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Money management: We’re all dealing with it, and we’re all a little confused.

Money management doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here are three quick ways to turn your finances around.

Work isn’t just a part of our lives, it’s one of the biggest parts.

Some people may only be obligated from 9 to 5, but with smartphones and evolving work cultures, we’re connected 24/7. A lot of us are logging over 70 hours each workweek because our phones enable us to take our work with us.

Jennifer J. Deal, Ph.D., author of "Always On, Never Done?" reports that remaining connected to work for so many hours each week leaves employees "only about 3 hours on workdays for 'discretionary' activities such as being with their family, exercising, showering, and all of those chores at home that someone has to do."


Only three hours per workday. We’re essentially never "off."

Despite working nearly nonstop, when payday rolls around, a lot of us can be left feeling like we'll never make enough.

GIF from "Finding Nemo."

Rent and mortgages, car payments, groceries, gas, nights out, pet emergencies, extracurriculars for the kids, family obligations — all of this takes a toll on our bank accounts.

It can feel like money is flying out of our accounts faster than it’s coming in. We’re working all the time but feeling like we’re just making it. We know we need to get a grip on our finances but have no idea where to start.

Here are three simple steps toward total financial domination.

1. Saving should be a part of the plan.

We hear it all the time: Save, save, save. Save for retirement. Save for emergencies. Save for travel. Figuring out how to save seems like it’s the holy grail, but how do we make that happen — especially if we feel like our money is already stretched too thin? The easiest first step is to, well, start with baby steps. Drink coffee at work or home instead of from a coffee shop, carry snacks and a reusable water bottle with you rather than buying them, come up with a quirky and fun challenge like saving all the $5 bills you accumulate, start a piggy bank — whatever is fun and doable for you.

2. Then, it all comes down to planning.

Don’t be afraid to budget. Yes, budget. It’s not a dirty word; it’s the way to freedom! Or at the very least the way to some financial flexibility. Take a look at how you’re spending money and figure out which items are needs versus wants.

Pro tip: Laura Shin, a Forbes personal finance writer, suggests keeping necessary expenses to less than 50% of your take-home pay.

Image view Tax Credits/Flickr.

Now, this isn’t always possible. Necessities are what they are, and for some of us, no amount of finagling can get them to that ideal amount.

Alan Dunn, founder of HowtoSaveMoney.com points out that, for some, "the sheer cost of survival may be very close to their total incomes." Still, it’s a pretty good benchmark to aim for, and having insight into your finances is step one on the road to financial security.

Now that you’ve begun to sort out the things you can’t live without, what about the things you want?

3. Give yourself an allowance! No, really.

Once you’ve broken down your finances into needs versus wants, build an allowance into your budget. Doing that gives you clear parameters — how much you can spend in a given pay period on things that aren’t necessities — and makes it easier to stay on track without feeling like you’re never able to treat yourself.

Make it easy for yourself to stay "on track." Image via Ben Sutherland/Flickr.

It's as simple as setting aside a fixed portion of what remains in your account after bills are taken care of. You may not be able to get everything you want at once — sometimes it’ll take a few months to put aside enough for a big purchase — but with planning, you can indulge a little.

Let's say, after all of your bills and savings are taken into account, you're able to spend $100 per month on anything your heart desires. You're dying to go to a music festival, but the tickets cost $175. It's not the end of the world! You don't have to forgo the festival, and you don't have to break your budget for the month — that would be a slippery slope. Put the $100 aside and wait until the following month when you'll have $200 at your disposal to get the tickets you want, guilt-free.

Payday might still suck…

Money will still leave your bank account at an astonishing rate that makes you believe Hogwarts is real, but you’ll feel more in control once you know where that money’s going and how to make it work for you.

Don’t feel guilty if you hit a few bumps in the road! We’re all navigating these murky money-management waters together.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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