Dealing with Financial Stress: How I’m Approaching the Tough Times Ahead

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dealing with financial stress

Are you experiencing money worries at the moment? If so, I’m very sorry to hear that. And I sympathise. Sometimes it’s tough to read blogs by people who have it all figured out. Investing in retirement funds, free from consumer debt and paying large chunks off their reasonable mortgages.

For that reason, I wanted to share some of my money weaknesses and worries, in the hope that sharing will help you (and me) to figure out a solution.

Just in case you’re new here I’ll give you a quick run-down. I’ve been travelling with my husband and son since May 2014. We’d originally planned to travel until the insurance claim on our earthquake-damaged house was finalised and then return to New Zealand to work through the repair process.

We are now in the final stages of settlement, so we will hopefully have a plan of action in the next few weeks. We left home with $50,000 in the bank and have spent around $40,000, leaving an emaciated life savings pool of around $10,000. That $10,000 will have to last us until we have a regular income again, but I’m confident we can survive at least 6 months on that amount using my worst-case scenario budget.

Rather than losing sleep over this, I’ve started putting numbers into spreadsheets and writing action plans.

Below is the process I’m following. I hope these tips for dealing with financial stress are helpful for you:

Acknowledge the problem

Acknowledging that a problem exists is the first step to fixing it. Burying your head in the sand or going on a credit card fueled spending spree will make things one million times worse. Whether you are overdue on a payment or facing a time without income, the hardest but most necessary step is accepting the problem exists.  Only then can you figure out what to do to fix it.

Talk about it

One of the major factors that keep people in debt is the inability to discuss money issues with friends and family. Admitting that you are experiencing financial issues can be difficult but it might also be exactly what someone else needs to hear. Being the first to admit you are having problems might help someone else to do the same.

If for no other reason make sure you tell those close to you so they know why you can’t go out for dinner or do activities that cost money. Tell them you are more than happy to go to the park or hang out doing free stuff.

Assess your means

This is where you sit down and figure out all of the resources you have available to help you through the tough times ahead.

Cash and funds

Work out what you have available in savings and cash accounts. These funds should be your first source of emergency income.

Only after you have accounted for savings should you look at your credit card. It is, for this reason, I will never be without a credit card – they are great for emergencies. But paying over 20% interest on your purchases should be sufficient motivation to minimise how regularly you use them.

Non-cash sources of income

Now, look at other ways to bring in extra income.

  • You might have a spare room you could rent out.
  • Look at eligibility requirements for income assistance.
  • Find things you can sell
  • Find a part-time/evening/casual job to help until you are back on your feet

I know we have savings of around $10,000 plus around $20,000 available on credit cards – but it would have to be a near crisis for me to run a balance on the credit cards. I know that as soon as we re-enter the country we will be eligible for child tax credits again and I’m confident my husband will be able to find a job within 6 weeks. That said, I am using the time we have now to do what I can including updating CV’s and scouring online job sites.

We’ll also be sorting through all the stuff we have in storage and finding things to sell. Considering we’ve lived without every single thing in that storage unit for over 14 months, I’m confident we should be able to make a few bucks by getting rid of the crap we don’t need.

Finally, I’ll be investing more time into building up my freelance business to boost my income.

Play out your worst case scenario

This may sound a little negative but knowing how dire things could get is a great way to keep things in check.

Depending on the resources you have available your worst case scenario could mean having to ask for help from government agencies or it could just mean having to rein in spending for a few months. Having funds in savings is what makes the difference here.

Personally, I’m comfortable with the amount we have left in savings. I know it can last a long time if we work on our leanest budget.

Now, if we didn’t have savings I imagine we’d have to stay with my parents for a few months whilst we built up enough money to move back into our house. We are fortunate to be returning to a booming local economy with low unemployment so I’m sure we won’t be struggling for too long.

Look after yourself

Make sure you get regular exercise, a 3o-minute walk in the fresh air will do wonders for your mental state.

This pamphlet from the New Zealand Ministry of Health provides some excellent advice on dealing with financial stress. Resource: Coping with Financial Stress: Looking after yourself and your family/whanau during tough economic times

Right now I’m comfortable, staying with family in Ireland and enjoying the sunshine. I could so easily ignore the inevitable until it was right in my face (most likely when my mortgage payment comes straight out of savings due to not having income from jobs right away). Instead, I’m preparing for the worst. A prolonged period without income, savings accounts completely drained and rapidly plummeting self-confidence.

Hopefully,  it won’t come to that, but if it does I’m ready.

Do you need help? The New Zealand Family Budgeting Service provides free advice tailored to your own specific situation. 

Make sure you check out these related articles about dealing with tough times Why You Need A Survival Budget And How To Create One10 Ways to Save When Money Is Tight, and 10 Tips for Dealing With Money Worries.



I'm a mum on a mission to achieve financial freedom and have fun with my family along the way. You can find out more here.

8 thoughts on “Dealing with Financial Stress: How I’m Approaching the Tough Times Ahead”

  1. Thank you for your candid thoughts on this! I am so interested by the people who seem to gallivant around the world without seemingly a worry about how much of their savings they’re blowing through. I can’t help but wonder if they’re supporting themselves through continued work? Or monetizing a website? Your honesty is refreshing (and best of luck for the remaining months…)

    • Thanks Julie. I’ve read so many re-integration stories that seem to focus on moving back home with parents and starting from scratch. Which gets harder the older you get. I’m well past the romantic phase of it all being so completely worthwhile – starting to save again from scratch sucks, no matter which way you paint it!

  2. Hi Emma,
    Thank you for sharing your upcoming opportunities (I don’t like to look at them as problems, but rather new opportunities).
    My husband and I have often considered taking off to travel for a year, but coming back and trying to reintegrate afterwards is probably our biggest fear.
    We finally both (me being the problem here!) have jobs that we actually like, so are reluctant to chuck them in and then need to find something else after our travels.
    We’re looking at seeing if we can get leave from work for 3 months or so, and keep our jobs to return to.
    I know how hard it is to save for ages for a trip and then totally deplete your savings and have to start again. We did this last year when we went on a bucket list cruise in Alaska (among other places).
    All the best for the next few months!

    • I have to agree there Meg, we’ve had an amazing time but the thought of starting from scratch again is disheartening, in the least. All the more motivation to build passive income!

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