Debt is your enemy! One of the first rules to becoming financially fit and defeating debt is to identify it, and find out what its strengths and weaknesses are. Once you do this, you can devise a plan to rid yourself of it for ever!
In my experience, there are 3 main types of debt that contribute to financial chaos. They are: high balance debt (outside of your mortgage payment), monthly installment debt with high interest rates and excessive personal expenses. If you find yourself struggling with any or all of these cash drainers, keep reading for a few tips for identifying some of the main threats and help to either moderate, minimize or eliminate them.
1. Credit Cards/Unsecured Debt
Problem: Interest rates and fees are too high, balances aren’t paid off in full, too many cards, maxing out cards.
Solution: Limit yourself to 1 or 2 major cards at max. Close or don’t use cards that you have no real need for. Consolidate what you can. Know what and how your interest rates affect you.
I tell all of my customers that credit cards are the devil! Credit cards are for people who can afford to pay cash for their purchases, period! They use their card and pay the balance in full at the end of the month. If you cannot do this, you have to be very careful with how you use your card for purchases. Also, it is not advisable to have several different credit cards. You don’t need a credit card from every department store and business that you are a patron of. In most cases, the perks do not outweigh the expense you will pay in interest charges. Try to get down to 1 to 2 cards that you use for all purchases. Consolidate your cards to the card(s) with the lowest interest rate. If your card’s interest rate is more than 12%, you might want to shop around to see about transferring your balance to another financial institution. Minimize the use of your cards for emergencies only. Avoid frivolous purchases completely.
If you’re having a tough time with getting your balances under control, call your credit card company and let them know! Often times people avoid contacting the bank because they are embarrassed or simply afraid. The truth is, banks and financial institutions want you to be able to pay them back and usually have programs in place that can help you get a handle on your debt. These programs might allow you to skip a payment or two or even re-work the loan in a way that is more affordable for you.
2. Car Payments
Problem: High Payments, interest rate to high, owe more on the car than it’s worth.
Solution: Refinance your car. Try to pay off the car ASAP.
If your car payment is higher than your budget can handle, look into refinancing it with your current or another financial institution for a better rate or possibly extending the term to lower your payment. Sometimes this is difficult if you are upside down on your loan. In this case, you want try to pay the loan down as soon as possible. You’d be surprised by how much faster you can get your loan balance down by adding $25 to $50 extra to the payment. Again, don’t be afraid to contact your financial institution if you’re having a tough time with the payment. Most institutions want to help you!
3. Personal Expenses
Problem: Not budgeting, impulse buying, not checking for lowest price possible.
Solution: Journal your expenses. Before buying, determine whether or not the purchase is necessary. Look for the lowest price before making purchases.
It is really important to know where all of the money goes! Start a journal and write down every single thing that you spend money on. Do this for at least a week, for a month if you’re able. After the first week, you will start to see places where you can cut back. Instead of spending that $5 on your daily coffee, skip a couple of days and dump that money into your savings account. $5 dollars a day, 5 days a week, is roughly $1,300 a year. It adds up!
Also, limit a majority of your purchases to needs over wants. The big key to becoming financially fit will be your willingness to sacrifice a little. One of my favorite quotes comes from Will Smith. He says, “‘We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.” This statement couldn’t be more true. I think it’s much more impressive to be able to afford all of your bills and have money saved than to have that $800 pair of shoes or $500 pair of sunglasses and nothing else to show for your hard earned money!
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