Financial stress can be one of the most challenging stressors to deal with, and it can significantly impact your mental health and wellbeing. Constant worry about juggling bills or being chased by creditors can take its toll on a person, their family, and friends.
It is normal to feel low or anxious when you've lost your job, been made redundant, or you're struggling with debt. Financial stress and uncertainty can contribute to mental ill health, and there is evidence to suggest that people can experience distress and suicidal thoughts when facing financial stress and uncertainty.
What is financial pressure?
Financial pressure arises from any situation where money worries are causing stress. It may relate to debts you are facing now, or financial concerns you have about the future. It could be about actual or feared changes in work or personal circumstances that affect your income. It might be about expected expenses for you or your family. These are challenging financial times for many individuals and families.
What are the signs that you may need help with finances and debt?
- It could be that you have:
- Late bill payments or often seeking extensions
- Minimum or missed payments on credit cards
- Spending less money on necessities, e.g. food
- Increasing debt from credit cards or loans
- Legal action for debt recovery
- Fear of eviction from being behind in rent or loan repayments
How does financial pressure affect wellbeing?
Financial pressure can seriously affect your relationships and your health. For example:
- Arguing with loved ones because of money worries.
- Difficulty sleeping – unhealthy eating, skimping on meals.
- Feeling anxious about money.
- Feeling guilty when spending money on non-essential items.
- Limiting your spending on necessities or enjoyable activities.
- Being afraid to open mail with new bills.
- Financial stress can also cause physical signs of tension, such as headaches or feeling sick.
If you are not coping with financial stress and are having negative emotional responses, it is important to seek help. Speak with your GP about the best mental health resources fro you or if you are having thoughts of suicide by calling Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 via text on 0477 13 11 14 or via chat at https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat
What strategies can I use to help with my financial stress?
You can try out some of the short-term and long-term strategies suggested below. The first step is to be realistic about your financial situation.
You can take control in the short term by assessing your situation. Take a close look at your income, expenses, and debts. Identify areas where you can cut back on expenses and create a budget that works for you.
Write down the total owing on all bills and expenses.
- Work out your monthly budget to pay all bills and cover your living expenses – include everything, even monthly, quarterly or annual payments (e.g. rent, food, electricity and phone bills, car loan repayments, petrol etc.).
- Deduct your expenses and regular payments from your income.
In the long term, you could look at employing these strategies:
- Contact a financial counselling service for free, confidential help.
- Establish an emergency fund by setting aside money in a savings account each month if you can – every little bit helps.
- Contact people to whom you owe money. Tell them you are having difficulty – ask for time to work things out, make progress payments or seek help. If you don’t get a helpful response, see the financial hardship policies of the lender or provider (e.g. power, gas, water, phone) to see what they offer.
- Consider approaching a welfare service in your area for help with bill payments. (e.g.The Salvation Army or The Samaritans) See our resources below.
Remember, financial stress can be overwhelming, but there are resources and support available to help you manage it. By taking control of your finances and seeking help when you need it, you can reduce your stress and improve your mental health and wellbeing.
Here are some of the places to go for information and both practical and psychological support:
- Money Smart – offers tips, tools and guidance to help you take control of your money and build a better life. https://moneysmart.gov.au/
- The Small Business Debt Helpline – a free and independent service for small businesses and sole traders in financial difficulty. 1800 413 828 or https://sbdh.org.au/
- Salvation Army – emergency and long term financial assistance Call 1300 371 288 or visit https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/need-help/financial-assistance
- National Debt Helpline – a free and confidential service offering resources, advice and referrals. Call 1800 007 007 (9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday). Or chat with them at https://ndh.org.au/
- Centrelink – a crisis payment may be available. Visit - https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/crisis-payment
- For Crisis Support, contact Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14, via text 0477 13 11 14 or https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat