The average debt per household in the UK stands at a record £15,400 with many people unable to meet essential bills, such as energy charges. What makes this figure even more sobering are the thousands of people living with a huge amount.
For students and people on low incomes, the stress of financial worries follows them like a dark cloud. Hanging over your head every hour of the day and penetrating your dreams at night, we're embarrassed and ashamed to admit to the financial difficulties we face, both of which contribute to just how stressful it is living without money or have very little of it from one month to the next.
A complex issue, financial worries are often the source of stress. How can you improve your well-being and deal with financial stress?
1 Small, simple, realistic
Anxiety is not uncommon when it comes to managing and stretching finances, especially when money if so tight that balancing your daily budget is almost impossible. When it doesn't take much to tip your carefully planned budget out of sync, financial stress is a very real issue.
The thing is, no one feels amazing all of the time and certainly not about things like lack of money or debt. Small, realistic actions are key to keeping control not just of your anxiety but about your finances too. It may not seem much but saving a small amount each week adds up over time as does paying off debts, loans and credit cards a bit at a time too.
2 Relax doing activities you enjoy
Relaxing without money is hard to do, especially when thinking about money and how far you can stretch your remaining cash and for how long is at the forefront of every thought. The issue with not having money is not just the financial stress it can cause but the limitations it places on what you can do.
Whilst your friends jet off on their annual summer holiday to a sun-drenched beach somewhere, you are 'stuck', quite literally, at home. Likewise, whilst others are enjoying personal trainers at the gym, you're desperate for new trainers never mind a gym membership.
That said, not everything you do to enjoy yourself needs to cost money. A run or walk around the local park or along the coast is just as invigorating as a session in the gym, if not more so. The same goes for all other activities.
Money, they say, won't make you happy although it would be nice to have more of it to to splash occasionally. That said, paring back your activities doesn't mean not doing things or being stuck at home. It means taking a different view and finding activities that are either free or don't cost loads of money.
3 Stop comparing
Playing the 'comparison game' is a slippery slope when it comes to many things in life, money included. Comparing how well off your friends are in relation to your financial circumstances is not helping you or your financial stress one bit.
Here's the thing about money: You don't know people's individual financial circumstances. They could be just as stressed and worried about money as you, if not more so, but do a great job of hiding it.
It's a very British phenomenon being private about money, how much we earn and talking about money in general. Other countries find the Brit's inability and unwillingness to talk about money laughable. A leading bank has made our non-discussion over finances the subject of their latest advertising campaign. And yet, talking about money, a subject labeled as the 'last taboo' in Britain, would benefit us enormously.
Talking about your money problems, issues and concerns will alleviate the stress you feel about money. Asking for help in learning to manage your money better is also part of dealing with financial stress.
4 Stop blaming yourself
Lack of money and debt affects many, many people. You're not alone in trying to live life on very little.
And yet, the embarrassment and shame we feel about our dire financial straits is unnecessary. From feeling ashamed about 'not earning enough' to feeling 'stupid' about getting into debt in the first place, these negative feelings keep your financial stress very much alive and at the forefront of your thoughts.
Average salaries in the UK are reported to be between £17,271 and £35,771. But here's the sobering fact: everyone in every salary band will have debt. In effect, it doesn't matter how much or little you earn, debt is problematic.
The collapse of a global bank in 2008 triggered a worldwide recession that saw other banks topple and the age of austerity ushered in.In other countries, governments toppled too, people took to the streets to protest and some public sector workers were left without pay for months on end.
Protests and mass banking failure may not have happened in the UK but we certainly felt the pincer-tight squeeze of austerity. You may not think it directly affected you but it did. This is one reason why you are grappling with debt and other financial issues today, such as lack of realistic student financial support.
It's hard to do but stop blaming yourself about your financial woes and struggles.
5 Get help
Whether you're battling a huge debt or trying to stretch your money to last for weeks on end, there is help both in the shape of learning to manage your money better and also for the stress financial worries can cause.
The Money Advice Service is a free, online resource. It covers everything from debt to borrowing to pensions and retirement.
Step Change is a charity that deals specifically with debt and all the issues that it comes with, including stress. It has masses of information on everything including IVAs and debt management schemes and more.
Turn 2 Us is another charity helping people overcome the problems of debt and living with very little cash in your pocket. With a website full of helpful information and articles, it's well worth a visit.
Don't suffer in silence - talk about money
Money is a difficult subject that not many enjoy or want to talk about. But we need to. If you are struggling with money and worried about debt, get support and practical help. It will make a world of difference.