When you think about setting goals for the year, you may choose to focus on your health or your finances. But did you know you can focus on both at the same time?

Studies show a relationship between financial stress and poorer health. In addition to contributing to anxiety and depression, chronic stress can worsen other conditions—such as heart disease, diabetes, insomnia, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems.

But you can make that health-finances connection work for you. Here are five steps that can help you improve your financial outlook—and your well-being at the same time:

1. Identify your financial concerns

Begin by identifying the source of your financial stress, such as credit card debt or a lack of savings. Or perhaps you’re concerned about how your family will pay the bills if you lose your job.

Tip for less financial stress: If you don’t have all the answers, don’t worry. “There are people who can help along the way,” says Steve Milbeck, chief trust officer for AAA Banking Services. “You don’t have to go it alone.”

2. Make a plan

After you identify the cause of your concerns, dive deeper into the specifics so you can create a plan that works for you. Consider exactly what you need to do in order to alleviate your financial stress. For example, if your concern is outstanding debt, make a list of everything you owe.

Don’t forget to take into account other options that can help alleviate your financial issues, like inquiring about payment plans, savings options or lower interest rates on credit cards. Once you’ve pinpointed what you need to do and what to work toward, prioritize your items into a step-by-step plan.

Tip for less financial stress: It may feel overwhelming right now, but knowing exactly what you owe is a great place to start creating a plan that will reduce your stresses, according to the American Psychological Association.

3. Set up a monthly budget

Need a little push? Follow these four steps to create—and stick to—a monthly budget.

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To set a realistic budget, you first need to become familiar with your income and living expenses. From there, you can begin to allocate what you need for groceries, rent/mortgage payments, utilities, savings and other miscellaneous bills. Next, look for new ways to save. Spending too much on dining out? Try cooking at home more. Instead of that weeklong vacation, plan a staycation that focuses on fun things to do nearby. Cutting back on expenses can help you put more money toward your financial goal.

Tip for less financial stress: Keeping track of your money will help you feel empowered because you’ll know exactly how much money you have—and what you can do with it.

4. Put your plan into action

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This step is rather simple: Give your plan the green light. But as you embark on your journey to financial freedom, remember things can change and that you don’t always have to stick to what you have on paper. For example, if you find yourself with extra cash each month, consider increasing your monthly debt payments. Or if money becomes tight while paying off credit card debt, consider negotiating for reduced interest rates.

Tip for less financial stress: The mere act of starting to dig yourself out of a financial hole is a positive first step to alleviating financial stress. “Once you have begun to address your financial concerns, remember to celebrate the victories (however small), which will motivate you for the next challenge,” says Milbeck.

5. Prepare for the future

Help protect your family’s future with help from a local life insurance specialist.

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Want to set your family up for success should the unexpected happen? It might be time to look at your life insurance policy. Life insurance payouts are often protected from creditors, so your policy may be used to help protect loved ones who would otherwise be responsible for your outstanding debt.

Tip for less financial stress: After your budgeting plan alleviates your financial stress, you can also feel at ease knowing your loved ones are in good hands—even when you’re gone.

Get Help With Your Financial Goals

From financial planning to full-service banking, AAA has you covered with great rates and easy online tools. Member FDIC.

AAA Life and its agents do not provide legal, financial, or tax advice. Therefore, you may wish to consult independent professional advice prior to the purchase of this policy.

Life insurance underwritten and annuities offered by AAA Insurance Company, Livonia, Michigan. AAA Life Insurance Company is licensed in all states except NY. Products and their features may not be available in all states. ALAN-25345-119-XX

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