Is financial wellbeing the wellness trend we need most?
Our financial security is integral to our wellbeing – but managing money can be easier said than done. Here, our wellbeing columnist Hannah Bullimore shares what she’s learned by grappling with budgets and savings.
When we think of wellness, we all tend to think first of practices like yoga, meditation, hot girl walks and fresh juices.
But one thing which is integral to our wellbeing is money.
Finances can be a taboo topic. We might not like to share our income with friends or family, we might be embarrassed by how much we spend online or how much our favourite fitness subscription costs. However, money is a huge part of our lives. We live in a capitalist society, there is no escaping it.
Now, wellness can be free – you don’t have to attend a class to exercise, or use a paid app to meditate.
However, with financial freedom comes the opportunity to take part in the classes, experiences and treatments we like. And aside from all the wellness costs, being able to rest easy with your finances will lift a possible weight from your mind and improve your levels of anxiety, as you feel more independent and in control of your destiny.
Taking control of your finances has always seemed to me to be peak ‘adulthood’. It’s something that took me a long time to get to grips with, partly because I was unable to work full-time for a number of years due to health problems. I’ve only been working full-time for two years and, in that time, my finances have had a serious overhaul.
That’s why I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.
WHAT IS FINANCIAL WELLBEING?
The Money and Pensions Service describes financial wellbeing as:
‘Feeling secure and in control. It’s about making the most of your money from day to day, dealing with the unexpected, and being on track for a healthy financial future. In short: financially resilient, confident and empowered.’
As someone who is trying to balance saving to buy my own home with still spending money on the things and experiences I love, I’m in a very privileged position that my finances don’t involve balancing the cost of living with a family.
For those of us who are struggling with finances, feeling confident with money can feel like a distant dream – particularly in today’s climate of inflation and cuts.
THREE STEPS TOWARDS FINANCIAL WELLBEING
If you’re ready to make a positive change to your financial mindset, here are three ways to start today:
Check-in with your real financial situation
Unfortunately, a lot of us can experience shame around our finances and spending, which can make us bury our heads in the sand.
But in finances, like in most things, knowledge is power.
Begin by taking an inventory of your finances. What’s coming in? What’s going out? What do you not even realise you’re spending your money on?
Then, check in with debt. Are you relying on credit cards, putting things on credit and using ‘buy now, pay later’ services? Be honest with yourself at this stage. This is just for you, so there’s definitely no reason to hold back or feel shame.
You might find there are some really easy wins here, such as cancelling subscriptions you don’t use or cutting back on the amount of data you’re paying for in your mobile phone contract..
Figure out what needs to stay and what needs to go
So, you’ve realised that your daily latte habit is pushing you into your overdraft every month. Or perhaps you use ‘buy now, pay later’ when your money is running low, which means each month you’re starting on the back foot.
Now is the time to decide which of your wants you really want and/or need to keep and which are habits you need to ditch.
Budgeting isn’t there to restrict – it’s there to give you knowledge of your own spending habits and keep you in control. This means that it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you value and include that in your spending.
For example, I love clothes. I always have. According to my Mum, my Granny once refused to go shopping with me after one experience of my endless rattling through racks of clothing – at the age of three.
So, for years I would attempt to go three months or six months without buying clothes in an effort to curb my spending. It didn’t work. Instead, I budget for my love of clothes. On a monthly basis, I allow myself to spend a certain amount on clothes. It’s in the budget. It’s allowed. And since I’ve done this, I haven’t been in my overdraft and I’ve saved my goal amount each month.
Decide what is important to you – not anyone else – and decide what can go. Your priorities and mine will be different, but the point is to be aware of where your money is really likely to go.
Pick a budgeting method that works for you
This is where overwhelm can set in. The thought of knowing where every pound will go before you spend it might sound like a headache, but I’ve actually found implementing a budget has freed me up to enjoy my money, rather than always wondering: where does my money even go each month?
There are, of course, many methods you could use, but the one I like is the 50 / 30 / 20 method.
This means that 50% of your money goes on the essentials: rent or mortgage, bills, food, pension, travel costs. You get the gist.
Next, 30% goes on the wants. This is the part which will vary massively from person to person. It might be regular trips to the cinema, your gym subscription, pet costs. I like to include my holiday savings in this chunk of the budget.
Finally, 20% goes into savings. Now savings could be a whole other article, but it’s important to have more than one saving pot. Ideally, you should have a few months wages saved, a pot for long-term expenses such as saving for a home or home improvements, and a pot for holidays or whatever experiences are your thing.
This simple structure makes budgeting easy whilst freeing you up to decide what you want to do with your money.
THE APP THAT HELPED ME
Recently, I discovered Juno. It’s an app to help young women get to grips with their finances.
I downloaded it out of curiosity, and because I thought it might be a good thing to recommend to some of my learners (I teach at a college) who are taking their first steps into the world of work and managing their own finances.
I was surprised to see how helpful Juno actually is and how much information is packed into the app. It takes you through a series of modules on a range of topics, from ethical banking to budgeting and savings accounts.
You collect points as you answer the quizzes at the end of each module, the information is easily digestible and the app is honest about the unique challenges women face, such as the pay gap and childcare.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP
If your finances are causing you serious worry or you’re struggling with debt, there are places you can go for help and support.
Despite everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, we all deserve the financial wellbeing and freedom to make our money work for us.
While we face different financial concerns and goals, taking control of our budget is a sure-fire way to help us feel a greater sense of wellbeing in all aspects of our lives.