Getting ahead financially can be easier said than done. Whether it’s due to an unexpected illness, a change in your work situation, or emergency home repairs, there are a number of situations that can strain your finances. Once you find yourself in that position, you may feel like you’re caught in a downward spiral.
If you’re looking to give your finances a “fresh start,” it’s important to understand your options so that you can move forward , successfully. Here are three ways that you can get your finances together this coming year.
1. Downsize your lifestyle
Sometimes a fresh start is all about re-evaluating your lifestyle and downsizing. Take a look at your financial habits and recognize what might need to change if you want to improve your finances going forward.
Some of the actions you can take to downsize your lifestyle include:
- Reviewing your transportation situation. Can you commute to reduce gasoline expenses, or do you have an additional car you can afford to sell?
- Determining if your current home is the most appropriate for your financial situation or if moving to a smaller rental would allow you to save more effectively.
- Taking inventory of the items in your home, determining what you don’t need, selling those items, and using the funds to pay off debts to improve your situation.
- Reducing the amount of discretionary spending, such as funds used for entertainment.
2. Work with your creditors and lenders
If you find yourself facing a financial crisis, contact your creditors and talk to them about your options. You can work with your creditors and lenders on a plan that helps you meet your obligations and start fresh. For example, if the situation is temporary, you might be able to get a deferment or a forbearance on your student loans, both of which allow you to postpone your payments (though in the case of forbearance, interest may still accrue).
If you know that your financial setback will be more difficult to overcome, you might be able to arrange a payment plan. Some creditors and lenders are willing to work with you as long as you are sincere in your desire to repay your debt. For example, if you have medical bills, some hospitals will help you create a payment plan. You may even be able to negotiate what you owe.
3. Build up your savings cushion
Even if you’re strapped for cash, it’s important to set aside some money in savings. Without a cushion you may have to reach for your credit card in the event of an emergency, which could land you deeper in debt if you can’t pay off your balance. You will accrue interest on the balance until it’s paid off.
Once you’ve assessed your spending, downsized where you can, and spoken to your creditors about your options, make a plan for saving money. Consider adding a little bit of money to your savings account each paycheck, even if it’s only $20. Have it direct deposited into your savings account or make the deposit yourself at your bank on pay day. If you get paid in cash, have your employer give you a roll of quarters—worth $10—and put those coins away in a jar at home. When it’s full, take the jar to the bank and deposit it.
Make your savings goal manageable. Rather than aiming to save $200 per month, try setting aside $10 or $20 per week. If you get a bonus or work overtime, also put some of that money into savings. You can use it to get ahead on bills, but don’t forget to stash a little away for later.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.
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