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11 Reasons Why You Stay In Debt

11 Reasons Why You Stay In Debt

According to the Federal Reserve, 43% of Americans exceed their income with their spending habits. This means that 43% of people are going further and further into debt each year and racking up interest charges at an alarming rate. They might as well be burning their money.

Many people never even plan on paying all of that money back, citing bankruptcy as their way out.

Here are 11 ways you are staying in debt, and what do do about it.

1. Your expenses are too high

This one is obvious. If you have backed yourself into a corner by amassing a huge house payment, huge car payments, large insurance premiums, and other gigantic fixed costs, then you are never going to have any money to pay down your debt.

If you want to pay your debt, you must reduce your expenses. Get a used car. Downsize to a smaller house. Shop around for insurance. Cancel recurring subscriptions. Question everything. Do anything you can to lower your expenses so you can begin to put that saved money towards your debt.

2. You have no additional income

If you only have one source of income, odds are that you base all of your expenses on that.

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The secret to being able to save money and pay down debt is doing things on the side that you enjoy that will also make you extra money. Pick up freelance work that can make you an extra few hundred a month.

You can then leverage this money to build a side business, which can turn into an enjoyable way to get extra cash flow to begin paying down your debt.

3. You have no picture of your money

Do you know where your money goes each month? If you look at your bank account and just sit there wondering, “What did I spend all of that on?” then you have an issue.

Sign up for an automated financial tracking site, like Mint.com, to get a better idea of what you’re spending where without having to do all of the manual work of balancing your income and expenses. This can help you perform a detailed analysis of where your money goes, and make changes based on the results.

4. You don’t take advantage of technology

The technology that exists today is incredible. You can literally pay your debt on autopilot. All it takes is a few minutes to set up an automated transaction to your creditors each month. You’ll find ways to adjust.

Couple that with a little bit of extra money on the side towards your debt, and you’ll have it paid off in no time.

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5. You use your time poorly

How many hours a week do you work? 40? Do you do anything after work to make extra money? Are you furthering your education to increase your worth? Are you networking to increase your level of influence?

Expenses, if left alone, will almost always increase over time. If you’re not using your time wisely, you’ll never increase your ability to earn more to keep up with those expenses, keeping you at the same level of income and plunging you further into debt as your expenses increase over time.

Always be improving your ability to earn more.

6. You run a balance on your credit cards

Credit card debt is the absolute worst type of debt you can have, because the interest rates are so high. You can literally rack up tens of thousands of dollars in interest alone in just a few years. Yet so many people just view them as a way to pay for things without actually having to pay for them.

But the fact is, that minimum payment is going to grow and grow over time as you spend more, and you eventually won’t be able to get any more credit. At that point, you’re going to have to pay before you can buy anything else. That’s no way to live.

Use credit cards wisely. Only put items on them that you can pay off each month. The day you start to run a balance on your credit card is the day you start racking up hundreds of dollars in interest, and it’s hard to escape from the high rates of credit cards.

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7. You worry about everyone else

The quickest way to get into debt and stay there is to start worrying about what everyone else thinks of you. The fact is, not everyone makes the same amount of money, but everyone likes to try to act like they do.

Stop worrying about what the image your car, house, clothes, and whatever else says about you and just live the life you are able to without going into debt. At the end of the day, those things are just liabilities on your balance sheet, nothing more.

8. You don’t have a spending plan

Money is made to be spent, but if you do not have a plan for what you are allowed to spend it on, then you’re going to be throwing it around everywhere.

Sit down and think about what brings you the most joy to spend your money on, and allow yourself a guilt-free spending fund each month. Spend it on one or two things that bring you joy and cut it off there.

9. You afford things

“Affording” things is a very quick way to get into debt. Because when you afford things, you are only thinking about how you can leverage all you own to buy them. Unless it’s your house, only buy things you can pay off completely in less than two years.

Otherwise you’ll spend your whole life with monthly payments towards things that are probably worth less than you owe on them.

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10. You buy too many little things

10 bucks here, 20 bucks there, $8.50 there—it all adds up. It’s very easy to tell yourself that “It’s only $10. Go ahead and spend it.” But the problem with that is when you keep saying that day after day, eventually you’ve spent $300 on nothing but a bunch of little trinkets, snacks, and things you ultimately don’t need that will just end up in a yard sale.

Resist the urge to spend money on little things. You’ll be a lot happier with one high-quality, large purchase.

11. Your money is not working for you

With a boatload of debt, you’ll never be able to invest in anything.

At some point in your life, your money must make money for you, not the other way around. Instead of spending all of your money, save some of it to invest in assets that will make you money over time.

Learn about high yield savings accounts, stocks, real estate (that you quickly profit from), building businesses, and other forms of wealth creation. Eventually you’ll get to the point where all you have to do to collect money is sit back and watch the birds.

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Cody Wheeler

Cody is a self-improvement blogger at Academy Success, the place to learn life skills you don't learn in school.

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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