Independence Day is just around the corner bringing with it cookouts, fireworks and community celebrations to honor this important day in American history.
But what about your own independence? Your financial independence?
Every day is a good day to consider the health of your finances, especially if you have a large amount of consumer debt. If you are looking to reduce some of that debt this year, here are four simple tips to help you get started.
- Put away the card – If you already have credit card debt, you don’t need to accumulate more. Stop using your card and focus on paying down the balance. It may be painful at first but it will be worth the victory of seeing a zero balance. If you do use your card, be sure to pay off those charges each month.
- Cut expenses – Look for ways to trim your budget and apply the savings to your debt pay-off. Shop around for a better phone deal, reassess your insurance rates and look for ways to save on your utilities. For some, eliminating a meal out each week is a painless way to save a few dollars. Remember, when it comes to debt, every dollar counts.
- Budget – Make a budget that accounts for every dollar in and every dollar out. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use a pen and paper or an app on your phone. Just be sure to list every expense, including those that occur irregularly like property taxes and car maintenance. Be realistic in your planning but be sure to give every dollar a job. Each dollar should be committed to an expense or a savings goal. As you create your budget, if you find that you have more expenses than income, see step three above. It’s time to work on reducing expenses. Also, review your budget regularly to remind yourself of how much money you have available and why you are cutting expenses. Keeping a log of daily expenses may open your eyes to small expenses that add up quick like morning coffee, magazines and other nonessentials.
- Prioritize – If you have a balance on more than one card, prioritize the payment schedule. Some people like to focus on the card with the smallest balance. In doing so, you will celebrate an accomplishment of paying off a debt quickly. Others like to choose the card with the highest interest rate and focus extra payments there. Whatever you do, remember to always pay the minimum balance on every bill. Also remember that once you pay off one debt, you need to apply the funds you were spending there to the next bill on your list. This “snowball effect” will help you pick up momentum and pay off debt faster.
If you have a large amount of credit card debt, it probably didn’t accumulate overnight so you can’t expect to pay off everything overnight either. However, making a few changes, and even some sacrifices here and there will go a long way toward helping you achieve your financial goals.