The current economic climate is causing many people to worry about their finances. With the possibility of a recession on the horizon, concerns about inflation, high-interest rates, and depleted savings accounts are top of mind for many. On top of those financial worries, many people are living with lingering stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention existential anxiety about climate change and being broke in a bad economy.
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There is a trend among millennials and Gen-Zers of focusing on immediate gratification rather than long-term goals. With no assurance that they will be able to attain financial goals such as homeownership or paying off student loans, many young people are instead choosing to spend their money on experiences and items they want now. While some refer to this mentality as “financial nihilism,” it can be a slippery slope for those who adopt it.
“The root emotion behind financial nihilism is a feeling of despair,” says Nick Wolny, senior editor at NextAdvisor. “Americans acclimate to ‘never being debt-free,’ which blunts interest in developing proper savings and investing hygiene.”
When the world is turned upside down, it can be tempting to abandon all financial plans and focus on short-term gratification. However, this is not the best course of action, according to experts.
Sarah Foster, the U.S. economy reporter for Bankrate, explains: “Beyond the health toll, lives were entirely upended [by the pandemic]. Americans came face to face with the reality of just how short life is, and mass unemployment made people feel as if they’re easily expendable to their employer.”
“When times are tough, it can be tempting to just give up. But according to James Royal, a reporter for Bankrate wealth management, that’s not the solution. ‘No one will improve your financial life for you,’ he says. ‘You have to make a plan. Otherwise, you’ll be at the mercy of whatever misfortune comes your way.'”
So what’s the best way to save during tough times? Our experts suggest some methods below.
1. Stay focused
It’s not enough to just break bad spending habits – rethinking your relationship with money requires a more holistic approach, according to Wolny. Even during tough financial times, it’s important to focus on overall financial wellness.
Apply your skills
There are many skills and hobbies that people have that often go unused in their day-to-day jobs. However, this could be seen as an opportunity to use those skills to create additional sources of income through freelance or part-time work. This is a great way to get the most out of your talents and interests.
“Budgeting is important,” says Wolny. “But instead of using all your willpower to resist buying a latte, you could use that energy to learn a new skill that could generate additional income for years.”
Build up cash
Although inflation has been on the rise lately, there are still ways to save money and build up your cash reserves. It is important to have some money set aside in case of emergencies, and the next few months may be crucial, with the possibility of a recession still looming.
Wolny advises people to think about their Plan B, in case lower debt doesn’t end up saving them from expenses. “Wealth building requires that you generate enough income and learn how to keep and grow the money you already have,” he says. So even in these uncertain times, it is possible to take steps toward financial security.
Focus on yourself
It’s important to prioritize your mental health and well-being so that you can stay motivated and focused on your financial goals. This was a key lesson for many people during the pandemic.
Mental health concerns and workplace burnout became major topics of discussion during the pandemic, as more and more people were forced to confront the reality of working from home. As we begin to transition back to in-person work environments, we mustn’t lose sight of our well-being. The impact of burnout on our finances can be significant, but it can often go unnoticed as we make adjustments to our new normal. By being mindful of our mental health, we can avoid making sacrifices that could harm us in the long run.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to financial stress, but some experts suggest that putting yourself first can help. Try to connect with others who may be going through a similar situation, or even seek counseling.
“When you can get yourself out of survival mode, your thinking changes,” says Wolny. “Social media and influencer culture have us feeling like we should be further along in life. It can mess with your head. Stay focused on stabilizing your unique financial situation.”
2. Build your wealth
In today’s ever-changing financial landscape, it’s more important than ever to have a firm understanding of investing and behavioral finance. Royal knows not only the basics but also the limits of one’s financial potential. And although wealth can often feel like an unattainable goal, Royal insists that it may be simpler to achieve than we think. With her expertise, we can begin to bridge the gap between our current financial situation and our desired future state.
Pay down your debt
Now that President Biden has announced a decrease in student loan debt, it’s time to start planning how to pay off the rest. Even though it may seem impossible, you can overcome your debt by creating a plan and being patient. According to financial expert Royal, debt can prevent you from making sound decisions about your finances and adds more stress during an emergency, like losing your job.
“Additionally, by paying down your debt, you’re guaranteed a return in the form of no longer having to pay interest on that debt,” says Royal. “Plus, it’s tax-free.” So start formulating a plan and get rid of that debt for good!
“Many people believe that stocks are only for wealthy individuals,” says Royal. “However, stocks are actually how many wealthy people got their start. In recent years, stocks have become more accessible to everyone.”
Start investing in stocks
There are now numerous money services that offer stock trading, including Cash App, Stockpile, and SoFi. You can also investigate more traditional brokers such as Charles Schwab. Another option is to invest in your 401(k) plan at work or open a high-yield savings account. The key to investing is finding a method that works best for you. For those interested in investing in cryptocurrency, crypto rewards cards like the Gemini Credit Card let you earn rewards in Bitcoin or other digital currencies on everyday purchases.
Live below your means
We often turn to shopping as a way to achieve instant gratification. However, this can often lead to regret and dissatisfaction. While it is true that money can buy happiness to some extent, we should be mindful of how we spend our money. Shopping can be a fun and enjoyable activity, but it is important to be aware of the potential consequences.
Some people find it easy to overspend with a credit card because they think they can always pay it back later. This can be a problem during tough times when, for example, you lose your job but still have to pay off previous purchases. It’s important to be mindful of your spending habits and not rely on future income to finance your purchases. Instead, focus on money decisions that will help you achieve your financial goals.
“There are many benefits to being wealthy in America,” says Royal. “Our tax code is designed to help those who have money grow their wealth. And our economy runs largely on spending by affluent people. So it’s important to build up your financial resources so you can enjoy these advantages.”
3. Change your mindset
Sarah Foster understands the challenges that Americans face when it comes to debt. She has seen her community recover from the Great Recession and knows that things can get better. However, she also advises people to be prepared for tough times. Holding on and holding strong is the best way to weather any storm.
Start reversing bad habits
The pandemic has forced many people to re-evaluate their spending habits. Some have realized that they need to save more money, whereas others have realized that they need to spend less. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, it is important to take a closer look at your budget and figure out what type of spender you are. Do you tend to put off important payments or pay only the minimum on a balance? Are you an impulsive buyer? Once you take stock of your financial habits, you can take steps to improve them.
Money doesn’t have to be a source of stress and anxiety. According to financial expert Foster, adopting a more positive outlook towards money can lead to a more comfortable retirement. “Letting go of your scarcity mindset with money is the best approach you can take to improve your relationship with finances,” she says.
Face the inevitable
There is no denying that we are living in tumultuous times. It can often feel like we’re lurching from one disaster to the next, but it’s important to remember that this is not the first time society has been in deep turmoil. And it certainly won’t be the last. Ignoring or hiding from the problem will not make it go away. We must face reality head-on and practice being present for it, no matter how difficult that may be.
No one likes to think about recessions, but they are unfortunately a part of life. As Foster says, “Recessions at best are a period of decreased job security and economic discomfort.” Having an emergency fund can make a difference in weathering a recession, by helping to cover bills and groceries and giving you peace of mind.
Let go of the idea of scarcity
Money management is a critical part of our daily lives, and one way to ensure that our financial health remains strong is to take a proactive approach. There are many ways to make and save money, and by diversifying our income sources we can protect ourselves against potential setbacks. Once we open ourselves up to the different options available to us, taking control of our financial future becomes much easier.
When it comes to money, Foster believes it is not only about how you spend it. “It is also about how you can make your money work for you,” she says.
“This pandemic has been a wake-up call for everyone,” says Foster. “It’s shown us just how vulnerable we are to economic and financial upheaval. We can’t take anything for granted anymore.”
The bottom line
The future is always uncertain, but that doesn’t mean we should give up hope. There’s always something to look forward to, even in the darkest of times. So don’t be afraid to keep moving forward, and never stop fighting for what you believe in.
Here’s some advice: Don’t neglect to plan financially for your future because it is coming, whether you’re ready or not. Have fun and make new memories, but don’t forget to save for the future.