Guest post by Beau Peters
London. For centuries, it’s been one of the world’s great cities. Seemingly a character all its own in some of the most beloved books and movies, songs and television series, it is a city that millions can only dream of.
And yet you’re here. Living the dream. But, well, maybe not always so much. Because when the bank account runs dry and fluff’s the only thing lining your pockets, it’s hard to truly enjoy this magnificent city.
The truth is that when you’re beset with financial worries, life can get pretty hard. It’s not only about possibly missing out on the things you might want to see, do, and have. It’s also about the simple fact that money anxiety can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health.
And that has never been truer than today, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article explores the relationship between stress and finances. We also provide tips you need for living large — on a budget — in London.
Stress and Finances
Unless you were born of an oil baron, a royal household, or a Silicon Valley magnate, odds are that at some point in your life, you’ve had trouble making ends meet. Pretty much everyone knows what those end-of-the-month money troubles feel like.
But if you’re one of the millions facing persistent and severe financial anxiety, the effects can be wide-ranging and extreme. In fact, a recent study of businesses in the UK found that nearly 90% were negatively impacted by their employees’ financial worries. These impacts ranged from increased absenteeism and healthcare costs to reduced productivity and performance.
And if you’re the employee whose money problems have you, quite literally, worried sick at work, you might well have trouble keeping or advancing in your job. And that can trap you in a vicious cycle where money worries lead to sickness and lost income, and sickness and lost income, in turn, lead to more money worries.
When you’re under chronic stress, your entire body and mind are under assault. From depression, anxiety, and isolation to increased risk to your cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and endocrine systems, you can’t perform optimally under duress.
Loving London (On a Budget)
To be sure, life in the metropolis ain’t cheap. There’s a price to pay for living in such a historic and beautiful city. But you don’t have to live like a pauper to keep a house in the heart of the city. You just have to be proactive.
1. Take Stock and Make a Plan
Getting your financial house in order starts with stopping the denial. Avoid the temptation to toss the latest stack of bills in the rubbish bin. Instead, sit down, be honest, and get clear on what your current financial situation is (even if you need a stiff drink in hand to do it).
Next, make a plan. If you have a lot of credit card debt, compare interest rates and see if you would do better to consolidate your date onto one lower-interest card. You may even consider taking out a personal loan to pay off those high-interest credit cards.
If paying off your credit cards isn’t yet feasible, then focus first on ensuring that you pay your bills on time and avoid any unnecessary late charges. Also, make sure to pay more than the minimum payment, even if it’s only a little bit. That’s not only going to shave some of your interest, but it will also be a positive on your credit report.
Finally, focus on paying off those cards, one card at a time. Your best bet will probably be to take care of the card with the highest interest rate first. After all, there’s no sense in throwing away money on interest charged if you don’t need to!
And as you’re working on paying down your debt, don’t forget that the money-making opportunities in a city as large as this are practically endless. Plus, if you factor in work that could be done online, there’s a whole world of revenue streams out there just waiting to be tapped. From online surveys to dog walking, a small investment of time and effort can add up to the cash you need to free you from the burden of debt.
2. Replace Bad Financial Habits with Good Life Habits
Financial problems tend to fall into two categories: either we’re living beyond our means, or we’re facing life (and money) challenges that are simply beyond our control, such as job losses or a global recession (sound familiar?). More often than not, though, it’s a combination of the two.
But no matter what the specific causes of your money challenges may be, the remedy is pretty much the same. You must fill your life with the things you love to help you eliminate those bad spending habits, such as indulging in “retail therapy” when you’re feeling anxious or blue.
The great news is that, as expensive as London maybe, the city is nevertheless filled with fun, interesting, and enjoyable things you can do, absolutely for free. For instance, instead of an expensive trip to a pub or the cinema, why not explore one of the city’s beautiful parks or hiking trails?
Not only is this a terrific way to discover the natural beauty of this storied city, but studies show that spending time out of doors is great for both your physical and mental health.
Above all, take a self-inventory and try to figure out what’s triggering your spending impulses. Are you feeling lonely? Worried? Bored? Consider journaling to track and define your emotions. That way, you can find more productive strategies for coping than just busting the bank with a distracting, but ultimately destructive, shopping spree.
And when you start feeling better in body and mind, you’re going to spend less on healthcare, you’re going to be more productive, and you’ll experience less anxiety and depression, both of which could otherwise easily trigger an unnecessary shopping spree.
Living large in London doesn’t mean falling so deep into a financial hole that you can never see your way out again. It just takes a bit of strategy and a lot of commitment to help you build the city life you want without breaking the bank.