For those feeling financial stress, these 9 tips can help ease the mind

As most of us are all too aware, finances can be a significant source of stress for the everyday American — especially when times are tight. And surveys bear this out. For example, one recent survey showed that nine in 10 Americans say finances take a toll on their stress levels. And in another, nearly three-quarters of American consumers even ranked finances as their No. 1 stressor.

But by employing the right worry-reducing tactics and financial wellness tips, concerned consumers can take big steps toward easing their financial stress — and even toward improving their overall mental health. If you’re among the many Americans whose money concerns make an outsized impact on their overall anxiety levels, consider taking these nine steps toward improving your financial well-being and your money-related mindset:

  1. Build a budget — Creating a personal/household budget is the first step to taking more control of your finances. Doing so can give you a clear picture of how much money you have coming in, where it’s going and — perhaps most importantly — where you might have opportunities for improvement. (Creating a budget can bring a range of other benefits, too.) For step-by-step guidance on how to build a personal budget, check out the Arthur State Bank blog article titled “9 steps to creating a personal budget.”
  2. … and prioritize taking control of your discretionary spending — By creating the budget discussed above, you should be able to identify areas where you can save — which, of course, is a great way to cut down on any financial stress you may be feeling. Your clearest savings opportunities will typically fall into the area of discretionary spending on non-essentials. And if you can take greater control of this spending, it should give you a chance to devote more dollars to higher-priority expenses and debts.
  3. Tackle your highest-interest debt first — Speaking of high-priority debts, most experts recommend that consumers looking to create debt-payoff plans focus on paying down the debts carrying the highest interest rates first, which should result in reducing the amount of money spent on interest over the long haul. And for many consumers, the highest-interest debts they’re facing come in the form of unpaid balances accrued on credit cards, which typically carry higher interest rates than other types of personal loans. Whatever debts you may have, look into the amount of interest being charged on each, then let that info guide your decision-making on which debts to focus on first. (Of course, you’ll want to make sure you pay at least the minimum payments due on all your debts each billing cycle to avoid penalty fees and credit-score impacts.)
  4. … and consider consolidation — Especially for those with a considerable number of outstanding debts, a debt consolidation loan can both simplify their monthly bills and, potentially, lower their interest rates. That’s because these loans can provide borrowers with the money needed to pay off their various debts in full, then replace the monthly bills for all of those debts with a single monthly loan payment due. And a debt consolidation loan can do all of that while potentially offering a lower interest rate than some or all of the debts being paid off were carrying.
  5. Find ways to earn extra income — By adding to the money coming into the household budget, finding ways to earn extra income is a great way to reduce any stresses you may be having on the financial front. Possibilities here include putting in extra here and there on your current job (which could even qualify you for overtime pay), negotiating with your employer for a pay increase, selling off any household items that you may no longer need and taking on a side job. If you have a hobby or special skill that you may be able to monetize, that could create another option for added income.
  6. Build an emergency fund — From surprise auto repairs to unanticipated medical bills to costly home repairs that we just didn’t see coming, we all encounter unexpected expenses from time to time. And by setting money aside in a “rainy day fund” whenever possible, we can reap a range of benefits (with added peace of mind/lowered financial stress being a welcome highlight among them). For some ideas on how you can start building your emergency fund or rev up the amount of savings you contribute to one you’ve already got started, check out the Arthur State Bank blog article titled “We could all use an emergency fund — here are 6 effective ways to start building one.”
  7. … and make a mental note of your savings progress — As you grow your emergency fund and otherwise add to your savings, keep track of the progress you’re making toward your savings goals. By knowing that you’ve got an emergency fund to fall back on and are building up the amount of money you have in savings, you can begin to reduce any stress you may feel regarding your finances — and all the while contribute to both your financial and your mental well-being.
  8. Reach out to your lenders and/or service providers — Lenders and service providers are sometimes willing to work with consumers who are facing financial hardships to help create some (at least short-term) financial relief. And whether this comes in the form of an extended loan term (to create lower monthly payments), a reduction in the interest rate being charged on an outstanding balance or a discount on the amount owed if paying in full, every little bit can help lower your financial stress. But to receive such accommodations, borrowers typically must request it first.
  9. Get expert guidance — When it comes to setting financial goals, saving money and reducing personal debt, a little expert help can often go a long way. If you’re struggling with finance-related stresses and looking to make a plan to improve your financial situation and outlook over time, consider working with a financial advisor to help you put your plan in place — and, hopefully, work toward putting some of your financial worries behind you.
Arthur State Bank graphic
Man doing his banking online is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.