Four Financial Problems That Keep You Up At Night – And What To Do About Them

By Jackie Dishner

Nothing to keep you up at night like taxes.

I had to file an extension this year. But five days before my appointment with my tax accountant, I still hadn’t fully compiled all of the information I needed. Though I am generally a sound sleeper, I kept waking up at 3 a.m., worrying about all the work still ahead of me, not knowing whether I would be able to afford the result. There I would lie, tossing, turning, fretting, thinking of the piles of paper all over my office floor that I had yet to sort: receipts, credit card statements, mileage notes. Would it all save me from a huge tax bill or would I owe? It was only after my meeting with the accountant that I was able to let go of most of that stress and through the night again.

Whether it’s taxes, credit card debt, or combining incomes with a new partner, we’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled with some financial challenge that keeps us up at night, turning even the best of sleepers into dazed insomniacs. In fact, an American Psychological Association survey says is the leading cause of stress for Americans.

Here are some from a few experts who weigh in on financial concerns and how to start solving them so we can get the Zzz’s we deserve.  

Credit Card Debt  

Credit card debt will definitely keep you up at night. Deacon Hayes, a financial coach who offers advice on his website [WellKeptWallet.com, says he and his wife spent many a sleepless night when they first married and found themselves saddled with $52,000 in debt. With a hard-nosed plan, they eliminated their debit within 18 months and the couple now lives debt-free.

Hayes’s sleep solution? List out all the debt you’ve accumulated, from the smallest to the largest, and focus on paying off the lowest amount first. That keeps you from being overwhelmed by the big picture, while also giving you the confidence and motivation to tackle the next in line. It’s a shortcut to some much needed peace of mind.

Car Repairs

A car is literally the vehicle that transports you between the most important parts of your day. Most of us need a car for everything from getting to work to taking the kids to school, to buying groceries. Car problems can significantly impair our ability to function. And when it’s a costly repair, like replacing the transmission, that can be doubly daunting.

Hayes’s solution? Start creating that emergency fund today with a goal to reach $1,000. Find a place in your budget where you can decrease an expense by $100, for example, forego premium cable for regular cable. This will kickstart what Hayes calls the “starter” fund. Keep adding $100 into the account until it’s fully funded. The next time you find yourself heading to the auto mechanic, you won’t lose sleep over this one; you’ll be prepared.  

Holiday Expenses or Gifts

Being blessed with a big or even a small family comes with expectations that can be challenging even to the most generous of us. When you can’t afford to buy all of your relatives the gifts they requested, or host the proper party, holidays and birthdays can switch from warm, happy occasions into sources of real stress.

Hayes suggests creating a “countdown” fund several months before the big event. That’s where you decide—well in advance—how much you plan to spend, and then determine how much per month to set aside to meet that goal. With this type of fund (or funds) factored into your actual budget, you will be less likely to overspend. You’ll also eliminate the concern that keeps you awake at night.

Sharing Finances

In addition to the meeting of soulmates, marriage is the meeting of two bank accounts. But when two people marry or otherwise combine their finances, it can be hugely challenging, especially if they don’t communicate clearly how the money will be saved, shared and spent. The tension caused by that combined money and differing expectations can lead to sleepless—or moody—nights.

Cynthia Fick, an investment advisor and author of a new book called The Sisterhood of Money: The Art of Creating Wealth from Your Heart, says you can avoid that “cash-induced conflict” by listening to each other’s thoughts about finances, acting as a team, talking before a crisis develops, and being open to seeking outside financial advice if the conflict persists.


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