It's one thing to experience passing moments of stress because of bills or student loans. It's another thing to be stressed out over finances all the time. But that's the reality for about a third of Americans, according to a recent survey from mobile-banking company Varo Money.
Varo polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults and found that, while a whopping 85 percent say they "sometimes" feel stressed about money, a full 30 percent say they're "constantly" stressed about their finances.
Why? Well, 66 percent of adults, including 71 percent of millennials, say it's because they don't have a three-month emergency fund, and 46 percent say it's because they don't have any savings set aside in one to cover an unexpected expense like a job loss or medical problem.
Other studies have made similar points. Less than half of Americans have enough to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a survey from financial website Bankrate, and in a similar survey financial site GOBankingRates found those aged between 18 and 24 had less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, period. Nearly half have nothing saved at all.
That could explain why 43 percent of Americans label "unexpected expenses" as their biggest concern.
But the stress doesn't all stem from fear of unexpected expenses. Varo found that, of the respondents, nearly 70 percent report they've dipped into their savings at least once in the past two years to "make it to the next payday."
Of millennials, 55 percent have dipped into their savings in the past few months alone. And 19 percent of respondents say they're living "paycheck-to-paycheck." That could indicate that a lot of people aren't making enough money to meet their everyday needs, or that they're spending too much on a regular basis.
If you're among those worrying "constantly," or even just more often than you'd like, here are some steps you could take.
Stashing some money away for a crisis can make you feel more secure. Experts agree you should have three-to-six months' worth of savings in an emergency fund. Suze Orman, best-selling author, financial expert and former CNBC host, says you should aim for eight-to-12 months' worth of savings.
Consider putting away small amounts of money on a regular basis using an interest-earning account, like a high-yield savings account.
This could help build your savings passively over time. You can automate so that money transfers directly from your paycheck into your savings account, or use mobile alerts as reminders.
If you're having trouble making ends meet, it can be helpful to tackle the most significant expenses first, which are usually housing, transportation and food. Making cuts to what they call "the big three" helped early retiree Justin McCurry and his wife save up to 70 percent of their income and build a $1 million portfolio in a decade.
Try rethinking the way you budget. Take stock of what you're paying each month for small things like magazines, software and online-service subscriptions, for example. Decide what you really need and what you can live without.
In addition, consider cooking your own meals or switching to generic products when you buy groceries.
If you can, work on generating additional sources of income. By taking on odd jobs in addition to being full-time students, Danny and Amber Masters say they're on the path to paying off $600,000 in student loan debt in five years.
Keep in mind, though, that while increasing your income can be a good thing, according to Tom Corley, CFP and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life," the trick to becoming wealthy is about more than making money — it's about managing the money you have.
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Video by Zack Guzman