If you struggle with money, there’s one thing you should know: You’re not alone.
Although many people keep their money issues close to the chest, the truth is all of us can think of a time when money has been a source of stress.
So, in honor of World Mental Health Day, we want to shine a light on those shadowy financial stressors. We want to remind you that there’s no shame in struggling with money, and show you that sharing our stories can be both healing and helpful.
Below, three Chime members get REALLY real, revealing their biggest money stressors, how those stressors have affected their mental health, and the ways they’ve managed to find positivity in spite of it all.
1. Paychecks that are way too slim
One struggle we heard from a lot of our members: not earning enough money. Between limited hours, workplace closures, and low wages, making enough to make ends meet is a constant challenge.
Take TyLynn, a 33-year-old from Memphis who hasn’t found a full-time job since early 2019. She’s been cobbling together gigs for companies like DoorDash, Amazon Flex, and Shipt, but with the low pay, she said it often feels pointless. By the time she puts gas in her car and pays the babysitter, she said, “It’s like, ‘Oh I just worked for nothing.’”
Or take Ciora, a 23-year-old pregnant mom of two who lives in Indianapolis. When her husband’s workplace shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic, the family was left scrambling on a single paycheck.
Since Ciora has irritable bowel syndrome, the effects were more than just mental. “I noticed more flares, more hospitalizations, and just overall medical expenses,” she said. “My stress manifested in a way to where it was attacking myself internally.”
✅ Chime tip: In the post-pandemic times, many companies are competing for workers, giving you a leg up on your earning power. If your employer isn’t willing to increase your hours or pay a living wage, polish up your resume and start looking for one who will.
2. The never-ending expenses of raising kids
Another common struggle for Chime members is the seemingly infinite cost of raising children. Ciora put it best when she said: “We’re never able to really stay within the budget with kids; there’s always something extra that’s needed.”
For TyLynn, a single mom of seven, her children are her greatest source of joy — and her greatest source of financial stress. “You get the bills paid, you get the groceries in the house, everything’s straight,” she said. “And then somebody needs a pair of shoes, or somebody has ripped their favorite shirt. Or somebody just needs something; anything that can go wrong will go wrong with kids.”
The financial pressures of single motherhood, TyLynn admitted, can be overwhelming at times. “It gets you depressed,” she said. “Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just go sit in my truck … I don’t want to take anything out on the kids, especially the little ones because they’re so innocent.”
✅ Chime tip: As they say, it takes a village. So if you have children, try to take advantage of every program that’s available to you. In addition to researching government assistance and childcare subsidies, both federal and regional, call local nonprofits to see what types of services they offer. Ask friends and family for help, and be specific with your needs (ie: “Can you babysit Thursday from 12-2?” rather than “Can you watch the kids sometime?”).
3. Bills, bills, bills
When you’re not earning a ton of money, the last thing you want to see in your mailbox is another bill. And yet they keep coming, and coming. For our members, such monthly expenses are a constant source of stress.
Katreena, 30, lives in Indiana with her husband and two kids. A hereditary gum disease has caused her to miss work in the past, resulting in smaller paychecks — and in anxiety over whether she’d be able to cover her mortgage and other bills.
“It was the choice between this bill or that bill; or having gas in my car to get back and forth to work or putting time on my phone,” she said. “It was really, really, really tough mentally. Like, I would get really really depressed, I’d get really stressed out, I felt like I was failing my family. It felt like no matter what I did, nothing was good enough or nothing was ever gonna work out.”
TyLynn, too, gets stressed about her bills, which include $6,000 in debt from a series of small loans. Most of the time, she’s forced to ignore those debts so she can afford necessities. “To be honest with you, it does mess with me,” she said. “It makes me feel like, ‘Am I ever gonna really get out the damn rut that I’m in?’ Like I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
✅ Chime tip: Call 211 to learn about services that may help with your bills; one example is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which could lower your heating and cooling costs. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to get on a legitimate debt repayment plan. And consider signing up for a service like Truebill to track your bills and maybe even negotiate lower rates.
4. Non-existent emergency funds
As if everyday expenses weren’t enough, many of our members struggle with unexpected bills — and, more specifically, with a lack of emergency funds to cover them.
At the start of the pandemic, Ciora’s stepchildren couldn’t return to their birth mother in Arizona, and instead stayed with Ciora and her husband. Then, a few months ago, Ciora got pregnant. Both of these surprises increased their monthly costs, forcing the couple to pull money from their retirement funds and ask family for help.
“We don’t have a large savings to where if something major were to happen, we’d be able to cover those expenses,” she said. “It’s a stressor … We don’t earn enough pay to put back in an emergency fund at this time.”
✅ Chime tip: With all the other expenses taking up room in a budget, emergency funds often come last. Having one can keep a minor setback from becoming a major disaster, though — so whenever you have a few bucks to spare, stick them into a separate savings account. And the next time you’re in a bind, use Chime’s SpotMe feature to overdraft up to $200 on debit card purchases or cash withdrawals without fees for eligible members, or apply for a Modest Needs grant (the average amount is around $1,000).
5. The impossible quest for work-life balance
Our members are dedicated to working hard so they can support their families. But sometimes all that work leaves little time to actually enjoy their families, a catch-22 that can cause a significant amount of stress.
In her previous role as manager of a fast-food restaurant, Katreena didn’t get much time at home. Not only did this cause her to miss precious moments with her children; it also put a strain on her relationship, since her husband was responsible for more around the house.
“It crushes you when you have to choose to work all the time,” Katreena said. “And knowing you’re not getting time with your family because you don’t have a choice if you want to be able to make your bills and you want to be able to keep a roof over your head It’s very hard to feel that you have to put your job over your family because it shouldn’t have to be that way.”
✅ Chime tip: The most obvious solution to this dilemma is to find another job: one that pays more so you can work less, or one that’s remote or has a shorter commute. Since that’s easier said than done, though, commit to making the most of whatever time you do have with your family. Put your phone away, be fully present, and cut yourself some slack when it comes to chores. Years from now, wouldn’t you rather remember how good it felt to read to your kids rather than how clean your house looked when you did?
6. The high cost of housing
As we’ve discussed before, finding somewhere to call home can be a real struggle in this day and age. Since salaries haven’t kept pace with housing costs, it’s challenging for many Americans to land a place that fits within their budget.
When TyLynn was looking for an apartment for herself and her seven children, all she could afford was a two-bedroom. And though she dreams of getting something bigger, they still live in it today. “It’s kind of a small space for so many people,” she said. “We make it work, but it is stressful.”
While TyLynn puts on a brave face for her children, there are times she’s tempted to lie in bed to avoid her daily financial stressors. “You get to thinking about stuff too much, you just work yourself up,” she said. “If it’s out of my means, I can’t stress myself about it — but I’m human, so I do.”
✅ Chime tip: Seek out federal and local programs that help families with affordable housing. (As they often have long waitlists, the earlier you apply, the better.) If you need help covering rent one month, reach out to your local Salvation Army or Catholic Charities. And if you’re stuck in too-small accommodations, take advantage of public spaces, such as playgrounds, libraries, and parks, where everyone can enjoy a little more breathing room.
7. Bad credit scores
Many Chime members are haunted by credit mistakes that stand in the way of both housing and jobs. Ciora is no exception: Because of her low credit scores, she and her husband had trouble finding a home for them and their two children.
Luckily, they stumbled upon a second-chance housing program that helped them get into a two-bedroom. They’ve now been living there for almost three years. “I had a lot of long nights,” Ciora said. “It was almost like it had ruined my relationship because we were unable to move from our one bedroom with four people … It almost tore apart my family at one point, but we were able to come back from it, thank God.”
Katreena, too, called credit “a huge stressor,” since she never knew how to improve her scores. But last year, she began using Chime’s Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card — and has seen her scores jump. “It’s definitely helped change my life for the better,” she said.
✅ Chime tip: Educate yourself about how credit works (and why you should care). Then consider Chime’s Credit Builder, a secured credit card that can help you build your scores over time. It doesn’t require a credit check to apply, and doesn’t charge any interest or annual fees. Eligibility requirements apply. It’s important to note that credit scores are based on many factors, and impacts will vary by member. For context, Chime members average a 30 point increase in their credit scores with regular use and regular, on-time payments.
How to make your mental health a priority
Although our members have experienced some serious financial challenges — and some serious financial stress — they have somehow managed to stay positive. And they hope their stories will help you do the same.
As TyLynn said: “I just take it one day at a time, and I try to be positive and optimistic about everything. … It is overwhelming a lot of the time. But you can’t keep letting it get you down; you can’t wallow in a puddle.”
That said, if you ever experience symptoms of depression, Ciora recommends seeking therapy. She was able to get four free sessions through her job, and said it really helped her work through her money issues. If your employer doesn’t offer such services, you may qualify for free therapy through the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education.
Katreena also recommends opening up to someone, even if they aren’t a professional. “It’s just finding that one person or those few people or that family member or that friend, just somebody, like I said, you can talk to without feeling judged,” she said. “You may be in a bad situation or a really hard situation, but understand it’s not your fault. There are things that happen out of our control that we just can’t control and — just do your best to keep pushing forward.”
Remember: Money stuff is hard, and there’s no shame in admitting that. By working on your financial health, you’ll improve your mental health (and vice versa). So plug away at both and don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it. And keep sharing your stories so we can keep lifting each other up.
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