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Coping with financial stress

Understanding financial stress

If you feel stressed about your finances and the cost of living, you are not alone.

  • One in four Australians are finding it difficult to get by on their current income.[1]
  • 48% of Victorians who rent report that their rent has increased in the past 12 months.[2]
  • 78% of mortgaged homeowners in Victoria are already paying significant increases in mortgage repayments.[3]
  • 18% of older Victorians have overdue bills due to payment difficulties.[4]
  • 19% of older Victorians feel insecure about their finances being able to meet their needs throughout the rest of their lives.[5]

Financial stress is the pressure you experience when your financial resources cannot meet your basic needs and obligations. It may be difficult to pay your rent or mortgage and keep up with your living expenses. Financial stress can lead to feelings of worry, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Causes of financial stress include:

  • Being unemployed
  • Losing your job
  • Being in debt
  • Having cash flow problems
  • Unplanned life events
  • The rising cost of living
  • Economic climate
  • Having a serious illness
  • Natural disasters.


What are the signs of financial stress?

If you are experiencing financial stress, you may notice that you are:

  • Feeling worried, anxious, frustrated, and fearful.
  • Having arguments about money.
  • Feeling ashamed.
  • Feeling helpless.
  • Having trouble falling asleep or disrupted sleep.
  • Avoiding friends, family, and activities you once enjoyed.

You might also be experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, and digestive problems.


Coping with financial stress

Experiencing financial stress can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, you can take steps to regain control of your situation.

Speak to someone you trust. Discussing your situation can help you feel supported and less alone. It can also give you a different perspective and provide possible ways to move forward.

Create a budget. An important step towards financial stability is creating a budget. Track your income and expenses to see where your money goes. Then, set spending limits and prioritise essential needs over wants.

Take it one step at a time. Break down your situation into small, actionable parts. After you have completed your budget, are there things you can do to reduce your expenses? For example, shop around for a better deal on insurance or utilities, evaluate whether you need all your subscription and membership services, and keep an eye out for grocery discounts.

Look after yourself. Doing things you enjoy can help during a challenging financial period. These activities could be spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or getting outdoors. They don’t have to cost much and can help you feel better and make clearer decisions.

Seek professional help. Many organisations can provide help if you are having financial difficulty. Below are some options:

  • National Debt Helpline: Speak to a financial counsellor on 1800 007 007. Their financial counsellors offer non-judgmental support and advice that is free and independent. The helpline is open weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Visit the website for more information.
  • Mob Strong Debt Help: This service offers free nationwide financial counselling and legal advice services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Call 1800 808 488 on weekdays from 9:30am to 4:30pm.
  • Money Smart: Visit the Money Smart website for information on managing your debt and where to get urgent help if you are struggling to make ends meet.
  • Services Australia: The Services Australia website has practical advice on managing a budget, dealing with debt, and building savings.
  • Your bank or financial institution: Contact your bank and their financial support / financial hardship department.

Remember that your financial situation does not define you. Financial difficulties can be caused by various factors, some of which are beyond your control. Be kind to yourself as you navigate these challenges.


If you are struggling with your mental health and wellbeing, our CAREinMIND counsellors are here to help 24/7. Call 1300 096 269 or click the floating chat button on the right. The service is free for people in north, western and central Melbourne.


The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by Lifeline. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.



[1] Economic and other wellbeing in Australia – October 2022, Australia National University, Biddle, N, Gray, M

[2] Rising rates, falling financial wellbeing: the impact of housing stress on Victorians December 2022, Consumer Policy Research Centre.

[3] Rising rates, falling financial wellbeing: the impact of housing stress on Victorians December 2022, Consumer Policy Research Centre.

[4] State of the Older Nation 2023, A nationally representative survey prepared by the Council on the Ageing.

[5] State of the Older Nation 2023, A nationally representative survey prepared by the Council on the Ageing.