Not enough money, not enough choice
Money can't buy you happiness, radix malorum est cupiditas (the love of money is the root of all evil), filthy lucre, loadsa money - humans have been preoccupied with fistfuls of dollars since... well, for a very long time.
Therefore, it's no real surprise that worrying about money repeatedly comes up as the number one stressor for many of us in numerous online questionnaires. Indeed, a comprehensive survey with a global reach conducted by GfK (Germany's largest market research institute) a few years back found that money was respondents' single greatest cause of stress (although interestingly, 'putting pressure on oneself' came a close second).
With information websites such as Money Saving Expert and Money Supermarket regularly achieving more than half a million hits a month, it's clear that many people are worried about how best to make their hard-earned stretch further for them.
Returning to our first phrase, it would be nice to think that money can't buy happiness, but that view is frankly a little naive. For those who really don't have quite enough to come and go on, and there are alarmingly many, a little bit more money does improve happiness - but, interestingly, only up to a point. Having a bit of extra money does reduce our stress if our initial fear was in not having enough. It also helps us in our lives when it comes to having a bit more choice with what we can do; booking a relaxing break, for example, or treating ourselves to a nice meal out when we've had a tough week. These things don't come cheap, and that's just a fact. It's not to say that you can't be happy with very little money, of course you can, but the knowledge that there is a little bit of money cushioning your decisions is a comfort to a great many people.
When gaining money becomes the problem
Of course, there is a tipping point - and that is really the ideology behind phrases such as 'money can't buy you happiness' and 'the love of money is the root of all evil'. We're all familiar with the way it can go - we work hard to earn money but when the money itself becomes the goal, we turn away from all the things that actually bring us happiness; our friends, our loved ones, our pleasures, our ways of relaxing. We can become obsessed with the pounds or dollars or Euros tumbling into our bank account and we forget what it was all about in the first place - having money to give us choices as to how to live our best life. It's crucial to never lose sight of that. When we get to the point where, however much money we earn, it's never enough, that in itself becomes the stressor, meaning that feeling of anxiety never actually goes away.
Money saving tips - to give you that choice
Many people who are very stressed need another kind of outlet, some way of relieving stress that will help them to relax. It's then that having a bit more cash in hand can be very helpful, as without a doubt, some of these ways of relaxing will cost money, whether it's an evening swim at the local leisure centre or a round of golf with friends.
There are lots of tips out there as to how you can try to relieve stress by saving money, in order to have it for things that you decide are in fact your priorities. Here are a few of our own tried and tested methods...
Keep accurate records
Saving money is very much like dieting, for those of us who have ever gone down that particular road. It's pretty straightforward, and it's pretty boring. The best way to start saving money is to properly work out exactly how much you've got. Burying your head in the sand about money is the quickest way to getting very stressed indeed. You might not want to face reality but it's always better if you do. Work out exactly what your income and outgoings are each month, and what you've actually got to spend or save up.
The next thing, once you've done that, is to work out exactly what your priorities are in life. What will help you relax? What will it cost? It may be that something that would help you relax is getting more fresh air and exercise, in which case, don't forget that can be done very cheaply indeed. Getting up earlier to have a walk before work, for example, costs nothing. Even going for a run will just set you back the cost of your running shoes (although, to be fair, those can be expensive. But they will last).
Look at what you're spending each month and see if you can cut out things that aren't actually adding to your sum total of happiness, or that of your family, if you're conducting this exercise for more than one person. You may also find things that you no longer need insurance policies that duplicate each other, for example, or a gym membership you don't actually use. Do you need a takeaway coffee on your way to work each day or could you make your own and bring it in a flask? It's surprising how much these things add up.
The money experts always mention this one, and that's because it's the way of the world these days. It's always worth shopping around to see if you can get cheaper deals for services and goods that you receive regularly, for example your energy supplier. Also, when you get bills for the next year plopping on to your doormat, always check them as very often the price will have dramatically gone up and you end up just paying it because you didn't have time to read the letter. Be scrupulous about your outgoings and ring up your suppliers to see if they can offer you a better price on what you're paying for. Phone calls such as these stress a lot of people out and it's a shame that the market seems to be going this way, but you'll be very surprised at the money you can save by just bothering to spend five minutes on the phone.