7 (Mostly Cheap) Ways to Quash Your Financial Stress

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By Geoff Williams

If money or the lack of it stresses you out, you are in a large club. In February, the American Psychological Association released a survey of 3,068 adults that found 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least sometime during the past month, and 22 percent polled said they had experienced extreme stress.

While some of that financial stress likely looms for good reason -- earning too little or being hit with a whopping medical bill -- conventional wisdom suggests that we could all be doing more to take our minds off money problems.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for reducing money stress, with ballpark figures on how much each activity or hobby costs. After all, some hobbies aren't cheap, and participating in an expensive hobby to distract you from financial woes is probably not the path you want to take.

1. Try Yoga

"The average price for a yoga class is probably $15 to $20," said Kelly Wood, owner of Karuna Yoga, a yoga studio in Los Feliz, Caifornia. A private class will likely run about $80 for a 60- to 75-minute session. "When you come out of a class, you feel more grounded, less jumpy. You feel like you can listen a little bit better, focus a little better and your thoughts aren't jumping around so much," Wood said. It could be the perfect antidote for anyone suffering from bill fatigue -- and has $20 to spare.

2. Go to the Gym

According to StatisticBrain.com, the average monthly gym membership costs $58. But odds are, you can find a gym for less. Jim Dailakis, an actor-writer-comedian and voiceover artist in New York City, spends about $35 a month for his membership. "If there's one thing that keeps my mind off my finances, or any stressful situation for that matter in my life, it's working out at the gym," Dailakis said.

"Working the punching bag helps me take out my frustrations on whomever it was that shafted me and helps me overcome whatever difficulty I may be having," he said, adding that regardless, staying in shape won't just take your mind off your money troubles. It's also an investment in yourself. "Health is wealth."

3. Journal

As in, write down your thoughts. All you'll need to spend is the cost of a notebook, so, what, $2.50? Or type out your thoughts on your computer for free. "Everyone experiences negative thoughts. They stay around longer and get bigger when we allow them to circulate free-range in our minds, though. Putting them on paper stops them from going further. It's an outlet and a necessary one," said Jaime Pfeffer, a success and happiness coach in Franklin, Michigan, and author of the upcoming book, "Uplift: Amazingly Powerful Secrets to Conquer Stress, Boost Happiness and Create an Extraordinary Life."

4. Raise Chickens

This won't be for everyone, but raising chickens is a popular pastime. There are websites -- RaisingChickensForEggs.com is one -- and the "Dummies" series covers it in "Raising Chickens for Dummies."

Monique Prince, a social worker and parenting coach in Chester, New Hampshire, calls her laying hens, along with her pony, her "mental health outlet." Hens aren't a cheap hobby, although the Dummies book claims you can start a flock of four to 25 chickens for less than $50. But maintenance costs will start adding up.

Prince estimates she spends about $30 a week in hay during the winter (but she also has a pony to feed) and $7 a week during the summer, when the hens can forage for food in her forest and fields. But she says she'd rather pay that money than pay for a therapist. To her, the money is worth it "because they are fun to watch and pat and interact with." And "the eggs are the best."

5. Go Skydiving

This may sound crazy to those who've never done it, but Cybil Rose, a public relations executive in Chicago, says skydiving is her ultimate way to de-stress. "You have a 20-minute ride up in the plane, where you think of nothing else. Then you have two minutes of freefall, which is pure bliss. Then you get down on the ground and you have joy. You forget your stress."

Rose says she spends about $30 per jump, but that's only realistic for avid skydivers. She estimates her initial investment for gear and training was around $5,000. If you're a newbie, and have serious financial troubles, you may want to find a less-expensive hobby if you plan to make this routine. On the other hand, everyone's bank accounts are different, and spending several thousand as an investment may be no big deal to you. Or you might feel that it's worth the investment, if later you have a relatively inexpensive pastime that busts stress.

6. Read

You could take your mind off your problems by reading. "Any time I'm in a bad mood or feeling down, a good book will cheer me up," said Zina Kumok, a marketing professional in Indianapolis who launched DebtFreeAfterThree, a blog that chronicles how she paid off $28,000 in student loans -- in three years -- while making $30,000 a year, and covers her money-saving strategies. "I go to the library about once a week to check out a new book or ebook."

7. Watch TV

No, this isn't the most inspired idea, but it's cheap. Kumok says she once calculated that she watches enough TV episodes via her Netflix account that each one generally costs her about 10 cents. Moreover, watching television doesn't have to mean sitting alone in the dark while scarfing down a bag of chips and wishing you were doing something cool. You could share some favorites with family or friends.

"If you're watching movies and TV shows you love with close friends, you'll forget that maybe you can't afford to get dinner out or that you're trying to cut back," Kumok said. "Some of my happiest Friday nights have been spent watching romantic comedies with my friends while we drink a cheap bottle of wine."
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