Let’s face it. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is a reality that most Americans (and 70% of millennials!) live, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Starting new, healthier habits can help you make the most out of your money.
GET OUT OF DEBT
Take it from Clarissa “The Budget Queen” Moore: “It’s not about how much money you make, but how you manage it.”
Clarissa, founder of The Budget Queen blog and brand, knows how it feels to be in debt. But most importantly, she knows how to get out of it too. She paid off $43,000 in credit card debt in 16 months. Now, she teaches working women how to make, manage, and multiply (three beautiful M's) their money so they can live their best lives.
The biggest obstacle Clarissa has experienced with getting out of debt is not having enough hours in the day. (Relatable, much?)
“Many people who have great amounts of debt and are struggling to get out of it, are people who trade their time for money. That was me. Well, it’s still me,” she said.
Oftentimes, your primary source of income is tied up in paying all your living expenses, and there’s never any room for extra cash to put toward debt. Her advice? Pick up a side hustle. Then, throw as much money to the debt as possible until it’s paid off.
For a while, interest rates had dipped down low-low, but they are back on the rise, which can be a cause for concern for people who still have debt.
So we hit up Dasha Kenney, financial activist and The Broke Black Girl, for some of her no-nonsense advice.
“High-interest rates cause a chain reaction on the entire economy and it's something that impacts both businesses and consumers,” Dasha said. “High-interest rates can be the difference between approval or denial when it comes to a home or car loan or financing a business. As a consumer, high-interest rates make borrowing money more expensive and riskier.”
Clarissa also has advice when it comes to managing raising interest rates. “If you do have debt, you want to get rid of the debts with the highest interest rate (ex. credit cards) and debts that have variable interest rates so you aren’t vulnerable to increased rates,” she said.
And it makes sense (cents!). When interest rates increase, so do your monthly minimum payments. These increases can cause you to no longer be able to afford your loans.
BUT NOT ALL DEBT IS BAD DEBT
“Traditional personal finance advice goes completely against the idea of having debt and amplifies the idea that ‘being debt-free is the only key to financial success’ and I don't believe that,” said Dasha. “I encourage people to consider alternative options.”
We need to overcome the idea that all debt is a negative thing. If a debt increases your net worth or has future value, it's generally considered to be a “good debt.”
SET S.M.A.R.T. GOALS
Our experts agree: Financial goals should be created using the S.M.A.R.T method. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relatable, and timely.
“Stay committed. It sounds redundant, but it's a choice that you have to make before step one of your financial journey. You have to make a conscious effort to prioritize your financial goals,” Dasha said.
Whatever S.M.A.R.T goals you set, you need to review them often. Clarissa suggests creating vision boards and then plastering them in all the places you look most: like your cell phone, laptop, and iPad background. Write your goals in dry erase markers on your bathroom mirror. Live and breathe those goals.
According to Clarissa, “When you see it, you believe it, and when you believe it, it can actually come true.”
It’s called personal finances for a reason. Though everyone’s situation is unique and different, there are some big and small steps you can take to improve your situation.
Create a spending plan. Develop a budget that tracks against both your income and expenses.
Eliminate bad debt. Pay down on high interest rate credit cards and anything that is overdue first.
Save for emergencies. The goal is to be prepared with 3-6 months of your expenses so you can be ready for when life happens.
Invest for tomorrow. Even saving a dollar a day is saving. So you can start small to go big.
Stay current. Review your budget at least once per month and make changes when needed.
Take inventory. Before making a long-term plan, track your income, spending, and expenses for 60-90 days.
Communication is key. If you ask, most creditors will work with you to create a debt management repayment plan that better fits your current situation.
Start small. Even though 3-6 months of living expenses is ideal, simply saving one week of living expenses at a time is a great start.
Automate it. Set up auto-deposits to go into a savings or investment account.
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