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Watching Every Cent

Watching Every Cent

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    If you’ve been working on getting your personal budget balanced, going offline can make some sense. There are plenty of web applications and other tools that really do well at interpreting your spending patterns and other information just by taking a look at your monthly bank statement. But there’s really no substitute for doing some financial tracking on your own.

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    Every Little Cent

    One reason many people seem to struggle with building a budget that actually works for them is a lack of understanding when it comes to telling where their money really is going. Between cash, debit cards, credit cards, automated payments, one-click purchases and all the other myriad ways we can pass our money along to someone else, is it really any surprise that creating a spending plan that works longer than a week is a difficult proposition?

    Building a budget that is truly effective requires a very thorough understanding of your own spending. There is a relatively simple approach to getting the necessary grasp on your typical spending — tracking every cent you spend.

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    It isn’t a long term approach, of course, but if you’re working on getting your finances under control, a good first step is to spend a week or a month simply observing where you’re actually spending your money. It’s a matter of making a note every time you pull out your wallet, whether you’re spending cash or using plastic. At the end of your observation period, you’ll have a list of transactions that will give you a much clearer view of your expenses than a bank statement can. At a bare minimum, you’ll have an idea of where the cash you pull out of the ATM goes.

    Keep It Simple

    For most people, tracking spending for a full month will give you the best picture of finances: how you spend right after your paycheck comes in can be quite different from how you spend during other parts of the month, for instance. However, it is difficult to keep up with tracking your spending for that long. There are a few ways to make the process easier:

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    • Keep a notebook with your wallet, so that you have to pull it out whenever you’re making a purchase.
    • Write down every transaction, even if you get a receipt. It helps turn the process into a habit — and you’ll have one document with all your information.
    • Go with the paper route. Messing with texting your expense to yourself or shooting off an email just adds more hassle than a simple note.

    The important part of keeping this sort of ‘every cent counts’ record is to get the best data possible to work with. While some people can build a budget that they can stick to without such specific records, the fact of the matter is that most of us struggle to stick to a budget if we have spend without accountability. For those of us who fall into that category, budgeting becomes much easier when we already know how much we spend in a given category over the month. We know where we should cut back — and where we can cut back.

    Processing Data

    At the end of the observational period, you’re likely to have at least a few pages worth of records that you’ll need to interpret into a usable format. You may be able to spot patterns without doing anything in the way of processing, but it’s probably worth investing some time in the project and creating a spreadsheet with each of your expenses. Categorizing your expenses can make spotting patterns much easier — like picking up a candy bar every afternoon for a snack. These sorts of patterns are the starting point for changing your finances for the better. There are both good and bad spending patterns, and being able to see them can make a major difference in your ability to budget.

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    Once you’ve gone through all the data you’ve collected, it’s time to compare it to what you’d like your budget to actually be. There may be a large discrepancy between your plan and reality — the typical reason that so many budgets fail — so make note of where those big differences are. Breaking just one or two patterns may make all the difference in bringing your actual spending in to line with a budget: if something like a daily candy bar is driving up your budget, taking a step to eliminate the need for that candy bar (like bringing a snack to work along with your lunch) can make a dramatic difference. It’s worth noting that breaking a habit is often difficult — replacing it is usually easier. That fact applies to spending as much as any other habit.

    After an observational period, it almost always makes sense to end your financial tracking. It’s useful to get the sort of data you need to form a lasting budget, but it can be a fairly time-consuming process. Furthermore, you probably don’t need a cent-by-cent accounting of your finances beyond the planning stage. You may need to occasionally revisit your daily spending habits to make sure you’re still on track, but otherwise, reviewing your bank statements and receipts will more than suffice. It’s also worth looking into some sort of financial tracking application: while they may not be so useful in understanding the details of your spending, they can provide you with a broad overview that can be enough to guide you if you’re already on track.

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    Published on January 8, 2021

    How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast: 7 Powerful Tips

    How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast: 7 Powerful Tips

    Ever wondered whether your credit card debt is the reason you’re in a bad financial situation? You can’t enjoy any fun activities because a good chunk of your money goes toward debt payment. Heck, you’re even behind on some of your monthly bills.

    The effects of clumsy debt management are too many to list here. This guide is going to help you discover how to pay off credit card debt fast and start chasing your financial goals.

    Debt problems are the last thing anyone wants to encounter. But things can get out of hand when all the “little debts” you take accumulate in interests.

    What if you knew some simple and proven ways to be debt-free quickly? Implementing them would mean better financial health for you. It becomes possible to free up cash for your “wants.” These include taking a trip or buying something you’ve always desired. All that while paying your bills on time!

    Let’s not wait any longer. Here are 7 powerful tips for paying off credit card debt fast:

    1. Pay More Than the Minimum Credit Card Payments

    Many people only pay the monthly minimum on their credit cards. Truly, that’s the right amount for staying on good terms with your credit card company. But you need a different approach if you’re looking to achieve financial independence within a short time.[1]

    Most of your payments go toward interest costs when you only pay the minimum amount. A substantial sum of your balance remains standing. As a result, it becomes more expensive to eliminate your debts.

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    You don’t want to wait more than 10 years to get rid of debt while it’s possible to do it sooner. All you have to do is double that $100 minimum payment to $200 or go higher.

    The good thing is that minimum credit card payments are affordable in most cases. By paying a higher amount, you reduce your interest costs, lessen your borrowing period, and boost your credit score.

    2. Start With High-Interest Credit Card Debt

    If you have more than one credit card debt, prioritize putting the extra money toward the ones with the highest interests. This debt pay-off strategy, known as the debt avalanche method, is essential for being debt-free quickly.[2]

    First, you need to list down all the credit card debts you have in the order of their interest rates. Next, you choose the one with the highest interest and pay a significant amount toward it each month. It can be an amount twice or even thrice larger than the minimum payment.

    At the same time, you make monthly minimum payments on the other debts. Their interest charges won’t be as costly as that of the first debt on your list. You only move on to the next high-interest debt after the first one is gone. Remember that your focus is on the interest rates and not the balances.

    3. Revisit Your Budget

    Budgeting is useful for tracking your financial moves. Once you create a budget, some tweaks along the way can make it work for you better. One situation that requires you to revisit your budget is when you’re struggling with debts. It might hurt a bit to slash some expenses. But you also don’t want to miss out on achieving financial freedom in the long run.

    You can reduce some variable expenses to free up more cash for credit card debt payments. They’re the ones that change from time to time. Some examples are groceries, fuel, and clothing.

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    Other opportunities for cutting down your spending lie in non-essential expenses. Instead of dining out all the time, you can cook at home more to save money. You can also share some subscriptions with friends and pay a fraction of the cost.

    If you’re determined enough, you can eliminate all your unnecessary expenses and focus on paying off your credit card debt first.

    4. Avoid Using Your Credit Cards

    Do you want to know how to pay off credit card debt with a low income? One simple way is to stop using them. Having your credit cards everywhere you go means that you’ll be more tempted to buy unnecessary stuff. In this case, you spend money that you don’t really own and get deeper into debt.

    The quickest fix to stop the debt build-up is spending with cash. You’ll be more aware of everything you can afford at any particular time. If you decide to keep one or two cards to ease the transition, always make wise choices. For instance, only use them when experiencing financial difficulties.

    It’s best to categorize your fun activities under “discretionary spending” in your budget. This way, you won’t need more debt to kill your boredom. By halting your credit debt from accumulating, it’s easy to pay down what you already owe and be happy with the progress.

    5. Start a Side Hustle to Boost Your Income

    You’re probably turning away a lot of money by not monetizing your skills. Everyone has something that they’re good at doing. And you can use that to generate extra income for attacking your credit card debt.

    If you look around your neighborhood, you can find several side hustle opportunities. It can be pet sitting, tutoring, or lawn mowing. You can start an online business by offering services such as digital marketing, content creation, and web development. Such skills go in high demand on freelance sites and job boards.

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    Finding clients on social media is also a good strategy to utilize your skills and make more money. Facebook groups, Quora Spaces, and subreddits are some places to look for side jobs. You only have to join a niche-specific platform, share your services, and respond to any opportunities.

    It’s possible to learn a skill, practice it, and earn from it. Use the free resources online or purchase some e-courses to get started.

    6. Sell Your Used Items for Extra Cash

    Starting a side hustle isn’t the only way to generate extra money. You can turn unwanted items into cash for paying off credit card debt. Whether it’s an old TV, book, or furniture, there is always someone itching to buy your used stuff.

    A garage sale, as much as it’s old-fashioned, is perfect for getting your neighbors and passers-by to buy from you. You keep all the money because there are no business permits or taxes involved. While you may not make much cash, it’s better than leaving your stuff to go defunct in your storage.

    Other than that, you can sell your used stuff on online marketplaces. Facebook groups are great places to start if you want quick approvals and hence sales. You only have to ensure that your listing follows Facebook’s commerce policies.

    When selling any pre-owned items online, ensure they’re in good shape to avoid problems with your buyers.

    7. Know When to Seek Help With Your Debt

    Asking for help with your credit card debt can be challenging to do. But letting it drown you is a road you don’t want to take. While you may feel embarrassed at first, it’s the best way to get back on track when you run out of options.

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    There are tons of non-profit credit counseling organizations that can offer you free guidance on how to escape the debt trap. An example is The National Foundation for Credit Counseling. They simply review your finances and help you determine the source of your financial problems. After that, they match you with an actionable debt management solution.[3]

    In extreme cases, the debt solution can be:

    • Debt relief – where your debt is partially or wholly forgiven
    • Debt consolidation – taking out one loan to repay others
    • Debt settlement – the creditor forgives a significant portion of your debt
    • Bankruptcy – legal process for seeking relief from some or all your debts

    It’s necessary to carefully weigh your options before deciding on the way to go. Find out how it might affect your credit score and any other risks.

    Wrapping It Up

    Debt is a major setback when you’re trying to prosper in life. Paying off credit card debt is essential if you want to reach your financial goals. That means having more free income, a good credit card score, and even a chance to retire early. You become more productive each day because of the peace in your mind.

    So, you now have some tips on how to pay off credit fast. Go ahead and get rid of that good life progress killer!

    More Tips on How to Pay Off Debt

    Featured photo credit: rupixen.com via unsplash.com

    Reference

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