A year ago when I started my Blog I put a category called “self-reliance.” I was going to post things that gave suggestions, experiences, and advice on finances, saving, getting out of debt, and being self-reliant. I was going to share my journey as I got out of debt. As you can see I didn’t make any blog posts for that category and I also didn’t get out of debt. If anything, I am further into debt. This year I am even more determined. My goal is to have zero credit card debt by Christmas of 2020. I am going to share some personal things that contributed to our financial situation, and I am going to give some ideas, tricks, and advice that can help with your finances.
MY EXCUSES: HOW DID THIS HAPPEN
I was raised with parents who drilled into us that you pay off your debts, you pay your tithing, you save money, and you don’t use credit cards. I was pretty good with each of these until about the time I got married, and even 10 years after we were married. We rarely used credit cards and when we did we paid them off immediately. I have always paid my tithing (the Lord has given us everything we have and all he asks is 10%). Blessings come when we pay our tithing. I have always had a savings account and try to save money each month. Another thing, I always pay my debts on time. So how did we accumulate $20,000.00 in credit card debt as well as $60,000.00 in vehicle loans?
- I stopped working to be a stay at home mom, but we didn’t really change our spending habits.
- Because I no longer had my teaching position, I didn’t have
the good insurance that we had before.Our premiums and medical bills were higher.
- We had some health issues, which resulted in medical bills that needed to be paid.
- With the use of debit cards and credit cards, it became easier to spend money that we didn’t have.
- With online shopping, it was necessary to use credit cards, and I wasn’t in the habit of keeping track of the transactions and making sure the money was available.
- Having a line of credit on my checking account made it easier to overspend.
- Lack of communication with family members.
- Selling a vehicle, camp trailer, and ATV that was paid for and buying new ones that came with loan payments. (This is where open, calm, honest, communication between partners comes in).
- Impulse buying–buying things we don’t necessarily need because we want it at the time or it is on sale and “such a good deal”.
- My husband started his own business, which put stress on our finances. Also, because of it, we didn’t get a tax refund anymore to use for big expenses.
IDEAS AND TRICKS TO IMPROVE FINANCES
Now I am going to share some ideas, advice, and tricks that can help you improve your financial situation. There are many websites, and institutions, and financial advisors that you can hire, that can help. I have no financial training other than a few classes in college, but I have lived in the real world for over 50 years and I have friends and family who have given me advice. Reading books and searching the internet has also given me some ideas. I am going to share some things that have worked for me in the past, as well as other ideas that I am going to implement this year.
1. MAKE A PLAN
The #1 thing to start any endeavor is to MAKE A PLAN. Write it down. Write down all of your income and expenses, and decide what needs to happen and what you are going to do to make it happen.
2. KEEP TRACK OF FINANCES.
Write down your income, monthly expenses, loan payments, credit card bills, etc. There are many different ways to do this. There are computer programs (some of which cost money), or just use a notebook and pen. I have used Excel on Microsoft Office on my computer as well as paper. Currently, I am using both. I have limited knowledge of using Excel, but for my purposes, it does what I need. I make a spreadsheet where I write the months of the year across the top and all the monthly expenses down the side.
The income is listed at the top, then Tithing, utilities, phone, internet, TV, piano lessons, dance lessons, auto, home, and life insurance, credit card bills, loan payments, food, miscellaneous, and automobile expenses (like gas for the car). The first column is the budget (or how much you think you will spend on each), then each month when I pay the bill, I write down how much I paid. At the end of the year, I can see how much I paid for each thing. (The great thing about Excel is that it can automatically total it all).
Writing things down can not only help you see where your money is going but also let you see where you could cut down or even see what stores you need to avoid. Also, have a filing cabinet with a file folder for each expense to keep all invoices organized. At the end of the year, take them out and put them in a different cabinet or box. Some things need to be saved for years. Shred what doesn’t need to be saved.
3. WRITE it DOWN AND BALANCE Your CHECKBOOK
Most people don’t write checks anymore. They use debit or credit cards. Make sure you are still writing down your purchases and balancing your ledger. I use a notebook that I keep near my computer. With modern technology, it is possible to look up my account online instead of waiting for my statement in the mail. I use my notebook to write down all the deposits and withdrawals from my account, and I write the balance that is listed on my bank account online.
Use different colors of pens to write in this notebook. I use purple for savings or deposits, light blue for all monthly expenses such as utilities, dark blue for medical, orange for food and miscellaneous, and red for credit cards or loans. When I look at this ledger I can instantly see that I have too much orange and red. My goal is to not have any red entries and only a few orange entries each month.
Write down what you want or need to spend on each expense, then stick to it.
5. PAY TITHING or Give to a Charity
I was always taught to pay my tithing first. The Lord will bless you. I know this from personal experience. If you pay your tithing, you will have what you need at the time you need it most.
Let the Lord help you as you struggle with your finances. Ask for His help. He will lead you and guide you and bless you in your endeavors.
7. PAY SELF
My Grandpa always told me to pay my tithing first and then pay yourself. You pay 10% for tithing, so pay another 10% to yourself. Make this a priority and habit when you are young and don’t use it for frivolous things. Just think how much money I would have in savings if I would have taken this advice to heart when I first started earning money. Even if you can’t pay yourself that much money, start with something (even $10.00), and be consistent.
Open a savings account (or more than one at different banks). Have money automatically deposited into the account or transferred into it each month. Even if it is only $20.00 a month, it is well worth it. If you pay for groceries or other items with a debit card, get cash back of $10.00 or $20.00 every time and put that cash directly into a jar or envelope or other savings method.
9. ENVELOPE METHOD
There are some who use cash and envelopes. They have a different envelope for each expense, such as one for gas, one for food, etc. Then when the cash is gone they know they can’t spend
10. SAVINGS ACCOUNT METHOD
This is similar to the envelope method, but you can open a savings account for different things, such as a Christmas account, a Vacation account, or an emergency fund account. You put money into each of these accounts each month and then when you need it you have it. The trick is to put the money into the account and not use it for other things.
Refinancing a house or vehicle loan can save you a lot of money. We refinanced our home and instead of a 30-year loan, we made it for a 15
12. PAY EXTRA
Pay more than your monthly loan payment. I paid $50.00 extra a month on my house loan, which helped to pay it off quicker and pay less interest. I paid off our ATV a year early by paying a little extra each month.
13. LOW-INTEREST RATE
Find the lowest interest rate you can for your loans and credit cards.
14. TRANSFER TO 0% INTEREST RATE:
Transfer the balance of a high-interest rate to a 0% or lower interest rate. Many credit card companies have promotional offers that allow you to do this. Just be CAREFUL because if you don’t pay it off before the end of the promotional period then you will have to pay all of the interest which is usually at a high rate. Also, there are usually transfer fees so be aware of that. I was able to transfer the balance of a credit card where I was paying around $50.00 a month just on interest, to a different company with 0% interest for 18 months.
15. PAY DEBTS ON TIME.
Always pay your bills on time to save on late fees, and to help your credit score.
16. PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM
GET OUT OF DEBT BY PAYING THE HIGHEST FIRST AND THEN ADD TO THE NEXT ONE.
It is so important to pay all of your bills on time but put extra toward the bill with the highest interest rate, then when it is paid off take everything you were paying on that one and pay it towards the next highest interest rate bill. For example, let’s say you have been paying the minimum amount on your Sears card that has an interest rate of 20% and you have a bank card with an interest rate of 10%, and a truck loan with an interest rate of 5%.
First, you are going to pay extra on each of those cards and the loan, (whatever you feel you can do, but its the most important to pay extra on the highest interest rate card, because you want to pay it off as quickly as you can.) So let’s say you are paying $250.00 a month on the Sears card. Once you have it paid off you are going to add that $250.00 to what you are already paying on the bank card. Then when that card is paid off you will want to add the $250.00 plus the $150.00 you were paying each month on the Bank card, to the truck loan payment. So now you are paying $400.00 extra each month on the truck loan.
17. ADD SAVED AMOUNT TO A DIFFERENT BILL.
If your expense for one bill is lower this month then add what you saved to a different bill. One example is that I am not paying for dance lessons during the summer, so that amount could be put towards another expense such as a
18. MAKE A MENU, MAKE A LIST, AND BUY IN BULK
Making a menu of the meals you will eat for a month, and then making a list to use when shopping will help you spend less money on food, and you won’t “eat out” as often. Also, you save because you aren’t running to the store all the time to get an item or two that you don’t have, (and buying more than that item). Buying in bulk when it is on sale, will help you save money in the long run. I usually buy 100 lbs of ground beef when it is on sale. It is so nice having a freezer full of meat and I don’t need to go to the store as often. I have also found that I have saved at least $2.00 a pound. That can be a savings of over $50.00.
19. ONLINE SHOPPING
Many stores have online shopping where you can get your food delivered to your door. This saves on impulse buying. Make a list of the items your family uses most often and put those items on an automatic delivery schedule. Amazon has a subscribe and save program where you can order items to be delivered automatically once a month or every 2 or 3 or 6 months etc. These items are also discounted when you put them on the subscribe and save option. It is also free shipping.
I order things from Costco.com that I need monthly like Toilet Paper. If you spend a certain amount then you don’t pay to ship. I also get it delivered within 2 days. This saves me money because when I enter an actual store, I tend to spend a lot more money because of what I see and smell. I see things I think I want, but when I order online I only order the things I really need because I have made a list beforehand and I don’t browse. It also saves gas money. Also, there are things that you can’t get in the store that you can order online.
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20. STOP IMPULSE BUYING.
Sleep on it. Make a list and stick to it. Don’t let emotions make your decisions. It is especially important with big expenses, that you take your time and really think about it, research it, and discuss it. Don’t let your emotions cloud your decision.
21. SHOP ADS AND USE COUPONS, STORE DISCOUNT CARDS, and ONLINE POINT REWARDS.
Go through the weekly store ads to see what is on sale.
It is so important to have open, honest communication and calm discussions about finances. It is really difficult when one person in the marriage is in charge of all the finances especially if the other one does a lot of the spending and buying. Just imagine your husband or wife going out and buying a new vehicle and getting a loan, without sitting down and discussing with the person who usually takes care of all the finances. You haven’t discussed together, whether you can afford the payment or if it is the right decision to make such a big purchase. So if you have joint finances then you need to do everything with those finances jointly–pay the bills, make purchases, make plans and decisions.
I know there are many more ideas, tricks, advice, and assistance, that can help you fulfill your financial goals and dreams. These are just the ones that I thought of off the top of my head. I sincerely hope that you and I can get out of debt and have financial security. I will continue to share my successes and failures as I work toward my financial goals.
Please comment below and share with me any of your successes or any advice you have. Thank you