I'm Putting Myself on a Money Diet This Year

While financial stress isn't exactly a novel concept, our generation definitely feels the pinch more than ever: Research shows that one in three millennials experience anxiety about money. That's why this week, we're tackling financial wellness from every angle. Get expert advice on everything from the psychology of saving to investing when you have no clue where to begin. Financial empowerment is the ultimate goal, but you just might raise your bottom line, too.

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Photo:

Haobin Ye

As a 20-something creative who lives in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., I'm not exactly immune to money-related stress. The tipping point for me arrived a few months ago when I moved for the second time in a year. After dipping deep into my savings to put up the cash for deposits, new furniture, and other related expenses, I found myself in a suffocating panic one evening while assessing the state of my bank account.

To feel the physical strain of this anxiety was the ultimate wake-up call. Moving was a necessity, sure, but I also knew that I could have better cushioned the blow if I had been more responsible with my finances in the months (or years) prior. The regret washed over me as I gazed at all the barely worn clothes in my closet—relics of "Let's just go in and look!" and "I need that." It was time for a serious mindset shift and a serious budget.

In other words, it was time to put myself on a money diet.

To do so, I'd have to rip off the proverbial Band-Aid and actually take a deep, honest look at my current finances as well as my budget—something I had been avoiding out of sheer anxiety for months. But taking active responsibility is the crucial first step to financial freedom, says Chelsea Fagan, co-founder of The Financial Diet, a media company for women who want to talk about money.

"A 'money diet' is essentially any time you become thoughtful, methodical, and strategic with your money rather than just letting it wash over you and kind of sweep you away," she says. The fact that you're doing it at all is even more important than the "how." "All budgets are going to be inherently unique, but the act of being on one is the most important first step in any financial journey," she adds.

It's been about two months since I took that shaky first step, and while this is definitely an ongoing, ever-evolving journey, after committing to both an attitude adjustment and a much stricter budgeting strategy, I'm finally starting to feel empowered by my finances instead of terrified.

Keep scrolling to see how my money diet came together.