Are you looking to improve your finances?
Or do you think that you’ve got it made? Maybe life has dealt you some hard times, struggles, challenges, and mountains to climb. But now you’ve got a stable job with rising income, a house with a white picket fence, a vehicle, and a decent credit score. You may even be married with 2 incomes, 2.5 kids, and a dog. Everything on the outside looks picture perfect.
Maybe that wasn’t your path. Instead, you’re single, with kids. You’re trying to raise a family off of a single income; a job that does not offer you security. Your income potential is limited and child support is received sporadically. You’ve watched other people struggle around you and you too feel like a victim of LIFE.
Families that “look good” on the outside are often struggling with finances. Although the parents are producing a decent income, debt is a huge factor in determining the parent’s net worth. Assuming that this family has $50K in student loan debt, a $200K mortgage, and $10K in credit cards. This family could be in a worse position than the single parent family, who has hardly any debt.
Another observation of families that have 2 parents/2 incomes; the parents are not on ONE ACCORD with the finances. One is a saver, and maybe another is a spender. They may agree to a budget, but someone always breaks a rule. Two people NOT on the same page can really stifle financial growth in any family.
My point is….regardless of which one of these positions that you identify with, you could be one emergency away from being BROKE! At the same time, both scenarios can result in a healthier relationship with money if appropriate steps are taken.
How to Improve Your Finances
First, you need to KNOW WHERE YOU STAND. You must absolutely write out all the debt that you have. Know who your creditors are, how much you owe them, and how much your interest rates are. Taking a hard look at these numbers will get you fired up and ready for action. When I completed this step, I was in total shock!! Including my mortgage, I was in debt by $275K. This number completely blew my mind and I started to question how did I ever get to this point? Short answer: I became creditworthy and companies sought to offer me large loans to finance my home, education, and life expenditures. Furthermore, I questioned how will I ever get out of this situation. I’m a single mom, and “looking good” on the outside. But clearly, I am buried in debt.
CREATE A BUDGET
This is a crucial step to financial improvement. Lists your incomes, and start to track your expenses. Start tracking a month prior to creating the budget. This will allow you the opportunity to see where your money is going. And to see what spending areas you could approve upon. After tracking my spending for a month, I realized that I ate out too much. Chick-fil-A and Bojangles were the most recurring merchants on my bank statements. Additionally, I had a costly gym membership that I wasn’t taking advantage of. I also had several insurance policies that I didn’t need. Those were immediate savings that I could later use for paying down debt. After evaluating only one month of transactions, I was ready to set a reasonable budget.
LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS
As much as possible, you must LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. Stop accepting all invitations for social events (opportunities to spend more money), temporarily stop taking vacations, shop cheap foods at the grocery store and use coupons, find less expensive housing (if you’re renting). You will need to create a buffer between your income and expenses. Sometimes, picking up another part-time job gives you the extra funds needed to improve your financial situation. At one point in my life, I was on the payroll for 3 different companies (1 full-time and 2 part-time seasonal jobs). Sometimes you got to do what you got to do to find financial peace.
PAY OFF DEBT
Take the extra money and PAY OFF DEBT, as fast as possible! You will be tempted to spend the extra money otherwise. But you must be diligent in your plans to improve your finances. Start paying the debts from smallest to greatest. Getting those small wins, in the beginning, will give you the motivation and momentum to continue on this journey to financial fitness.
Some other great resources that I would recommend are BOOKS and PODCASTS. Get yourself to your local library and find some good reads that will inspire you to begin and continue your financial journey. If you’re too busy to read, subscribe to podcasts on your mobile device and listen to financial experts on your work commute. It will change your life and get you fired up about improving your finances!