Getting out of debt and creating a stable financial future may seem like an impossible feat. You could be wondering, “How did I get here?” or “How can I get out of debt when my income is the same as it was before, and I owe even more money?”
In order to gain a positive and realistic view of your finances, you should instead ask yourself, “What can I change to insure that I have savings, not debt, when I retire?” or “What is my attitude towards money, and how has it affected my financial situation?” By doing this, you can get to the root of the problem and begin tackling your debt in a practical manner. (Remember it may take a little time to get back on track). Here are five methods that can help you take charge of your finances:
1) Live within your means
This seems easy enough, but how many Americans have racked up hundreds or even thousands of dollars in credit card debt? If you have to use your credit cards, then you are clearly not living within your means. The most obvious and suitable way to get out of debt is by resisting the temptation to buy stuff you don’t need. Depriving yourself of things you want can be the most difficult thing to do. However, buying whatever you want can also the most damaging to your financial success. Maybe you did get a great deal on that DVD player, but is it worth that extra $50 to $100 interest that your credit card may eventually accrue? When you have the desire to buy something, think it through. Learn more about different ways you can save money [http://www.usfmgroup.com/articles/Financial-Planning-articles/Great-Ways-to-Save-Money.php].
You can also make lists before you go to the store to prevent impulse buying. Even if you are just going to get groceries, you should bring a list and stick to it. Otherwise, you may end up spending $50 more than you thought you would on unnecessary purchases.
Another change you can make to get out of debt is to start shopping for the holidays well ahead of time. Many people put off holiday shopping until the last minute and end up charging it all to their high interest credit cards. Why not start early this year and pay for all of your gifts in cash? Try buying one gift a week. By paying with money that you actually have, you will be saving yourself tons of money in credit card charges. You will also be less stressed when the holidays come around because you will already have your shopping finished.
2) Create a budget of all of your necessary expenses and stick with it
Notice how “stick with it” was added onto that sentence? That’s because almost anyone can sit down and write out a budget. The real challenge is tracking and maintaining it. If having a program on your computer helps, go for it. Just be sure to save all of your receipts throughout the day and then input them into your program. It is important to give each of your expense categories, such as rent/mortgage, food, and utilities, a realistic limit.
If you only buy according to your budget, you will probably find yourself with extra money each month. With this extra money you can take charge of your finances, get out of debt, and start saving for the future. It will also help you to figure out which items are draining money from your budget. For example, if you buy bottled water at work everyday for $1.25, you would be better off buying it in bulk at the store and then bringing the water to work. Just remember that it takes many small steps to resolve your finances and take charge.
3) Set Realistic Expectations for Your Future Wealth
Yes. The average person’s salary increase averages between 2.5% and 3.5% per year. And you may be beginning to expect that yearly raise or anticipating that big promotion because then you will be able to pay off your debt. Many people have the attitude that their debt is fine because they will have more money next year to compensate for their spending. It’s the adage, “Why do today what you can put it off until tomorrow?” They spend beyond their means because they are banking on the fact that they will be making more money later. And when they receive a raise, instead of paying off debt, they increase their spending because they think they have more money to spend. The reality is that living this way can extinguish any future financial stability. Also, what if the raise never comes? The promotion never happens, or something worse occurs, such as getting fired or laid off? Then you will be left with all this debt, out of control spending habits, and no money in the bank.
So, when you receive a bonus or small raise, take that money and pay off your debt or put it towards your savings. Even if you think that you have great job security, be prepared for the unexpected. If you expect that you will be making more money, you will spend it; however, if you acknowledge that your prosperity could end at any time, you will save it.
4) Pay your unsecured debt off—ASAP.
I know this can be a very daunting task, especially when you have several credit cards with large balances on them. You may think that you will never get out of debt Your best bet is to begin with the credit card with the smallest balance; pay as much as you can on it each month (try to make it at least double or triple your minimum balance) while maintaining the minimum balances on your other cards until the card is paid off. This will help you to work towards your goals and will help motivate you to pay off your other cards.
Remember, if you just pay the minimum balances, you are probably barely covering the interest. You could potentially end up paying double or triple for an item you bought a year or two ago.
5) Plan for the long term
It’s important to plan for your retirement now, so you can enjoy it later. Look into an IRA or 401(k) program. Usually your employer’s 401(k) program will simply deduct money from your paycheck each month. That is one of the easiest ways to do it because you’re saving money each month without really missing it. Some employers even have a matching program if you contribute enough to your 401(k) each year.
Also, in order to plan for the future, you need to calculate how much money you will need if you live for another twenty years after you retire. Be sure to take into account the cost of living in your area or the area where you plan to retire. You may be living well right now, but planning and saving so that you can retire comfortably is crucial. So read investment books, add to your 401(k) (or your Roth IRA if you are making under a certain amount of money), get out of debt and spend your money wisely.