When we take control of our finances, we begin to feel more secure, and when we feel more secure, the road to peace of mind becomes easier to navigate. It is essential that we not let our finances be out of control.
It is a common dilemma in our modern world to find ourselves in financial difficulty. The average credit card debt in the US is close to $8000 per household. A horrifying number and a significant contribution to the many Americans who find themselves financially stuck. To say that getting “unstuck” financially is easy would be a gross understatement. We have first to understand that the same guidelines for getting out of debt will not work for everyone. Oh, that life would be so simple!
It is easy enough to find a list of ways to become unstuck, but the truth is that personal finance is just that, personal, and we must each discover a pathway that works for our families and us. The importance of that is finances are a family affair, and you can’t take the journey alone!
So how do we get “stuck” in the first place? Many factors may contribute to being financially stuck, some examples may be:
- Impulse spending
- Spending before you earn
- Not paying bills on time
- Excessive credit card debt
- Poor money management
- Job loss
- Unexpected medical expenses
- Not having a rainy day fund
It is also possible that the Holiday Overspending bug bit you, a common ailment this time of year.
The ideas that have gotten us stuck have a lot to do with the unique vision that we have of ourselves, and the image we portray to others. We live with the fear of being unable to keep up with our peers and concerns of discovery. We need to let that fear go and focus on the healing that financial wellness brings.
Keep in mind that if you are trying to “Keep up with the Joneses,” the Joneses are probably in debt.
One thing is certain the first step should always be STOP CREATING NEW DEBT.
- Write a list of each debt and what you owe
- Evaluate the cost of things like cable, internet, phone, interest paid on credit cards, and insurance. Sometimes reducing these costs is just a phone call away.
- List all of your expenses (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
- List your income, and remember not to overestimate. Occasional bonuses or overtime are not reliable income and should be put aside for emergencies or applied to the debt.
- Talk with your family about spending.
- Make a budget
- Develop a savings plan
- If all else fails seek a financial counselor
I, of course, realize it isn’t just that simple, but we must begin somewhere. Once we are aware of the size of the issue the easier it becomes to start the process of developing a solution. We all need to understand what’s behind our financial decisions, and believe that the answer lies in our unique values.
Talk to your creditors and ask their assistance with developing a plan. When possible, start paying extra on credit cards and loans. An excellent example of paying off credit card debt is to start paying extra on one card when it is paid off take the full amount and start applying it to the next credit card.
It is also crucial that you check your credit report annually. It can be a real eye-opener and is an excellent deterrent to Identity theft. You may find your three free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may also get a free credit score from CreditKarma.com. Be aware that any site that requests credit card information is NOT free.
There are many online resources to assist you in meeting your financial goals, and many of those resources are free to use. The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE.org) offers online classes and links to many usable resources including printable materials. Another option may be FoolProof, a free online financial education site (FoolProof.DirectionsCU.org) login to Solo to get started. You will also find several personal finance apps for your smartphone designed to keep you on track.
Just remember, create no new debt, make a financial plan, create a realistic budget, involve your family, and work towards financial freedom. It may seem like a slow process, but it is worth it!
Community Outreach Education Manager, Directions Credit Union
Jenni, a native Mansfielder, is a graduate of Mansfield Senior High and a former JCPenney Manager who upon retirement discovered that she loved to work. When Directions Credit Union offered the opportunity to work with the community she discovered that it was her dream job. As Community Outreach Education Manager for Directions Credit Union, Jenni and her staff have the opportunity to share valuable financial information in the community. Her job allows her to be involved in a number of ways. Her departments’ financial literacy programs enable interaction with over 10,000 adults and youth annually. These programs cover a wide range of venues including, public and private schools, colleges, churches, shelters, prisons, senior centers, libraries and many more.