Rosa Luxemburg made a profound statement when she said, “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” Carrying heavy debt can be like chains that keep you from financial freedom. Getting in a daily routine can numb you from the chains holding you down and prevent you from gaining the financial freedom you truly desire.
As you turn the corner on another year, there are habits you can put in place right now that will lead to greater success and release you from the financial bondage of debt.
8 Strategies That Can Change Your Financial Future:
Implement a Budget. This may be an obvious first step, or the last thing you really want to do. It’s like trying to lose weight without keeping track of what you eat. Success will be elusive. Debt management is the same way. Create a realistic budget that tweaks your spending rather than a total overhaul. You are more likely to be able to make small cutbacks rather than one or two huge eliminations. For example: eating out one time less each week is more achievable than eliminating your entertainment budget entirely. Think about how you live and how you spend, then work with that to create something realistic.
Cap Spending and keep an eye on it. Spending can really get away from you. It is easy to think you spend $100 on clothes each month, when really its double or even triple that amount. Experts estimate that we underestimate our spending habits by 20% to 30%. When it comes to spending habits, without some form of tracking, you will always underestimate what things cost. It makes you feel better to think you only spend “X” amount on entertainment instead of the actual number. By tracking expenses, you are able to see in real time where your money is going. This will give you more control over your budget and help you prioritize your income.
Have a Plan in Place to Manage Debt. Regardless of whether you have a 3-year plan or a 10-year plan, set something in place where you are not increasing your debt each month and are chipping away at your balances. You might simply put away all your credit cards and round each payment to the nearest $100 or $50 to pay down debt. Pay the lowest balance or highest interest rate first and minimum payments on all other debt. It doesn’t matter what the strategy is, as long as one is in place that you are able to follow and measure success. Checks and balances will help you stay on track with debt reduction. If the thought of dealing with your chains of debt is overwhelming, consider speaking with a professional, like those at Timberline Financial, who can help build a customized plan that will help you reduce your debt.
Know how Much Income Is Really Coming In. Sometimes income is very straightforward. You receive a set salary each pay period and that constitutes income. Today’s economy, however, can result in income from various sources and payments that are not as consistent as it once was. Commissions, overtime, annual bonuses and part time work may all result in varying pay from week to week. It is more difficult to budget when wages constantly change. Yet this may also create an opportunity to manage on a smaller budget and take all overages for long term financial goals.
Find Additional Income Sources. Most Americans have too much debt and too little savings. Finding additional ways to bring in small amounts of money can add up over time. De-clutter your home and sell items you no longer use. Sell clothes and toys your children have outgrown or tools and appliances that are taking up space in a closet or garage. Consider parlaying your skills into part time income. This might include anything from photography to web design. Any skill you have that others are willing to pay for can become a part time income source. Use this additional money to reach long term financial goals like paying down debt or increasing retirement contributions.
Review Insurance Policies to confirm your needs and compare needs with what you own. Insurance is in place to provide funds when the unexpected happens. If you are injured, it can pay for health care costs as well as replace income. Long term care insurance can assist with nursing home costs as you age. Like all insurance you hope to never need it, but not having it can create a financial disaster. Small monthly payments have the ability to increase financial security. Annual insurance reviews should include health insurance, life and disability insurance, and to access the need for long term care coverage. Decide how much of which policies you need and ensure you are covered at the right level for your current level of savings. Ironically, the less you have saved, the more insurance you need.
Plan for Taxes. Each year tax laws change. As you become and empty nester you could find your deductions changing which can result in you owing taxes each year instead of getting an annual refund. Look for deductions that you might be missing, as well as creating a strategy for minimizing taxes as you go forward. You are able to contribute to IRA’s until April 30th the following year, which might improve your financial picture along with reducing taxable income. Investments that are tax efficient can also lower taxable income and create lower taxable income.
Make a Commitment to Make One Big Change. Trying to change everything at once is the sure recipe to failure and why New Year’s Resolutions get such a bad rap. We create a wish list of how we want our life to be and try to change 10 things at once. No surprise, by February first we have given up on everything. Instead pick 1 thing. One change you want to make and create small measurable steps to reach your goal. Celebrate successes along the way, and before you know it, you will be in a routine that will make that change permanent. It will become part of your daily routine and success will be achieved. Then move onto the next 1 thing.
Happiness does not come from having more money or more success; it comes from enjoying where you are today and taking steps forward that increase your freedom. This will grant you more control and power over your financial circumstances, and lead to a more prosperous future.
For more helpful information about managing your finances and debt, contact a specialist at Timberline Financial today at (855) 250-8329 or visit our website at www.TimberlineFinancial.com.