You may have noticed, but we are going through a cost of living crisis. And I say you may have noticed, but I’m pretty damn sure you have noticed. It’s the only thing people talk about. And they talk about it all the time. News outlets, media, social media, the news again, your friends, your family. Everyone is affected and as such it’s an inescapable topic. But it’s not exactly nice to be confronted with negative news all the time. Even if that news is your reality.
The issue with constant negativity, especially the kind of negativity that does actually affect you, is that it shifts focus entirely. There’s nothing positive, just the negative. There’s only the rapid rising costs; your energy bills, your rent (or mortgage), and everything else as inflation spills over. And what happens when all we see is negative? Our own perception shifts. There is nothing but negativity. It's all going to shit. Life is getting too expensive. Wages haven’t kept up. Your wage hasn’t kept up. People are living above their means. Are you living above your means? Have you screwed yourself over? Will you be able to afford life as you know it? From forced change can spring uncertainty. From uncertainty grows doubt. And oh so easily, doubt turns into fear. And fear is not a good guide.
Fear is a very negative emotion. It overfocuses on one aspect (inflation) and doesn’t leave much room for anything else. It can take up all your emotional and cognitive resources. It causes stress, which then drains even more of those resources. Even without the news and your surroundings constantly blaring bad news at you, it’s now inside of you. You have internalized the fear. Some of you will have internalized this fear already, but some of you haven’t gotten to this stage yet. If you’re not there yet, attack the problem at its root; cut out all sources of negativity. Don’t watch the news, mute or unfollow certain key words or accounts on social media and during conversations in real life try to change the topic or actively remove yourself from the conversation. Just try to reduce your exposure to all the negativity. This is not pulling ‘an ostrich’ – managing your environment is not a sign of ignorance or oblivion, it’s managing your mental health. Now if you have already internalized the fear, avoidance is too late. What needs to happen is a head-on approach. Almost like exposure therapy. I don’t mean that you should surround yourself with all the negativity, but that you need to approach it with a different mindset; a capability mindset. Fear renders us useless. Either we’re trying to flight (flee?) or freeze in sheer terror. And as much as people would like to think of themselves as real macho-people, most people don’t engage in fight when dealing with fear. Statistically unlikely. Fighting, however, is exactly what we’re going to do here.
Where there’s 10 outlets screaming it’s all going to shit, there’ll be at least half that amount trying to motivate and educate on how to deal with it all going to shit. I follow several Instagram accounts that help people manage their money (not just during times of crisis). One of them is Porterenee (Dutch) and another is Katie Saves (British). Their tips are easy, understandable and directly applicable. YouTube and TikTok also have tons of people sharing creative ways of saving money. There’s also entire YouTube channels dedicated to investing (which is recommended during an economic downturn as stocks are now cheaper, but you’ll need the money and the risk appetite for it…). There’s a lot of good information out there to get you through it. Despite there being a lot of information, you dedicating 24/7 to obtaining this information is not exactly a healthy response either. This is again, you acting out of fear. To focus on one thing and dedicate copious amounts to it is a fear response in this case. What’ll happen is that you’ll do hours and maybe even days’ worth of research, have a list with 50+ things to do to save money, start too many at the same time, feel overwhelmed, fail at some of them, get into the ‘fuck it’ mentality as something went wrong and feel worse than you did at the start of this ‘experiment’ as not only have you internalized the fear, you’ve over-reacted to it and internalized a sense of failure and an inability to deal with your fear. The above scenario sounds horrible, because, well, it is. To avoid this do research, but in smaller doses. Have a very targeted search. And a plan for when you’ll do the search. If you have 2 hours available every Monday and Thursday, they now become your research hours. The first Monday you can look at how to save on water; look at changing your own usage as well as changing suppliers. The first Thursday you’ll do the same for electricity. When looking at changing suppliers try some utility comparison websites and see how you go. For changing your usage read some blogs, watch some YouTube or even TikTok. Save the links to these resources somewhere. And whilst your watching them, take notes. List all the things they mention and put a * behind everything that you can realistically do yourself. After your 2 hours are up, or when your mental capacity runs out (this may before the 2 hours are up), stop. You’ll have a list with things you can do. Now implement them. Some things will take weeks to implement, some are a phone call away (switching utility suppliers or getting a slightly better deal on your mortgage are literal phone call activities). Slowly but surely, you will learn how to cut down on electricity usage. How to do groceries cheaper. How to have on cheaper or potentially even free activities, etc. etc. You are capable and you can do this. Because when push comes to shove, people are both resistant, but also resilient, to change. You are people, so you too are resilient. And you can do this. It’s not going to be easy and it sure as hell isn’t going to be fun. But you will get through this. And at the end of the day, this isn’t your fault, you’re not bad with money and you’re not a failure. That’s just the fear talking.