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New Tools for the New Year: Money

New Tools for the New Year: Money

    Money can be a tricky issue for many people, especially in the last few years when we have had record high unemployment rates and difficulty making ends meet. As you get ready for the new year, you can prepare yourself with some new tools that can make 2012 one of the best years for managing your money.

    YNAB

    I started to get serious about my money situation about halfway through 2011 when I stumbled on one of the single best money management / budgeting apps around: You Need a Budget. We have actually had the founder and creator of YNAB featured here at Lifehack in the past.

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    YNAB is a piece of software (that works on Mac or Windows) where you setup your accounts and start to budget the money that you have during the month. It’s sort of like making buckets for things that you have to pay during the month and then sticking to them.

    The whole idea though with YNAB, rather than just following a simple budget, is to build up your “YNAB Buffer” where you will use it to eventually pay next month’s bills with this month’s money. This “Buffer” allows you to not get into the “not-enough-money-at-the-end-of-the-month” phenomena and helps relieve a bunch of tension in your life, especially if you have been struggling with keeping track of your money. It took me about 4 months to get my “YNAB Buffer” setup, and I will tell you, the stress and pain of worrying about where my money for this month’s bills is going to be is gone because they were payed with last month’s money.

    YNAB also has apps for iOS and Android to track what you have spent on the go.

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    Credit Cards with rewards

    I wouldn’t say that I am a credit card connoisseur by any means, as I do believe that credit cards can get you into some serious trouble if you are not responsible with them, but they can be appealing if you pay them off every month and use them appropriately. The three cards that I can recommend from personal experience are:

    The APR on these cards are pretty darn high, but as long as you pay off your balance before you get hit with the rates at the end of your month cycle, you can get some great cash back rewards when purchasing a good amount of gas or even ordering things on Amazon during certain times. Keep a look out for other cards that offer some sort of reward that is applicable to you to help you save a little bit of money here and there on things you already purchase.

    Envelope System

    If YNAB is a little too technical for you, there is also a tried-and-true-system that is a lot like it. I have seen this technique in many different places, and I’m not exactly sure who to credit it too, but the-get-out-of-debt guru Dave Ramsey has surely made it popular on his radio broadcast: The Envelope System.

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    At it’s core, The Envelope System requires you to take your paycheck, figure out how much money need to goes to what category (to food, clothing, rent, cable, etc.), create a separate envelope for each category, put the cash in the envelope, and only spend that cash. Sounds simple, hmm? Think again.

    The Envelope System is truly powerful, but only if you can stick to it which is tough to do because budgeting is tough to do. I much prefer the YNAB system to this one, but if you can only live paycheck to paycheck until you get out of debt or make more money, then The Envelope System is probably your best bet.

    Common sense

    Ahh, yes. A little common sense can go a long way when it comes to money. Here are some things to follow. Some of them were new to me this year while some are things that I need to be aware this coming year:

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    • Don’t spend more than you make
    • Create a budget and stick to it
    • Try to find a way to make more money rather than cut out every last expense that you have
    • Try giving money away to charity or a cause every month
    • Start saving money for the future today
    • Read a good money book like I Will Teach You to Be Rich
    • Don’t use a credit cards unless you can pay off the entire balance by the end of the month

    Conclusion

    Like I said above, managing your money comes down to making smart decisions (saving for the future) and avoiding bad ones (like not paying off your credit cards). If this year you budget your money correctly, save, and make smart decisions with how you spend, hopefully your money will be controlled by you rather than you controlled by it.

    (Photo credit: 3D illustration of dollar from Shutterstock

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on April 3, 2019

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

    By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

    This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

    Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

    1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

    This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

    It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

    Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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    Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

    My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

    Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

    2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

    You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

    Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

    If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

    3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

    This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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    It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

    4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

    Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

    This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

    For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

    Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

    5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

    If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

    In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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    6. Get Aggressive About It

    Consider these points:

    Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

    Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

    Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

    Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

    7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

    Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

    By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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    Finally (and most importantly)…

    8. Keep Trying

    Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

    Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

    Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

    The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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