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Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. It can be a heart wrenching experience not being able to provide necessities for you loved ones. Americans are swinging in debt with many at no fault of their own. Financial hardships can pop up as fast as the next corner Starbucks. Or some people just overextend themselves. Our society is based upon consumption. Everyday we are blasted with advertisements for objects we are told we want. There’s a new smart phone every year, watches to go with that new phone, expensive sneakers, high-end headphones – these products boost our self-esteem. Make us feel high on the social latter. Buying even can just make us feel good.
Whether you are struck with a financial emergency or overextended yourself there are ways to get back on track. It takes sacrifice but the reward of not worrying about money is well worth it. Here’s a guide to getting back to financial freedom.
Know Your Debt
It easy to just no think about debt. Knowing what you owe and laying it all out is important. Look at it this way, this is the first step to financial freedom – and a lot less stress.
Time for a Budget
Once you know how much debt you have, compare it to what you bring in. After subtracting monthly bill payments how much is remaining? At this point think about how much you are spending on necessary and unnecessary items. Now, look at your bank and credit card statements to see what you are really spending. It may shock you!
Creating a budget spreadsheet is a great way to keep track of spending and keep on task. You will want to include the following items.
- Net income – your final take home pay after deductions
- Fixed expenses – these may include rent/mortgage, car payment, and utilities. Regular monthly bills fall into this category.
- Variable expenses – expenditures which change month to month including but not limited to entertainment, groceries, gas, and clothing.
Reviewing your monthly spending will help you know which expenses can be cut. This will be a difficult process but humans are adaptable. This will not be forever. Don’t be discouraged!
What are your financial goals? Make a list of short and long-term goals. Reducing or eliminating credit card debt would be a good short-term goal. Saving for your child’s education or your own retirement would be a long-term goal. Remember, some goals may take years to accomplish – in the end it’s worth every penny!
Make a Plan
Review your budget, know your debt, set realistic goals, and then start planning. Your plan should reflect the goals you made and how you will achieve them. Sometimes planning is a task you can tackle on your own. However, depending on your debt to income ration you may need to reach out to a financial planner. There’s no shame in it. In fact, most people should. If you are unable to afford a planner, find yourself a mentor. A friend or relative you can talk to is a great idea.
- Use a savings account – money just sitting in your checking accounting is not gaining interest.
- Auto-pay your bills – this will help to keep you on track and not get charged late fees.
- Contribute to your 401K – if you company has one you should do it as most companies match contributions up to a certain percentage. That’s free money.
- Check your credit score – there are many ways to see your score for free and without hurting your credit. This is a good way to see how your debt is affecting your score and to check for any fraudulent activities.
- Have emergency savings – once you are back on your feet it’s necessary to have a small amount of money set aside for the unexpected.
- Adjust your habits – always think before you spend as this is the most helpful advice of all.
Following your plan and stay on target! Please contact us for advice!