Financial Stress: Start the New Year With a New Financial Attitude

If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the same situation that I’m in. The lottery hasn’t paid off yet, your inheritance won’t be here for another 30 years (or maybe your folks will spend it before then), and your kids won’t be buying you a new home anytime soon.

“Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” – Robert Orben

Financial stress can affect you, no matter how much you love your job. You might not have creditors phoning you, but for many people, finances are very top of mind. Ballooning mortgage payments, emergency car repairs, medical bills, and familial responsibilities can distract you from your job, robbing you of energy and productivity. Unfortunately, many people don’t always make the best financial decisions on a daily basis, so when a financial emergency pops up, they aren’t able to focus on anything but the immediate situation.

“I recommend that employers pay workers well and fairly and then do everything possible to help them forget about money. A preoccupation with money distracts everyone—employers and employees—from the issues that really matter.” – Alfie Kohn

Why not try to worry less about living paycheck to paycheck this year, and start focusing on doing your job to the best of your abilities. Here are some things to think about to help you on the road to removing the causes of financial stress in your office life and provide yourself with a financial safety net:

Think about how much each purchase costs you in terms of working hours. Eating takeout lunch at $10 per day every week will cost you two and a half hours worth of pre-tax wages at $20 an hour ( estimating $40,000 a year). Add that up, and over the course of the year, almost three weeks worth of wages have been spent on mediocre lunches. A regular coffee by itself twice a day, five days a week will cost you 45 minutes per week—or almost another week of wages over the course of the year.

Is what you’re about to buy worth the time it takes you to earn it?

Cost versus value. Do you need one pair of $400 shoes, or would four pairs of $100 shoes work just fine for you? I prefer eight pairs of $50 shoes, but you have to be the one that makes this decision. Does a $700 purse make you a better person? Some people feel that they need to compete with everyone around them, and the only way to get an advantage is to have the best material possessions and fashion accessories. And look at it from your bosses point of view: if an employee came to you begging for a raise, wearing $400 shoes, what are the chances that you are going to feel sympathetic?

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Credit card debt. How much interest are you paying per year? When you make a purchase, do you think of how much money you have left on your card(s), or how much you owe on them? The credit card companies love the fact that you are carrying a balance. And some people even pay an annual fee for the privilege of having a lower interest rate.

Credit card companies are a business, and their goal is to get you to pay as much interest as possible. Don’t make it easy for them.

Charity. Depending on how many people work in your office, this can be a huge financial commitment. You want to be supportive of parents selling cookies or chocolate bars, but you also should be aware of your financial health. Combine this with chipping in for birthday presents, going away gifts, showers, and holiday events like Secret Santa, and it’s not hard to be spending $500 a year on charitable donations.

I’m not saying that you should say “no” to everyone that is asking for your contribution, but try and set a monthly cap that you can afford. That way, when someone asks you to kick in for “Peter and Chris’s new baby” gift, you can honestly say that you’ve donated to this month’s limit. If they want to try again in the beginning of the new month, you’re more than happy to contribute then. This lets them know that you are still willing to share, but they need to catch you earlier next time.

Hire a professional. You see a dentist, a doctor, and a team of psychoanalysts (maybe that’s just me)—why don’t you use a financial planner to help you take care of your financial health? You are fantastic at your job, so choose someone that is fantastic at their job to take care of you. Talk to your successful friends, your senior management, or the owner of your company. I can almost guarantee that they are using a financial planner.

You should too. By following the tips above, you might find that you have a few extra dollars to put toward your financial goals. Work with a professional to make it happen.

Some costs are necessary, some are justifiable–just try to decide if your purchase is a desire or a need. You are already awesome at your job, so don’t let something like bad financial decisions prevent you from giving your best at work.

After spending way too long in the corporate world, Jason has switched to full-time freelancing. With any luck you enjoyed this article - and if you need one of your very own, give him a shout! @brandscaping on the twitter, or at


  1. Jason Finnerty on the 15th January

    Hmm – apparently I am a bit math challenged in this article.

    The lunches should be @ $10 per day ($50 week).
    Sorry for any confusion 🙂


  2. Paige on the 15th January

    Fantastic article.

    Reminds me, once more, that just because it’s quicker to buy a pre-made meal at a store doesn’t actually mean you’re saving time or money. I never actually thought to look at it in terms of “How much is this lunch worth of my time, based on my salary?” And with that, it’s now time for lunch for me!

  3. Tim on the 15th January

    Great article. You think like a financial planner. I love it. Sometimes even we get the numbers wrong. You hit on a lot of great economic ideas, whether you know it or not, like “opportunity cost” (remembering from my MicroEcon class in College).
    Well done.

  4. Jason Finnerty on the 15th January

    Thanks Tim – glad you enjoyed it (my wife is a financial planner – but I think it’s safe to say we think differently – VERY differently 🙂

    Paige – I came up with the idea when i was working part time while i went back to school. Too many things were just not worth the extra time I would have had to put in to cover the cost.

    thank you both for the comments and support


  5. Paul Letourneau on the 16th January

    Great article,

    You touched on the cost of buying lunches every day but as a manager that is also a tell tale sign that they really aren’t hurting for cash. By making your lunch you can cut the cost from $10 to $5 per day.

    Give your employee that tip and you just raised their salary by approximately $1250/year.

  6. Leo on the 17th January

    I recommend subscribing to top personal finance blogs and educating yourself rather than spending even more money to hire a financial planner. I strongly recommend Ramit Sethi’s book and blog (google his name) those have helped me a great deal.

    In fact I am currently unemployed (working on building a passive income business model) and I’m not the least bit worried about money.

    Even though I was good at managing my finances, I educated myself by reading the best blogs and listening to sound advice from other people who are really good at managing their finances. So much so that, I can not only stretch the unemployment pay, I even save a bit of it. I have savings that can support me for years. And I was just another cubicle prisoner corporate wage slave living from paycheck to paycheck. i didn’t win the lottery, I didn’t inherit money. I managed to save by living frugally and not getting into any debt. And it paid off, I can afford to kick back and not worry about getting a job, while working on launching online ventures to generate passive income streams.

    There is a lot of good and free information out there that can make a huge difference.

  7. @brandscaping on the 18th January

    Hey Leo,

    I agree that there are some fantastic resources online for those that are interested in taking an active part in their financial future – but there is also quite a bit of bad advice.
    perhaps one thing to remember, a financial planner is more than just someone that gives investment advice. Tax planning, budgeting, estate planning, and insurance needs are just a few of the many areas of expertise that a good planner should assist with.
    i love the internet because it gives me the information to make an informed decision, but just because I can read about something, it doesn’t make me an expert.
    one example that comes to mind; if i wanted to do some of my own electrical work, i can find all sorts of info about it – but this doesnt mean that i am experienced enough to rewire my home.

    subscribe to the blogs and sites that you find valuable, and use that information to have a proper discussion with your planner. If they are worth their salt, they will certainly be able to help you find ways to make your unemployment cheques go further.

    Thanks for reading the article, and for contributing to it.
    I wish you great success in all of your endeavors.


  8. Roberto on the 17th January

    Very good article. I guess it’s time to rethink my spending habits.

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