It’s a hard time financially, for many people out there.  I have worked for a bank and a debt management agency so I have picked up a few tips over the years.  If money is an issue for you, please pray about it.  I really believe God would love to show us what to do with our money.  After you have done that seek financial help if you are in real need.  People love to help if they know what the need is.

Here are some general tips:

  • Keep a budget.  I know it’s hard but if money is your issue, you need to know where it is going.  Also have a dry erase board with all debts listed so that you can see it.  When one gets paid off give yourself a (small) treat!
  • Remember that debt is bondage.  Even if it’s a no interest plan, it still hangs over your head and takes money out of your budget every month until it’s done.
  • If you do have debt, ask for lower interest rates.  This is one of the easiest and quickest things to do.
  • Check your credit report once a year to ensure there has been no one using your credit.  Also to see if there are issues you need to clean up.  If your credit score goes up that means lower interest rates for you (800 good -500 not so good).    https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
  • Hang out with people that are financially equivalent or  slightly less.  I am not saying this to be exclusive but to be realistic.  If the majority of people that you are friends with are in a higher income bracket, most people find themselves dissatisfied with their lives.  If you hang out with people in your income bracket or less you’ll have less pressure to purchase things you can’t afford.  If they have less than you, it can make you more grateful for what you have and share with others in need instead of spending it on yourself.  This is also helpful when purchasing a home.  Some people buy bigger for the investment and not only become stressed with the financial burden but also have a hard time associating with neighbors who are (maybe) above their income level.  I can’t tell you how many people I have known over the years that get in a problem when they start hanging out with people in a much higher income bracket.  All of a sudden things they never wanted before they start wanting.  They will talk about what cars someone else has.  They wonder….”Why can’t we have that?”  ETC.
  • Look at every bill carefully.  When I worked at a debt management agency there were many people who never even opened their bills.  With on-line bill paying, I think this will become even more common.  You need to check to see if charges are correct.  I once had a gas station charge me twice.  You’ll also want to check your utility bills as your bill may go up and you think nothing has changed.  You can contact them and see if they can help figure why it jumped.  You also need to know what you are paying in interest every month and what the rate is.  Add the amounts up and see if you are done with giving that amount of money away to someone you don’t even know.
  • Payoff credit cards, don’t close the accounts.  Closing an account can actually bring down your credit score.
  • Review all bills to see if everything you have is really what you need/want and if it can be reduced.  You can contact the companies to see if there is a better plan for you based on your history.  For example, your contract is done on your cell phone and you don’t need a new phone but you want to see if your plan can be reduced or modified.  You contact the company to see what plan would be best for you based on your history.  ALWAYS REMEMBER to see if this will add to your contract.  Get all the details of the change.
  • SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  Of course everyone wants to save but it seems very difficult.  Start small.  It doesn’t have to be a huge amount.  Take $5 automatically a month and transfer right into a savings account.  Most banks do this and most people don’t miss the $5.  Give yourself a goal and up it every couple of months.  Before you know it you will have an emergency fund.  But pay off debt first as savings accounts pay very low interest rates.
  • Limit store time and go with a list.  I know that many people, myself included, will use shopping as a retail therapy.  Obviously this adds up.  The “it’s only $1.00” gets expensive after awhile.  How many times have you went to the register and thought “How much?” when they told you your total?
  • Make savings a family event and a game. You may not be married but get anyone you consider family involved.  Not only does it make you accountable but they can help keep an outside perspective.  If you are married and have children, even kids can help.  They want to know what’s going on.  Did you know what your parents financial situation was?  If not, what do you think it would have been like to know.  Would it be better to know why you can’t afford a new TV if you know that the goal is saving for a vacation instead?  I would rather know what is going on then be in the dark.  This will help them in the future and know what some of the stress in the family is about.
  • Have a proper filling system.  Research something that works for you and keep up to date so that you can know where your information is at when you need it. http://www.lifeorganizers.com/office/10-steps-organized-home-office.htm
  • Be Pro-Active.  This was mentioned in many of the tips above.  But really take this on as a project.  Knowledge is power.  It takes time, but think of it as a remodel.  You have to find a contractor, make decisions on what you want, and then there is the demolition of your existing kitchen.  In the middle of the remodel you are thinking what have we done, but when it’s done….WOW!!!!  Wouldn’t that be great if you go to the end of a remodel of your financial situation?  Find out what your situation is (REALLY) and set some goals!

I hope these tips are helpful.  Here are some websites that can give you additional info as well. 

Dave Ramsey – http://www.daveramsey.com/

Crown Financial Ministries – http://www.crown.org/

Have a “financially free” day!

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