Expert Answers: Take control of your money worries

My husband is a kind and caring man but utterly hopeless where money is concerned. We are overdrawn at the bank and the overdraft just seems to get bigger and bigger. We are constantly in debt. He wants me to try to get a job too, but I have no confidence to get a job.

Money worries are the main concern of stressed-out Britons, according to the result of a poll published today which reveals that as many as 40m adults admit to suffering from some form of regular anxiety.

Financial angst is the single biggest cause of stress for 40 per cent of us, followed by problems with friends and family members (25 per cent), health concerns (24 per cent) and stress at work (22 per cent). The recession has caused further headaches, with concerns about redundancy or unemployment fifth on the list, cited by 21 per cent of adults surveyed. The research was carried out by market researchers Mintel.

Britain's women are revealed as the nation's biggest worriers, with increased numbers of men (55 per cent ) more likely than women (45 per cent) to say they are not troubled by anything. More than one in 10 (11 per cent) women claims to have five or more worries compared with just one in 14 men.

When it comes to dealing with stress, the British stiff upper lip prevails. As many as 16m of us talk to family and friends as a way of coping with stress, but only six per cent of respondents felt able to turn to a professional for help, such as regular counselling.

And given their serious financial concerns, people are having to find cheaper ways of managing their stress than going on holiday. For "affordable escapism", an estimated 20m adults listen to music or read a book to unwind. And controversial complementary medicines – used by 2m adults – are popular as an over-the-counter alternative to antidepressants.

Meanwhile, more than one in five of us (21 per cent) admit to turning to drink when stressed, while more than one in 10 (13 per cent) light up a cigarette.

But men and women have different ways of coping, the research shows. Almost a quarter (24 per cent ) of men admit they turn to drink to drown their sorrows, compared with fewer than one in five (17 per cent) women.

By contrast, almost 20 per cent of women turn to comfort foods, snacks and treats in times of trouble compared to just nine per cent of men.

And the number of suicides in the UK has risen sharply since the recession began, reversing the downward trend of the past decade.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a six per cent increase, from 5,377 deaths in 2007, to 5,706 in 2008, among those aged over 15.

Paul Charlson

GP from Brough

A PARTNER, however loving, who doesn't behave responsibly with money, can threaten your peace of mind, home, family life, and future. The constant worry of who is going to be calling next must be adding to your stress. You have taken the first step to address this difficult situation by admitting there is a problem, now you need to make some positive plans to deal with it. It may be worth your while making an appointment with a debt counsellor via the Citizens' Advice Bureau. Another good resource for information can be found at www.cccs.co.uk – the Consumer Credit Counselling Service is a registered charity whose purpose is to assist people in financial difficulty by providing free, impartial and realistic advice. You sound as though you're being pretty hard on yourself; consider a visit to your family doctor who could put you in touch with a counsellor to help rebuild your self-esteem. Just having someone who is there to listen to you can help you to see things more clearly and look forward.

Elaine Douglas

A chartered psychologist who specialises in family and child relationships

Worrying all the time about money is so stressful, so I am not surprised that you are at your wits' end. Some people seem instinctively to be able to budget, set aside money for bills, save and spend and generally have a good grasp on their finances. For others, the whole process is a complete mystery and they never seem to be able to master incomings and outgoings. It sounds as though your husband is doing his utmost to bring money into the family coffers, but somehow your finances are not being managed effectively. I'm not sure that you getting a job is the answer. OK, even if you did have the confidence to do that (which I doubt you have at the moment) it would not solve your problem – yes, in the short term you would have more expendable income, but I think that the negatives would outweigh the positives. You would still be worrying about current debts and you would not necessarily have the stamina and energy to sort things out. I think that the time has come for some straight talking.

Cary Cooper

Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University

What causes people to get stressed is lack of control, the feeling that there is nothing they can do to get out of their dilemma. In your case, there are several things you need to do to take control. First, you need some help on managing your debt, you need help to assess your income and outgoings and develop a strategy for managing within your budget. You can get help here from your bank manager or from Citizens' Advice Bureau. Second, in order that you feel you have some control, you could do a part-time job; there are many of these jobs around, as employers are more ready to recruit a part-timer than a full-time person at the moment. Here you may need some help from the Job Centre or a private recruitment company. Don't just sit and worry; you need to take some action to alleviate your stress and make you feel in control.

Dr Carol Burniston

Consultant Clinical Child Psychologist

Money is the subject which causes more arguments between couples than anything else, but we seldom have good systems in place to ensure we know what finance is coming in and what is going out.Can I suggest that you sit down together and examine all of your finances over the last three months? Account for as much as you possibly can – include spending habits such as buying a sandwich at the deli, or a coffee on the way home. It may surprise both of you where your money is going. Next, you need to look at what is coming into the house and see how much the two figures differ from each other. You can analyse your spending into "essential" and "additional". Essential should include your mortgage or rent, fuel bills, insurance etc. Additional expenses may be trips out, new clothes, treats etc. You will then see more clearly where you can save.This exercise will help you to see whether you can live within your means or whether finding a job is your only option. Getting your finances under control will improve you and your partner's mental health and help you to feel more in charge of the situation.

spend time on your finances

Get to grips with using a spreadsheet.

Work out how much money you have coming in and how much you are paying out.

Break it down into monthly chunks and look at where the money is going. If what you spend or have to pay out exceeds what you are bringing in, then something has to change.

Contrary to what you might think, a bank manager would not want you to go deeper into debt and will have suggestions about what you need to do.

The main thing is to try to regain some control over your finances.