stay calm, save money
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Stay Calm, Save Money

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I’ve always envied people who go with the flow. They seem so free and so uninhibited by well, everything.

I’m not one of those people. I’m a crazy, anxious, Type-A woman who obsesses over arbitrary deadlines and whether I left the stove on. I like to think my craziness is part of my charm, but it definitely makes it difficult to relax.

“Relaxed” is not a word that often comes out of my mouth. 😉

As I’ve progressed on my journey to FIRE, I’ve realized how important it is to stay calm. Calmness, tranquility, and happiness all play a role in our ability to save money and pay off debt. Whether it’s avoiding the temptation to unload your stocks after a market downturn, or selling all of your possessions to be a forest-hermit after getting an unexpected bill, it’s crucial to keep a level head to avoid mistakes.

I still have so very, very much to learn in this department. Just this morning I had a meltdown when I realized I forgot to defrost ground beef for dinner. Oops!




How staying calm saves money

Here are a few ways I’ve discovered remaining calm saves money—and how I’m trying to build more tranquility into my own routine.

No binge eating or shopping

If you’ve glanced at our What A Frugal Weekend posts, you’ll probably notice that I love to bake. Not only do I love to bake, but I also love to eat. When I’m stressed out, I feel the need to eat non-stop. Salty chips, chocolate bars, and homemade cake monstrosities are my worst sins.

I also feel the need to buy things. I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s a knee-jerk reflex. Any time I feel sad, I find myself perusing the search pages of Amazon for a new dress or piece of jewelry. Not good!

If I manage to stay calm, I have no desire to buy random crap on Amazon or extra unnecessary goodies.

Improve your health

Stress can cause or exacerbate many medical conditions. Hell, it’s a medical condition in and of itself. While I’m not saying that eliminating stress will cure you of every ailment in the world, stress elimination can improve your health.

A calm life is a life with (hopefully) fewer doctor’s appointments, medications, and painful conditions. All of these things cost money, in addition to making us feel miserable. Gross.

Better cognitive function

It’s no secret that my brain switches off when I’m stressed out. Simple tasks like spelling correctly and wearing my shirt right-side-out are difficult.

When I’m stressed I’m more apt to forget important things like appointments, meal prep, or cleaning. Forgetting all of these things costs me money, in addition to making me feel like I’ve gone insane.

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How I (try) to stay calm

The big, fat keyword here is TRY. I’m not a perfect person by a long shot, and that means it’s a daily struggle to stay calm. Life gets so damn busy nowadays that it’s important to step outside of my self-imposed obligations and remember to breathe.

Here’s how I’m trying to avoid stress in my daily routine.

Exercise

I will be the first to admit that I hate exercise, breathing heavily, or moving of any variety. I would meld my body into the couch if it were physically possible. I know everyone talks about how great they feel after exercise. Doctors repeatedly tout the benefits of exercise for mental and physical health—so yeah, I already knew I should be exercising.

The issue that I, and many other people, run into is that I don’t want to exercise. In the past I was great about it, but I fell off the wagon and discovered Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia instead.

Skipping my exercise made me feel like crap.

I used to wake up early to exercise, but for various reasons that became more difficult. Nowadays I build exercise into my evening routine. I’ll slip into my workout clothes a little after dinner and run on my elliptical for 30 minutes. After that, I follow free YouTube videos for strength-building exercises.

Exercise has been a great outlet. I’m able to work out any pent-up irritation from the day, stretch my sore legs (oh, cubicles), and tucker myself out before bed. The result is less stress, better sleep, and better-fitting jeans!

It sucks to exercise, but I’ve had to create the time to do it. It’s always been there; I just had to find the best time for myself.



Meditation

I had a little sneak-peek into meditation when I tried yoga with a Groupon. I despised the actual practice of yoga (too painful for m’knees), but I loved the meditation that came with it.

I dumped the yoga and started meditating.

Since my mind is a blur of cat videos, past embarrassing moments, and snippets of annoying Top 40 songs, it’s hard to gain focus. Meditation was extremely challenging for me. I’d do well for maybe two seconds and then mull over what to wear to work tomorrow.

I now prefer to do guided meditation. Instead of leading myself through a meditation, I listen to another person, who usually guides me through a relaxing visualization exercise. I’m able to focus a lot more and get more out of it.

I know there are paid meditation programs out there, but I prefer to use YouTube. There are plenty of free guided meditation videos for you to access without spending money.

If you’re curious, here’s a compilation of my favorite guided meditations on YouTube. I listen to these during my lunch break, before work, or while dinner is simmering on the stove. All it takes is ten minutes. 🙂



Gratitude

I’ll also fully admit that I’m a selfish person. There are always times when I do the bare minimum, think only of myself, and avoid responsibility at all costs. I read a great guest post by The Happy Philosopher about how focusing too much on ourselves can make us feel unhappy.

This really resonated with me. I realized the problem was I was too focused on how to get what I wanted, how I looked, etc. It was exhausting. No wonder I was always stressed out.

I started doing a mental exercise every day to express gratitude. It sounds like a hippie-sounding kind of exercise, but it’s a great way to focus on all things positive and good in your life. And there are positive things, even if it feels like the world is ending. I set a reminder on my phone and list three things I’m grateful for today. Sometimes it’s as simple as “I have clothes to wear,” but that’s good enough.

Practicing gratitude helps me focus beyond just myself and emphasize the positive things in life.

The bottom line

Being calm is a great way to save money. It’s also a wonderful way to feel happier and fulfilled on the road to debt freedom. It’s really a win-win, y’know? It’s a challenge to build these calming exercised into my day, but when I put in the effort, I reap the rewards.

We want to know: What are your favorite calming routines?


39 comments on “Stay Calm, Save Money

    1. Good question! I prefer to use my own body weight for strength-builders, so I like to do exercises like Pilates. I follow Blogilates for this. For more traditional strength workouts I like BodyFit by Amy.

      For cardio exercise I like to follow the Fitness Marshall’s dance routines.

  1. This topic really resonates with me, probably because there is a profound connection between money and stress. Throughout your post, I felt like you were channeling my inner feelings every step of the way.

    Like you, I sometimes fall into the trap of emotional eating and spending. It provides a brief emotional high, and even thought it wears off, it feels darn good.

    One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with stress is maintaining mindfulness and living in the current moment. It’s easier said than done, especially because I’m the type of personality that always looks toward the next big thing in life. But it’s definitely helping.

    Exercise is also great, obviously. Yesterday, I was feeling a bit off and stressed for no reason around mid-afternoon. I had already been out for a morning run, but I went out and ran again anyway. It made a big difference.

    1. I completely agree! I had a great moment today where I was able to resist the temptation of a greasy burger and instead ate my leftover lunch, even though I was stressed and “deserved” a treat. Great job with doing those morning runs! I’m not a big runner, but it’s wonderful for clearing your head. 🙂

  2. My favorite stress busters are
    Walking the dog in the early morning
    Writing out my aggravation in my journal
    And, big one, reminding myself to adjust my attitude

    1. Those are all great ideas!! I need to be better about journaling, but it’s a tough thing to do when you’re caught up in the moment.

  3. I tend to shop on line out of boredom more than stress. For me, the best way to avoid bad habits when stressed or bored is to read. Reading gets me away from the kitchen and computer since I read ‘real’ books not e-books, and it takes me out of myself into another realm.

    1. That’s a good point! I should do a post just about boredom, since it really is its own rodeo when it comes to saving money.

  4. I used to be a stress basket case, and a chronic complainer. I think the two go hand in hand. I might still complain here and there, but I’m no longer chronically complaining. If I find myself starting to complain, I just shut that crap down! It’s helped me to rationalize how irrational I’m being and how many things I have to be grateful for. I think facts beat anxiety (reinforcement of truths to one’s self).

    1. I really, really love how you define anxiety as reinforcing your own truths, because that’s a huge component of it. Way to go with combating those thoughts. 🙂

  5. Definitely – we are our own worst enemies, and by staying calm, we can seriously decrease the damage we do!

    Exercise is a great way to get your mind in a calm, disciplined, organized state. When it feels like I don’t have time to exercise, that’s exactly when I need to most.

    Great post!

    1. I feel that way, too! Some mornings I REALLY don’t want to exercise, but once I drag myself leg-by-leg to do it, I feel so much better. 🙂

  6. You have such great strategies to deal with stress. When I’m stressed out, I’m super cranky and irritable. Mr. FAF is usually the one bearing the result of my stress. I feel really bad for him when the touch time is over.

    I tend to binge eat when I’m bored though. When I feel like life is bland, I want to eat some delicious snacks to spice it up. 😀

    1. Good point about the binge eating over boredom! That’s a toughie. Sometimes I find myself halfway in a bag of chips and don’t even realize that’s what I’m doing lol.

  7. Amen to that. Like Marcy in a previous post, reading is a great stress-reliever for me, too, as is taking a walk or doing a little exercise. Getting outdoors in good weather and just admiring nature helps me relax. Prayer is a great stress-reliever for me as well.
    As to the health aspect of stress, that’s been proven in studies, but I saw a living example of it when the contracting group I work for suddenly had our contract cancelled, leaving us only six months more work with no assurance a contract would be offered with another company or not. For six months, we all lived in a world of tension, and although we finally were given a new contract just before the first one ended, there were physical results; more people had the flu and colds at once than ever. A few people with controlled chronic conditions found themselves inflamed and suffering flareups after a couple of months. Blood pressures were elevated, blood sugars stayed high, and skin rashes broke out. In a macabre sort of way, it was fascinating to watch. It was like we were lab rats in a stress experiment. My group spent a lot of money on doctor visits, prescriptions, and treatments during that waiting period.

    1. Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry to hear about all the stress that came from the contracts! But that’s a very good illustration of how stress (and collective stress!) can devastate people.

  8. As a Type-A, not able to sit still or relax person as well, this was spot on. I could not agree more…exercise, some gentle yoga/stretching, and gratitude are excellent methods to practice “calmness” 🙂 I also find that managing money can really help to ease some of the anxiety that I naturally tend towards. With automatic savings via paychecks, an emergency fund and a home maintenance fund, etc., I can let myself breathe a bit more easily.

    1. A great point! I’m more satisfied and less anxious if I get my hands involved in something, and updating budget numbers and managing money is a great way to do that.

  9. The biggest thing I do to control stress is not wasting energy on things outside of my control. I don’t lose sleep over people opinions who don’t matter to me. If I do stress out about something taking a walk, listening to music or podcast help me calm down.

    1. Agh, that’s such a toughie for me. I know I let people get to me way too much (which is ironic as a blogger lol). I love the idea of listening to music. Mr. Picky Pincher loves music and it really is a great stress relief to listen or even to play music.

  10. As a fellow Type A personality, I totally feel your pain when it comes to relaxing. I sometimes wish I had a switch that would allow me to relax on cue. Unfortunately I’ve had to unlearn a lot of my bad Type A habits, which doesn’t happen overnight!

    For one thing, I’ve embraced the mindset of living like I’m already retired.

    That means giving myself more time in the morning to do things like meditate, stretch, and site down to eat breakfast.

    Getting rid of my car has also forced me to slow down. Even when I’m rushed, being outdoors and moving at a slower pace (than a car), has allowed me to notice more of my daily life.

    Basically, I’ve tried to be more mindful in everything I do. I’m far from perfect and I don’t feel bad when I trip up (daily). But just the continuous effort to slow my life down when I can has helped me to balance out my high strung Type A tendencies.

    1. I love the idea of living like you’re already retired! What good advice. 🙂 Some days I do feel like I’m retired because I work from home lol. But I did start waking up earlier so I could make time for breakfast and exercise. Lordy, what a difference it makes.

  11. I usually pray at night and think about the things that I have been blessed with. I find that it relaxes me and tends to calm me down from whatever I’ve been anxious about. Being able to do so has been the best thing that I’ve done 🙂

    1. Great idea! Taking time to think about the good things in life is perfect for realizing how good you have it. 🙂

  12. I swear by meditation. It’s helped me in so many ways. I love the Honest Guys and I see you use one of theirs. Deepak Chopra is another one of my faves. There are so many on YouTube, it’s hard to weed through them. Thanks for sharing your list, maybe I’ll test drive some of yours.

    1. Well hey, share a few links to a few of your favorites! It’s funny because my doctors would, in addition to medicine, tell me to meditate. It’s the single most important thing you can do to combat all kinds of mental (and even some physical) ailments.

  13. Great post, and I agree with all you say. Louise Hay has some great guided meditations on YouTube. If you don’t know anything about her you should look her up . She has positive affirmation cds…really great stuff. She founded Hay Hous Publishing company at the age of 62 I think, cured herself of cancer and is still working in her 80s. She wrote a great book I purchased years ago called, “You Can Heal Your Life”, published in 1984… you should check it out. I still have it!

  14. On the flip side of this, an overwhelming majority of people say that financial concerns impact their health (largely stress and anxiety but other physical issues too). So staying healthy can help with finances, and strengthening finances can help with health. Nice win-win. 🙂

    1. That’s so true! Health and money are intertwined so much that you really can’t separate the two. I’ve seen some people make themselves sick worrying about money.

    1. Good point! You don’t have to despise exercise; maybe it just means you haven’t found the exercise that’s right for you quite yet.

  15. Oh, stress eating! That’s a biggie for me. Gotta watch out for those cookies and junky snacks for sure. It’s so true that stress can lead to unnecessary spending. I have always loved running as a stress reliever, so dealing with a knee injury recently has been extra difficult as I just can’t do the thing that always relaxes me. Reading and prayer/meditation are some great alternatives for me.

    1. Aw dang, I’m sorry about the knee injury. I keep up well with exercise until I get sick/injured and then I fall off the wagon…hard lol.

  16. Very cool article, love the premise of it considering I am a person that is prone to being stressed out. Every once and a while, my wife and I will meditate and it does wonders. It is hard to train yourself not to let thoughts rush into your head during that peaceful time, but once you start to get the hang of it, it is very soothing and relaxing. Do you have any sources for meditation that you use? Apps or anything like it?

    Bert

  17. I kind of have the same problem, trying to stay calm but I found out that it doesn’t work that way. I started testing things out to see what will work better and to keep me “calm”.
    What works now is to take some other side projects and to have some activities in my daily routine that keep me focused on some other things such as reading.

    1. Great idea! I see a lot of folks are listing reading here as a relaxing activity. There’s just something comforting about being transported to a different time and place. You’re able to escape, but it isn’t passive, like watching TV.

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