The good news: It’s a new year! The chance to start over, to resolve to do better, to do more, or in the case of your payments and all that interest – to do a lot less.
The bad news? You’re already broke! How is that? Well, our debts are more than 165% of our disposable income, half of us have no savings at all, and almost 70% of us don’t make RRSP contributions. Why? Because every dollar we earn goes to make a long list of lenders really rich and there’s simply nothing left at the end of the month.
So when it comes to making some commitments about our debt, credit and all those bills, perhaps we should think small to make sure we set ourselves up for a win, and not a sure-fire let-down. But small doesn’t mean pointless, small just means some little steps you can actually keep, that’ll pay off big for 2017. These five are over and above the chapter in the Money Tools & Rules book “Do you have half an hour” – small things that you can change immediately:
First – Annual bills kill your budget, but they’re not surprises. We know they’re coming – but we haven’t got the money to pay them. If it doesn’t cost you a bunch of interest or fees, set them up on a monthly payment plan. Whether it’s your property tax, car or home insurance, a monthly payment plan is a whole lot less painful than paying them by credit card or off your line of credit over the next few years.
Second – Set yourself a credit limit. Pick a dollar figure below which you’ll pay by debit card or cash. Maybe $20 or $30 bucks – that’s it. But anything below that, you’ll spend with real money, instead of running up debts. It’ll become a great habit and will cut down your credit card balance in huge ways. After all, look at your statement. Almost all the charges are for pretty mickey mouse amounts that add up in huge debts – twenty bucks at a time..
Third – Keep your vehicle for another year. If you believe a cool car is a status symbol and a must-have, you’re doomed to be in debt for decades to come. Not to mention that almost 50% of people trade their vehicle and STILL owe more than it’s worth – that’s financial suicide. The goal should be to drive a reliable vehicle that doesn’t have payments with it . Imagine a couple of years without car payments and the huge financial advantage you’ll create for yourself. And remember: Those $400 car payments are really over $600 in gross earnings. If you can’t get a $600 raise – here’s a way to get it – you’ll just be giving it to yourself!
Fourth – Close your overdraft. I know – it’s like being hooked on drugs. It’s so convenient and always there and you can’t live without it any more. Well, that’s what the banks were counting on, and where they make a huge amount of their profit. But it’s killing you. Just a $1,000 overdraft will cost you between $200 and $300 in interest and fees. It’s a one-time pain to cancel the overdraft, but it’s worth it. Then zero in your account is actually zero instead of minus $1,000 or more.
Fifth – Change to a credit card that isn’t a credit card.
For those with a card balance, it isn’t the $600 charges, it’s the dozens of $20 or $30 charges that really add up. Sure, you want to pay it off, but it isn’t a priority each month and you keep sinking deeper into debt at 20% plus. Get yourself an American Express Green card. That’s not a credit card – it’s a charge card. At the end of the month, there are no payments to make – the balance has to be paid off in full. Oh sure, the first month that’ll be painful. But after that, you’ll watch what you’re charging pretty carefully, and you’ll never ever have a credit card balance again. What’s that kind of financial freedom worth in knowing for a fact you will never have a credit card balance again?
And maybe you can have a detox for January? How about no shopping of anything for any reason that isn’t an absolute necessity such as food and gas?