Cost of living forcing you to rethink your living situation? Whether you’re downsizing, stressed about cutting back, or moving home, here’s how to handle a big life change
When was the last time you checked your bank balance while peeking through your fingertips? If you’re feeling the squeeze right now due to the cost of living crisis – like two-thirds of people surveyed in an Ipsos poll, FYI – then the answer is probably ‘recently’.
And if you’re feeling particularly stressed about money, you may have had to make some tough choices about how you live your life. You might be thinking about moving back in with your parents to save on rent and bills (where feasible), relocating to a cheaper part of the country so you can make some headway on saving for a house deposit, or considering taking on a lodger so you can split your bills.
These changes may relieve some of the financial pressure you’re under, but they can be incredibly challenging in terms of how you view yourself, and the way your life is panning out. They can be particularly tough on your mental health if you feel you’re majorly deviating from your personal ‘five-year plan’ that you envisioned.
Chartered psychologist Catherine Hallissey notes that there is a significant emotional and psychological impact when your financial situation forces you to make a big life change. Not only can money worry put you in a state of anxiety and stress, the compromises it forces you to make can cause a disconnect between what you want from life, and what you’re actually able to achieve.
“There can be a sense of failure for not matching up to where you thought you would be,” Catherine explains.
On top of that, as Catherine adds, there’s a stigma associated with financial strain, and you might be worried about what others think. Perhaps ‘comparisonitis’ has set in.
Katie (32), an HR executive, can relate. She’s just relocated to Durham, to move back in with her parents after six years of living in London, and says the decision to move certainly wasn’t an easy one.
“I kind of felt like I was being backed into a corner. With the price of everything going up, it was getting increasingly hard to pay my rent in London, and I had a wake-up call one day when I realised the pressure of it all was making me really miserable and stressed.”
For Katie, one of the biggest things to contend with during her move was the disappointment of her life not looking the way she expected it to at her age.
“I kind of thought I’d be self-sufficient in my early 30s; I’d have this high-flying career, a gorgeous flat in London, and plenty of money to support myself. It’s been difficult to accept that isn’t my reality, and it’s certainly had an impact on my mental health and feelings of self-worth.”
Katie says if she wasn’t under financial pressure, she probably never would have made the decision to move home. But you can take hope from her experience, because, in spite of everything, she’s really glad she did – and says her mental health is better for it.
“Prices are still rising, but without the strain of paying my own rent and bills, I feel the pressure is off a bit.,” Katie says. “This change has allowed me to have a little more wiggle room when it comes to spending.”
If you’re facing a similarly tough decision, it might help you to know that there’s often opportunity in change – even when that change is one that feels like it has been forced upon you.
A case in point? Katie says her recent move has been great for her overall wellbeing, because it’s allowed her to discover new sides of her personality.
“I’ve really been embracing rural living, and seeing this as an opportunity to explore different parts of myself. I was a city girl for so long – let’s see what ‘rural Katie’ is like,” she laughs. “I can’t believe I’m feeling so positive and upbeat about this change, after being so reluctant to make the move.”
That’s often the nature of life, isn’t it? You don’t always get what you want, and things don’t always go as planned, but more often than not, we learn to adapt to our surroundings, and can even thrive in them.
Catherine Hallissey believes a change in perspective is key when navigating these big life changes. “One of the most powerful things a person can do is get support to help them see things another way,” she says.
That might mean reaching out to a therapist, or chatting to your most upbeat mate in a bid to find the positives. You could focus on the benefits you’ll experience right now – like improved finances, more time with family, or the excitement of a fresh start – or you could focus on the bigger picture.
“The actions you’re taking towards improving your financial position should be seen as a gift to your future self,” Catherine notes. “While you may be struggling at the moment, the changes you’re making right now will bring about positive change at some point in the future.”
In other words, it’s a short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.
Another way to navigate this new chapter? Be proactive in embracing it. Plan for it as though it’s an exciting move, rather than a compromise.
You could make plans with your old friends if you’re moving back home, buy some cute storage solutions if you’re downsizing, or create a bucket list of scenic spots to visit if you’re moving to a more affordable part of the country.
If you still feel like this big life change is a step backwards, Catherine advises setting goals that will give you a sense of purpose.
Maybe now that you aren’t under so much financial pressure, you can start making some headway on the financial goals you’ve had to put off. Perhaps, you simply want to use this time to work on personal achievements, like scaling the career ladder, or picking up a new hobby.
Catherine says having realistic goals like these, with a timeline for achieving them, may keep any niggles you have about falling behind in life at bay.
When you deviate from the life path you set out for yourself, it’s all too easy to see it as failure or regression. But this time is tough enough without giving yourself a verbal bashing. Besides, when you really think about it, you should be giving yourself a massive pat on the back for taking such a brave step.
“Taking action means you’re not allowing yourself to be a victim in this situation. Instead, you’re actively trying to turn things around, and get back on your feet again financially,” Catherine says.
Life swerves are tricky to contend with, but maybe we can change how we view them, and see them as an opportunity to start over, alleviate pressure, and learn more about ourselves, rather than a sign of personal failure.