If you struggle to pay your bills each month and cringe every time you whip out your credit card to cover a purchase, now is a good time to review your approach to money and set yourself up for financial success in the future. (Don’t worry, you’re not alone; for Americans aged 18 to 64, the average debt ranges between $67,400 and $134,600.) And if you have been faithfully saving every penny you have earned since your days selling lemonade to the neighbors, it never hurts to pick up a new practice to continue guiding you toward creating wealth for emergencies, vacations, or retirement.
Make A Commitment & Create A Budget
When you are knee-deep in debt, it might feel impossible to make headway. But if you look at your spending, you’ll probably see that your television subscription and weekly coffee shop visit are costing you an extra $31 each month. It might just seem like a few bucks, but across the entire year, that’s $372 that could be used toward a car loan or credit card payment. Accept responsibility for the “extra” things you purchase each month and choose to change your attitude towards mindless spending. Think about how good ordering a large cappuccino - or even taking a family vacation - will feel when you are debt-free!
Next, create a budget and designate one person in the home to manage financial tasks, like paying bills and keeping a watchful eye on the monthly budget. As a family, create short-term and long-term financial goals and be sure everyone knows the specific purpose of the goal, the dollar amount needed to reach the goal, and a realistic timeline.
Work to Pay Off Debt
There are lots of methods to paying off debt, but two popular processes include paying off debt with the highest interest rate first or paying off debt with the smallest balance first. There is no right way to eliminate debt, but both ways have great benefits. Whichever method you choose, be diligent and patient.
Interest accrues quickly! Paying off your high-interest debt first will save you money in the long run, but it can feel like you aren’t making an impact when you’re slowly chipping away at, say, a $25,000 student loan. If you choose to pay off debt with the smallest balance first, you can then apply that monthly payment toward the next smallest balance once the first balance is satisfied. Knocking out a balance will motivate you to continue paying off owed money.
Review Your Credit Report
In addition to National Financial Literacy Month, April tends to be the unofficial month of spring cleaning, too. Once the trees begin blooming and the birds begin chirping, people start projects like cleaning out the garage or prepping the garden. While you’re at it, take the time to dust the proverbial cobwebs off your credit report!
A credit report provides an in-depth look at your overall financial health. Every consumer has the right to a free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus, so go ahead and request one and take a detailed look at the information, checking for errors or fraudulent activity. If you’re not satisfied with your current credit score, two things you can do to improve your score include paying your bills on time and paying off revolving debt. Over time, it will get better!
Our blog is full of articles about creating and maintaining healthy financial habits, so feel free to click around and learn more about achieving your monetary goals. If you have questions about financial literacy, drop them in the comments! And let us know when it’s National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day - we want to participate in that, too.