worry you most but aren’t likely to happen, you can identify ways to handle those problems in advance so you don’t have to worry about it.
If you’re worried about losing your job, start saving extra money for your emergency fund and maybe learn a new skill in your spare time.
If you’re worried about retirement funds losing their value, then maybe buy some gold to keep in reserve.
Whatever worries you that isn’t super likely can easily be handled in advance.
9 Focus On One Problem at a Time
Carnegie quoting Roland L. Williams, President of Chicago and North-western Railway, says: “A person with his desk piled high with papers on various matters will find his work much easier and more accurate if he clears that desk of all but the immediate problem on hand. I call this good housekeeping, and it is the number-one step towards efficiency.”
In other words, when you have a million things to do you will be stressed and worried, but when you focus and almost pretend that you only have one thing to do then your life is manageable and your worry can disappear.
If you must, literally clear your desk (or inbox for that matter) of unanswered letters and unfinished work and do just one thing at a time.
Another way to think about it is the Eisenhower Matrix. You should start with things that are urgent and important. Then move to the things that are important and not urgent. Then get someone else to do things that are urgent but not important (if you can). And completely delete anything that is not urgent or important.
You get to decide what is most urgent in your financial situation. That’s what makes this system work.
10 Automate to Avoid Future Bad Situations
Sometimes we just keep getting ourselves into situations that cause us grief. As a human being that is natural. So to avoid this we need to remove the human element and automate it.
For example, if you consistently overspend so you don’t save, automatically put money in your savings each month so you can’t overspend.
Or if you worry about not putting enough in retirement, ask HR for half of your yearly raise to go towards retirement before it even hits your bank account.
Automating good behavior leads to less stress about actually doing it.
11 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
This is easier said than done, but trying to remember to not sweat the small stuff is more beneficial than just giving in to it.
In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Dale Carnegie quoted Andre Maurois saying, “Here we are on this earth, with only a few more decades to live, and we lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year’s time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody. No, let us devote our life to worth-while actions and feelings, to great
thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings. For life is too short to be little.”
If you are worrying about something that will be soon forgotten, remind yourself not to sweat the small stuff and gain a little perspective then move on.
For example, my wife and I sometimes agonized about going out to eat because we knew that is was slightly more expensive than eating at home. But we hardly ever went out to eat. Instead of agonizing over it we could have just gone out to eat and had a much healthier mental day.
12 Act as Soon as You Should
This might be an odd piece of advice, but it is the middle ground between caution and action. Many people say act as soon as you can, but that isn’t the best advice. You need to get the facts, write out your options, then act.
On the other hand, waiting too long to act allows doubt and worry to settle in. Get the facts, determine a solution, then do it.
Carnegie said this on taking action, “once you have made a careful decision based on facts, go into action. Don’t stop to reconsider. Don’t begin to hesitate worry and retrace your steps. Don’t lose yourself in self-doubting which begets other doubts. Don’t keep looking back over your shoulder.”
Once you’ve taken the time to think, act!
For example, when considering your investment options you should weigh a few options carefully, but then choose one. There will always be another option to look at. The new shiny tech company with their special bonus.
Don’t take time agonizing over all of those things, just choose what your facts tell you is best and move forward.
13 Be Productive
Beyond just taking action on your current problem, action itself can be a great tool for dissolving worry. If you don’t have time to consider each gruesome outcome that your mind can conceive then you’ll be less likely to worry.
When we are productive we are interested. When we’re interested, we’re engaged. When we’re engaged we are focused and have no time for worry.
Spending time working on your business, being a great employee, or other pursuits can help reduce your financial worry before it actually helps you financially.
14 Control Your Response
In the stock market you can put a “stop-loss” order on your stocks. If stocks dip a certain amount then it will be sold automatically. That, says Carnegie, is what we can do in our own lives.
We have to decide that we won’t spend a minute more worrying about something or stewing over it and then we follow our commitment.
I know this is easier said than done, but if you don’t give yourself any guidance on when to stop worrying, how can you expect to stop?
And a real stop-loss order is a good idea to worry less about the stock market too.
Improve Your Mental Health
Once you’ve hit worry straight on it is important to fortify yourself against new worries and to strengthen yourself to overcome the worries you have. These tips will help you overcome worry and not just face it.
15 Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
“Nobody is so miserable as he who longs to be somebody and something other than the person he is in body and mind” (Carnegie quoting Dr. James Gordon Gilkey). We need to remember that if we spend our time trying to be something we’re not or trying to impress other people, that is a gateway to worry.
By just being yourself, however uncomfortable that idea may make you feel, you will be able to strike worrying about who you’re supposed to be off your list.
This leads to better mental health and great satisfaction with life. Where money is concerned, use it the way that is best for you. Personal finance is personal, so don’t try to be the next Warren Buffet. Be the first you!
16 Refocus on Your Health
Remember that your health should be your priority, even at the expense of making more money. And a number one cause of health issues is worry.
Quoting Dr. O. F. Gober, Carnegie said, “Seventy per cent of all patients who come to physicians could cure themselves if they only got rid of their fears and worries. Don’t think for a moment that I mean that their ills are imaginary,” he said. “Their ills are as real as a throbbing toothache and sometimes a hundred times more serious. I refer to such illnesses as nervous indigestion, some stomach ulcers, heart disturbances, insomnia, some headaches, and some types of paralysis.”
Take the time for yourself to get sleep, get exercise, eat right, and meditate or pray.
Maintaining your health as a priority will reduce the stressful situations that lead to worry and help you manage worry as it comes.
17 Positive Self Talk
I know this sounds a little new age mystic, but seriously, this is powerful. If you are telling yourself it is the end of the world then your out look on the world will be negative, which leads to worry.
If you consistently remind yourself that you can handle this and that everything will be okay, then you are much more likely to be successful.
Consider telling yourself something positive everyday for two weeks, then see how you feel. For a powerful book on how this applies to finances, consider reading Think and Grow Rich* by Napoleon Hill.
18 Do Something Selfless
Too often our worries come from focusing too much on ourselves and not enough on the outside world. Being wrapped up in our problems instead of looking at the bigger picture can be toxic.
Many great philosophers have come to this same conclusion. All that’s left is to put it to the test. Consider these two quotes from Carnegie’s book.
“You can be cured [of worry] in fourteen days if you follow this prescription. Try to think every day how you can please someone.” -Alfred Adler
“When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.” -Benjamin Franklin
So try doing one good thing for someone else daily. I’ve done it and it works. Whenever I’ve become upset with my spouse the fastest what I can become blissful again is to simply serve her.
When you feel like you’re not doing enough with your money, consider increasing your giving. It may seem counter intuitive, but people that give always seem to have enough.
There is a lot of research lately on the power of gratitude, but knowing that gratitude is good for the soul is not a new discovery.
Showing daily gratitude for what you do have will make what you don’t have that you’re worrying about seem small.
My wife and I daily say 5 things we’re grateful and that has set a great tone for our marriage and our lives. Focus on the good and your life will be filled with good.
Focus on how blessed you are to even be able to worry about investing and you’ll be better off.
20 Use Faith to Combat Fear
I don’t know if you are religious or not, but I must say that having a belief in a higher power is a powerful way to combat worry.
When you can put all of your worries on God and know that it will all work out for the best, it does.
So if you are overcome with worry about the financial mess you’re in, please turn to God. God will help you.
Carnegie, who went from religious to agnostic and back to religious in his life had this to say. “[Religion] gives me faith, hope, and courage. It banishes tensions, anxieties, fears, and worries. It gives purpose to my life-and direction. It vastly improves my happiness. It gives me abounding health. It helps me to create for myself ‘an oasis of peace amidst the whirling sands of life’.”
Start Living Your Money Life
I’ve heard and said all of the classic money worries before. I can’t afford it. I feel poor. I wish I could not worry about money.
I’m here to tell you that if you follow these tips you can stop worrying about money.
I’m not perfect at it, but these steps have helped me overcome worry and start to live my best financial life.
What are some ways you’ve fought off worry? How can we feel better about our finances? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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