As prices skyrocket across the country, it’s tempting to switch into hustle mode and spread yourself thin. However, coming off the heels of Mental Health Awareness month, it’s crucial to avoid creating habits that can lead to burnout. For those unfamiliar with the word, burnout is mental, physical and motivational exhaustion that often comes from prolonged periods of stress.
More and more, people are realizing that mental health is crucial to our overall health. Since the pandemic began, many have experienced burnout through work, school, managing a household, or a combination of all three. While some negative effects of burnout are obvious — constant fatigue, easily frustrated and not being able to handle usual tasks — some are less noticeable, including the financial effects.
“The great resignation was reactive. Our American workforce is so tired that people would rather jump ship with few or no plans on their next steps than stay on the hamster wheel,” says Nick Wolny, senior editor of NextAdvisor. “Some professionals who abruptly resigned found their next career pivot and have flourished, but many others didn’t, resulting in more pressure and stress when it came to sustaining their personal finances.”
In a survey taken in April 2022, 42 percent of adults reported that money negatively affects their mental health, often resulting in depression or anxiety. Their financial worries range from debt to money management with common triggers such as looking at bank accounts, paying bills and making purchases. With something so commonplace, it can be easy for the effects to hide in plain sight.
Below are the most common ways that burnout shows itself.
Effect #1: Burnout buys
It’s natural to want to splurge after working hard. In fact, most do, often through mini shopping sprees and dinners. It’s even healthy to reward yourself after a project or a long week. However, when you don’t have a healthy work-life balance, you may find yourself giving into impulse buys more often. This may look like ordering takeout over cooking or using your few moments of downtime to shop.
Where you may be spending around $22 per day when you buy groceries, based on a Bankrate report, a meal out can easily cost $15 or more, depending on the type of restaurant. Substituting takeout over a cooked meal can quickly add up, especially if it becomes a habit.
Effect #2: Productivity decrease
While it seems like the most straightforward solution to needing more money is to work harder, that’s not necessarily the case. Taking on more tasks or even jobs can decrease your productivity overall. The phrase “work smarter, not harder” is not just a clever rhyme. It should actually be seen as more of a warning. Not only does this risk your chance for promotion, but it also can jeopardize your relationships as well.
For example, let’s say you’re an accountant who has 14 clients that you can efficiently work on in an 8-hour day. One of your coworkers has to take an extended leave of absence and you, looking for a promotion, offer to take 7 of their clients. Your efficiency immediately decreases. Even worse, any delays with a client automatically slow you down so either you don’t get around to another client or you rush through. Your boss may overlook your promotion due to the lack of timeliness while your coworker may assume you didn’t care about the task.
Effect #3: Minimum savings
When focusing on the now, it can feel impossible to think about the after. As shown earlier, impulse buys and overworking directly impact your savings. It can be easy to brush it off at the moment and say, “this needs to be paid now.” Yet, this mindset never accounts for emergencies.
Emergencies can happen at any time and anywhere. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary in the US in May 2021 was $58,260. So, let’s say instead of saving your goal of 10 percent of your paycheck, which would be $5,826 for a year, for the last six months it was 5 percent, making your savings $4,369.50. While this difference can seem small month-to-month, by the end of the year it equals a loss of $1,456. This loss only increases if the low savings continue, making the cost of emergency have a higher impact on your rainy-day fund.
Bankrate finance expert, Sarah Foster, encourages people to start saving early.
“Recessions, inflation and stock market volatility are things that even the savviest of consumers can’t prevent. But having a game plan for how you’ll respond to a financial emergency, like job loss, can help you feel less fragile to events out of your control,” she says. “That also includes saving for emergencies in whatever way you can, even if it’s only adding a few dollars to your “sleep-well-at-night” fund each month.”
What can you do
Create a separate splurge fund
We all deserve to treat ourselves, but blind spending can quickly cause more damage than you expect. A good way to curb the habit is to create separation between the money you use for day-to-day spending like groceries and what you spend on fun like going to the movies. Whether it’s accounting for it in your budget or using a different account altogether, giving yourself room to splurge can help you take more control of your finances.
Work smarter & connect
While it’s great to show initiative in the workplace, not every project offered to you is a great fit. Instead of trying to prove that you can do every task, focus on finding opportunities that highlight your strengths. Not only will it be easier on your mental state, possibly even energizing it, but it’s also a great chance to connect with others in your field or with similar interests. A little patience and decisiveness can go a long way.
According to Foster, with such a strong labor market it pays to “[s]tay close with your networks and pursue more training” to make yourself more marketable.
Often, we don’t realize how much we’re confining ourselves by not organizing. Whether it’s actually writing down goals or clearing off your desk every few months, giving yourself a dedicated space to think and thrive is essential. Finances are no different. If you don’t have a goal in mind or use different cards randomly, it’s very easy for your money to spiral out of control.
However, you can course-correct by reviewing your accounts along with your spending and creating achievable goals for yourself. The cards in your wallet may include budgeting tools such as the Saved Account Manager from Chase credit cards or the Discover’s Spend Analyzer. For larger goals, you can make a step-by-step plan to reach them with budgeting apps and don’t be afraid to reach out to other people for advice or do research on sites like Bankrate about aspects you’re unsure about.
Make a long-term savings plan
Let’s be honest: The bills of today do not care about tomorrow or next year. However, you do. So, while it can be easy to zero in on the work due today, the expenses that need to be covered tomorrow, and the small sliver of a break you can find in the next hour, it’s important to remember this is not where you want to stay. Create a savings plan and stick to it, even if it’s a small amount per week. It adds up sooner than you think. The higher that number is, the less you have to worry about down the road.
With so many figurative fires to put out, both personally and socially, it’s understandable if you need a little extra help finding ways to cope with life. For those who are worried about the cost of therapy upfront, it’s necessary to keep in mind that therapy is an investment. There are online and in-person services that can be lower than you think. You can also seek out financial help to assist with paying for sessions, whether through your job or the service itself. Depending on the practice, you can also pay upfront for therapy using a credit card and later get reimbursed through your insurance. This can be a useful work around that doesn’t heavily impact your budget.
Get comfortable with talking about money
This is particularly crucial for women, who often face pay disparities and usually have to take a step back due to familial emergencies. For many years, money was a complicated topic to approach. It was often considered rude to discuss, especially at work, and financial literary resources were limited. Now, however, many questions can be easily researched with accessibility to financial advisors easier than ever before. Whether it’s savings accounts or the average salary of your job position, don’t be afraid to ask about the aspects of your financial health that you’re unsure about. Also, take time to look up savings accounts and credit cards that fit your lifestyle, such as travel cards or rewards cards with no annual fee.