Well, here we are at the start of a New Year, and now is a great time to focus on the wave of bills coming this month, and how to make the coming years a lot different, financially, than the past years have been.
But please don’t make it like the wave of fitness club memberships where everyone shows up for a week and by February they’re all a ghost town again. Getting financially set for 2008 is one of the longest lasting gifts you can give yourself. Financial freedom really does change lives and also changes relationships, because the number one fight in relationships is about money!
1. Just once – make a budget. You cannot see where your money is going unless you put in on paper. Half an hour with your partner, no TV, and no kids. By the time you’re done you’ll get some huge surprises of where your money is going and how little you really have to live on, once the bills are paid.
2. Get proactive. Don’t make it a scramble again next year to have money for Christmas or for all your annual bills that we never seem to have money for. Open a savings account but DON’T hook it up to your ATM card. It’ll be too tempting to tap it. Add up what you need for Christmas next year, your annual car and house insurance and your property taxes if they’re not paid monthly or through your mortgage. Divide it by 12 and start putting that money aside monthly.
3. Cut up all but one of your credit cards and learn to live without plastic, and no more borrowing – period. It’ll take a month of whining and adjustments, but by February you’ll be amazed at how much extra money you have and how you start looking at your spending in a whole different way.
4. Put your list of debts on the fridge so it’s right in your face each and every day. Then get mad. Really mad that everyone is getting rich off your money and you’re broke. Start attacking these one at a time, starting with the smallest bill because it’s the one you can pay off the quickest. When it’s gone, roll that money to the next one, and so on. It’s in the budgeting chapter of the It’s Your Money book in easy to follow steps.
5. When you’re in a hole – stop digging. You’ve now stopped borrowing and living on make-belief money with your credit cards, and you’ve got a game-plan to attack your debts starting with the smallest.
Now speed it up. These ideas will make it really clear how serious you are in becoming debt free:
• Have a garage sale and sell so much stuff the kids are getting nervous that they’re next.
• Sell the car with the killer payments and get a $4,000 car you can pay cash for.
• Take any savings account at 2 or 3% and put that money onto your debt. 3% savings vs. 19% interest is an easy choice.
• For at least 90 days, don’t set foot inside a restaurant unless you work there! Think macaroni and cheese – that alone will put you $300 or $400 ahead each month.
Is it worth it? Only you can decide. But don’t tell me that you’re hurting your family when you do this. It’s quite the opposite. Debt freedom and financial responsibility is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family.