How to Survive Financial Difficulty


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
When I was a college student, it sometimes felt like financial problems are just around the corner. And guess what? They usually were. I’m not trying to scare you or come across as alarmist, but that’s just how things are. That’s just what happened to me a few years back. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but a medical emergency zapped my family’s finances.

But I’ve survived, thanks to saving smart (and spending smart, too!). And I’m here to tell you that you will also survive. This post has lots of tips and leads that tell you what to do when money is tight (like how to how to save an emergency fund when money is tight).

For this post, I’d like to do something slightly different. I’ll be giving more tips on how to maintain a positive mindset while you’re on the road to financially recover. These are useful tips to keep in mind when money is tight, and you’re working to make things better.

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Whatever it is you need to do, just start

My old gym coach used to tell me that the hardest part of anything is getting started. Obviously, he doesn’t know the feeling of being lost in the middle of writing a super-long-term paper, but I can appreciate his intention. I call this emotional inertia. At the beginning of any endeavor, we’re like rocks. But when we start rolling and gain momentum, it gets easier to keep moving forward. Note that I said “easier to keep moving forward” not easy in general. When you’ve got momentum on your side, you’re in a better position to tackle all those challenges in the middle and end.

There’s no pill, no mantra, or magic spell that’ll help you start. All you need to do is take a deep breath and dive into it.

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Set small, achievable goals

Many of us want to be tech billionaires, award-winning artists, or famous philanthropists. But what we don’t always realize is that these big goals are comprised of lots and lots of smaller goals. For example, if your goal is to become financially independent but money is tight, you might want to break it down. Because the main goal can be intimidating, and it’ll be a while before you start seeing results. But if you break it down to smaller goals, the problem is much easier to tackle. Plus, you get a feeling of accomplishment whenever you accomplish one of your mini-goals.

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Celebrate your small victories

I already mentioned that setting small, attainable goals will give you a better sense of accomplishment. When you meet a target or finish a goal, don’t forget to let yourself celebrate! We can sometimes be so focused on the final prize that we sometimes forget to pat ourselves on the back once in a while.

The celebration doesn’t have to be expensive – or even material. I have a few friends who like to gather at the nearby diner and celebrate any personal milestones over waffles and beer (they’re weird like that). As for me, since I’m thrifty, I like to celebrate by watching Netflix with a bowl of cereal. But what I’m saying is, find a way to mark your accomplishments, no matter how small. That will make the grind a bit easier.

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Breathe, you’ll get through it

The worst thing that could happen during high-stress periods is a complete mental breakdown. In effect, your problems will be doubled — you’ve got the main problem, but the fact that you can’t address that problem is also, in itself, a problem. When it feels like the walls are closing in on you, here’s a simple technique: take deep breaths. No, not rapid breaths. Inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five, too. Keep your inhalation and exhalation even, to avoid hyperventilating. Do this for a minute or two.

Deep-breathing has a calming effect on the person doing it. And it’s not new age or pseudoscience: Deep breathing has a legit calming effect. So if you feel that you’re about to be overcome by anxiety, take a minute or two and just breath.

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Don’t be ashamed of asking for help

Of course, all the deep breathing in the world won’t solve your financial problems. When the burden is too much to bear, there’s no shame asking help from close friends. I know, asking for help can be one of the most embarrassing things to do. And that’s why I only suggest asking people who are close to you since these people would most likely already know what you’re going through.

If it makes things easier, ask for help in the form of a loan. And then keep your word and pay it back. In my experience, friends – your real friends – will actually be relieved if you ask for help, instead of keeping things from them. Think about it this way – if you don’t ask for help now, things will eventually get so bad you will end up asking for the help anyway. So you might as well ask now that things aren’t so dire!

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Practice mental and emotional hygiene

Anxiety can be really crippling. But keeping your head above the water isn’t just a one-time act; you need to practice staying calm consistently. To do that practice mental and emotional hygiene. Be mindful of how your mind works. Notice when self-damaging and discouraging thoughts start to pop up. When they do, don’t listen to them. Do not engage the negative voices within you. I know it sounds easier said than done – and it definitely is – but it’s one of the best ways to keep your mind fresh and strong. And in due time, mindfulness gets easier. Remember: the mind is primary.

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Be grateful

One of the best ways to practice mental and emotional hygiene deserves its own section. Be grateful. It’s so simple, we sometimes make it more complicated than it needs to be. But being thankful for the things, no matter how small, that are working for you is always a good mindset to keep. By being grateful, you note the good things around you. And what it does is give you a better perspective. It allows you to assess your situation better.

This doesn’t mean pretending that everything is okay and sticking your head in the sand. If anything, having a perspective could tell you when a problem is indeed serious and needs your immediate attention. It tells you to put your game face on.

Hopefully these tips help you travel the road towards financial recovery. Good luck!

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