Take Charge of Your Finances Today
The past is the past, and what’s done is done. You can’t go back and "uncharge" the TV you bought last year or the plane tickets you used two years ago. Unfortunately, you still might be paying for a big ticket item like that even years later. Even if you don’t have a ton of credit card debt or any at all (and good for you if that’s the case!), the average person has something they can do to improve their financial situation in the present…or the future.
If you’re just starting to take control of or rebuild your finances:
- Start tackling your debt now. A debt management plan (DMP) is a great way to pay off your debt in five years or less, which is usually a much shorter time period than if you paid on your own. Usually interest rates and/or payments on a DMP are reduced, too. This can result in HUGE interest savings.
- Build emergency savings. Not having an emergency fund is what causes many of us to use credit cards. We may have to pay for Fido’s $1,000 emergency visit to the vet, our own medical bill or an appliance repair/replacement. Something is bound to come up. So instead of letting it be a cause of debt, plan ahead and try to start saving at least $25-50 per month whenever possible.
- Start periodic savings. For example, if you know that you usually spend $500/year on your vehicle maintenance and tabs, set aside what you can each month. That way, when you need to make a repair, it’s less of a burden on your bank account.
If your debt is paid off, and you’re looking for financial wellness and building wealth:
- Focus on growing savings. If you don’t have to worry about credit cards anymore, figure out your total monthly expenses, then multiply that by three. Your goal should be to have at least three months’ worth of expenses in savings. Set aside as much as you can afford each month, keeping in mind the other suggestions below.
- Prepare for retirement. No matter what age you are, it’s always a good idea to think about retirement and how you’re going to pay for it. If you want to enjoy your golden years instead of working to live, think about investing. The sooner you start, the better. For more info, visit Let's Make a Plan.org.
- Pay off larger debts sooner. You don’t have credit cards, but you still may have a mortgage, car payment or student loan payment. Make higher payments toward any loan that you can, starting with the loan with the highest interest. Paying it off sooner will save you money in the long run. In addition, when something is paid off, that means you can take that payment and put it toward savings or retirement.
Regardless which financial life stage you’re in, there is always something you can do to improve your situation. They say, "Go big or go home," but I say "just go" because you have to start somewhere. It’s like that quote about working out: even if you're just taking a walk, you’re still lapping everyone who's sitting on the couch right now.
If you're not quite sure where to get started to improve your finances, call LSS Financial Counseling at 888.577.2227 to schedule a free financial counseling appointment with one of our knowledgeable, nonjudgmental counselors. You can also get all your support online. We'll help you create a plan to start tackling your debt and achieving your financial goals!
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director for LSS Financial Counseling.