3 Steps to Reduce Money Stress

Woman with laptop

A recent bank advertisement showed a woman paying her bills. She sat down, glanced at her computer, clicked a few buttons and then – poof – she was done! The point of the ad was to show the speed and convenience of the bank’s online bill paying service. However, the ad missed the point.

Spending money and paying bills, for many of us, is thought provoking and emotionally charged, none of which were reflected in the ad.

The ad was correct in using a woman as women are becoming increasingly important in financial decision making. According to “Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage” by the Pew Research Center (2010), women contribute about 30% to the household income, a significant increase from the 1970 range of 2% – 6%. In households where the husband earns more, financial decision making is shared. Yet in households where the wife earns more, the wife is the principle decision maker. So the impact of women is being felt, whether sharing financial decisions or being the “decider”.

The ad was also correct in showcasing how technology makes our lives increasingly convenient. Now we can apply for home loans, transfer funds, pay bills and make deposits through online banking services, from the comfort of our home and by clicking a few buttons.

What the ad missed was the reflections that take place while we either review the bills that are sent to us online or through the mail and make payment decisions. Here is a sample of our thoughts:

I can’t believe all those small purchases I made during the month add up to that whopping amount. Did they add them correctly?

Why is my energy bill so high? Aren’t we conserving? Is the meter working? Are they taking advantage of the strife in the Middle East to increase their charges?

Do I really need cable? I mean how many times do I actually watch TV? My kids use the computer as a relentless entertainment device. Why am I paying for cable? And premium channels no less.

Is this apartment really worth the rent? I mean, the kitchen is the size of a closet. Should I be renting anyway? Maybe I can buy a condo. But should I, in this market?

Another mortgage payment? Do they ever end? Even after I refinanced, the amount seems awfully high.

Do I really need a land line? Everybody in the house has a cell phone and it’s costing a bundle. Why will I feel like a loser if I don’t have a land line?

I have to pay the minimum balance on my credit cards this month and try to catch up next month. Maybe I should dip into my savings account. But once I do that, will I look up and have no savings?

The reality for most of us is that money may be more convenient… even too convenient… but it is no less stressful. So hear are three simple steps that may alleviate stress.

  1. Buy with more cold cash. By paying with cash, we better appreciate costs. Try taking out ten $20 bills to buy something. The costs will feel real. Conversely, using a credit card can put us out of touch with how our spending fits our budget… until the bill comes.
  2. Find a better deal. Call every company you pay… ALL of them… and find a better deal. Most companies count on the complacency of their customers and offer better deals to attract new customers. Make sure you are getting the best deal available. It will not only reduce your payments, it will give you the satisfaction of knowing your bills are as low as they possibly can be.
  3. Talk to your best friend about money… today! Tell her everything. Show her your paycheck, bank statement and bills. Do not hold back. When you think you have told too much, tell her more. Money conversations should not be taboo. Part of our stress is that we are keeping too many money secrets.

By taking these three steps, you still may not be able to relate to the woman in the bank ad (by the way, the bank discontinued the ad campaign), but you will find bill paying less stressful. And maybe #3 is a bit too difficult. But isn’t that what friends are for?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Teri Williams

Teri Williams is President and serves on the Board of Directors of OneUnited Bank. She is responsible for implementation of the Bank’s strategic initiatives, as well as the day to day operations of the bank. These operational areas include all retail branches, marketing, compliance, lending, information technology, customer support, legal, and human resources.

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