One debt at a time: Taking control of your finances, health, and wellbeing

Did you know that being in debt can have a detrimental effect on your health? That financial worries play havoc with your psychological and physical wellbeing? According to Pamela White, head of Nedbank’s retail corporate card services, a number of international surveys confirm that money problems create an enormous amount of stress, particularly when they threaten your job, your lifestyle or your home.

In a recent US survey done by Psychology Today, 20000 respondents were asked which emotions they most often associated with money. Of them, 71 percent listed anxiety, 51 percent mentioned depression and 51 percent cited anger (the survey allowed for more than one response). Those most stressed by money – and they weren’t necessarily unemployed – complained of fatigue, insomnia, headaches and other stress-related complaints.

According to another survey of 1590 credit-card users, more than 75 percent had experienced some type of physical symptom – headaches or nausea, or an inability to concentrate – that they attributed to financial strain.

Among debtors, 35 percent reported trouble concentrating at work while 17 percent acknowledged spending time at work dealing with financial troubles. Some even threatened suicide. This is scary stuff and, sadly, it’s all too real in our economically unstable world. Which is why it’s so important to confront debt now.

Here are some practical steps you can take to relieve you of financial pressure and stress:

  1. Budget and face the facts. Be realistic about the correlation between what you earn and what you spend.
  1. Prioritise. Decide what’s essential and what’s a luxury. Also, learn to distinguish between which debts are acceptable for you and which aren’t under any circumstances. Wonga SA has explained this in detail highlighting the differences between good and bad debts.
  1. Consolidate your debt. Borrow enough from the bank to pay off smaller debts in one go. This way you’ll only have one creditor, the bank. But remember this may not be the ideal solution for you if your money problems stem from much deeper and are ongoing. Many times the problem comes from our own habits and behaviour. Read this article to find out if debt consolidation is the answer for you or not.
  1. Close accounts and cut up credit and store cards as you pay them off.
  1. Go public. Never duck debt problems. Rather speak to everyone you owe money to – they’ll be more understanding if you have a plan.
  1. Work part-time or moonlight. You’ll earn additional cash.
  1. Pay cash – research shows when you do you’ll spend 12 to 18 percent less whenever you shop.
  1. Seek advice. Consult a professional if you can’t go it alone.
  1. Don’t forget the treats. Schedule a few (inexpensive) rewards to prevent slipping back into old spending habits.

Digging yourself out of debt may seem impossible but it can be done. It’s all to do with admitting you have a problem and tackling it head on. With careful planning, you’ll not only free yourself from financial problems, but you’ll also do wonders for your physical and emotional health.

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