We all could use a little help every now and then when it comes to finances. Often we are a little intimidated by those who would help us. I don’t mean friends or family. I mean the companies we owe or establishments set up to help in these times of financial difficulty.
Don’t go to a payday loan or title loan establishment. These places add huge amounts of interest and even if you can pay them off you’re going to lose a substantial chunk of your paycheck. If you can’t pay on time you will add late fees, delayed payment for extra interest, or delayed fines.
Do go to an established bank for a loan with usually low and fixed interest depending on your credit history. You can work with a loan officer who will let you know what the lowest payment you can make on that loan is. They can also help you best spend that loan. Talk to them about consolidation of debt and other financial worries.
The last thing that you want to do is avoid your creditors. Don’t hang up on bill collectors. Don’t lie to them and say that the payment is in the mail when it isn’t. Many of these people are here to actually help you find a way to make a payment that is both comfortable to you and them. Give them a chance to help.
When you are aware that you are not going to be able to make a payment on a bill, call the company to let them know. Many companies are willing to work with you to get their money. They may accept a partial payment or waive late fees if you can pay at a later time.
When you know that you may need a little help, don’t hold out until you are in financial trouble. Most government agencies are not known for their organization or promptness. That’s just another reason to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. When you no longer need the assistance be just as quick about letting it go. You wouldn’t want to owe the government extra by not doing so.
Also consider asking your community religious facilities what resources they have to offer. Some offer free babysitting for job interviews, free parenting classes, or child activities. Others have a charity pantry or run thrift stores. Often their doors are open to those in need regardless of belief.
I may not have consumer debt, but sometimes I have consumer guilt. It’s that feeling that I should have more than I do. I have a career, a family, and I’m at an age where I should have accumulated nicer stuff. But I haven’t. Yet I sit down in front of the evening television shows and feel bad. I don’t see a group of people I can relate to. Sometimes I see a group of people who are worse off than I am financially, yet have an amazing home, new car, and name brand clothes. It’s enough to make some people go into debt to compete with an imaginary family. What am I doing so wrong that I am so far behind? Oh yes! I’m not going into debt for clothes, new cars, and a home I know I can’t afford. Not all television shows are like this though. There are a few that can and do come across financially realistic.
How I Met Your Mother
If you are single and feel a need to relate to a television group, try How I Met Your Mother. People lose jobs, lose apartments, and have horrible apartments. Characters have financial flaws such as credit card debt and live with the consequences of those decisions. One of the character even has a beat up car with a tape stuck in the tape deck. There are career changes, moves, and family problems. There are even business ventures that just don’t work out. You may find the plot funny and sometimes bizarre, but you won’t feel behind financially because they have the same financial issues that we sometimes do.
I love this show when I feel like I’m just not getting anywhere financially. This is a family with three kids. The power is out. They buy items on sale. Laundry is all over the house. There were even instant mashed potato flakes at thanksgiving dinner. Not only that, but they are putting a child through college, have used the fun money for living expenses, and had to drive the church van as a family car for a while. Yet these people are happy and live an everyday life. This doesn’t make me feel consumer guilt at all.
This is a show about siblings that went on very different walks in life. One sister starts the show moving in with her parents with her two teenage children, works in a bar, and feels bad because of her life choices and how they are affecting her children. The younger brother lives on a house boat. Once again real life problems when it comes to finances, from job loss to biting off more than one can chew financially. Even the nice homes come with an emotional price. I would recommend this show as well.
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I know that yesterday was Groundhog Day, but like that movie in 1993 there are often mistakes we repeat. These mistakes most often are small, but when it comes to money the small amounts add up to big amounts. Here are a few of my financial Groundhog Day moments that I am working to fix.
Not Preparing For Shopping
I have found that I do most of my impulse buying during grocery shopping. There are three things that I do to stave off my unplanned shopping items. First I make a list. I have found that when I make a list and stick to the list I always save money. Second, I keep track of what I’m spending. I’m the woman that walks around with paper, pen, and a calculator making sure I don’t go over budget. It ensures that I know how much my impulse buys are costing me and makes them less appealing. Third, I eat before shopping. I have found the saying to never shop on an empty stomach to be true for me. When I go shopping with a full stomach I don’t want to buy my usual impulse items.
There are some things that are a must in our family to buy new. I would never buy socks or underwear used (gross). A car however, loses value when it is driven off the show room floor. Pots, pans, and dishes that are from a thrift store have more character and cost less. They work just as well as long as they are inspected for quality. Even craft items or decorative items are best bought second hand. They cost much less and I know someone else thought the item was worthy of display as well.
Not Finishing One Project at a Time
I love to craft and cook and draw and journal and scrapbook…and I try to do all these things at once. That has got to stop to help my financial sanity. I have a closet full of unfinished projects and I keep buying more projects. If I would just wait to buy the next project until after the current one is finished, I would save a great deal of money.
What financial mistakes do you keep making? What do you do to prevent making the same mistakes again?
My sister-in-law and her family have in the last year had some huge financial things happen to them. Both her and her husband lost their jobs and their finances took a huge blow. After this happened and they were able to get new jobs, they sought after the advice of a financial planner. His advice to them “trim the fat”. He went through all of their expenses and explained where they could trim to lighten their financial load. Here’s the advice he gave them. If you are in a similar situation or just want to get rid of some monthly expenses, this may help you.
1. Get rid of the kids extracurricular activities. This was the hardest for them because their kids loved their activities, but this was the first to go. These are just extras in the month and the kids will be ok without it. It’s even a good example to your children about budgeting properly and making sacrifices for the family.
2. Recheck your insurance premiums. A lot of people or overinsured thus paying too much for their insurance. This is an easy thing to check and can save you money every month.
3. Don’t eat out. He couldn’t say this enough and we say it a lot here. Eating out is so expensive. Simply taking that money and spending it on groceries will keep you at home more.
4. Start doing it yourself! If you have someone cutting your lawn or cleaning your house, start doing it yourself. These are expenses that can easily be hundreds a month.
5. Cancel your club memberships. Gym? Cancel it. Country Club? Cancel it. Tennis Club? Cancel it. Anything that’s extra that you pay for, for fun, it needs to go. It may not be forever, but it will help in the long run.
What are you doing to trim the fat in your household?
Most of us have been there. Those months where things get tighter or when unexpected expenses take over and make your financial situation seem dire. It can be awfully stressful. But there are some things you can think about and do to help your situation.
1. Try not to stress. So much more easily said than done, but psychologically worrying and stressing about money will make it worse. Worry, fear and doubt usually paralyze more than they actually help. Write your thoughts out, talk to a friend or seek some kind of financial counseling. It will be better to deal with your financial problems with a clear head.
2. Prioritize. If you can’t pay your bills, you’ll need to prioritize your bills. Personally I think food and your mortgage/rent are the most important. Remember that other bills are sometimes negotiable. If you can’t pay your credit card bills, call them and work something out. So often people will work with you if you’ll just ask.
3. Cut back. This is tough, but it’s a very easy way to take off some pressure. You don’t NEED cable or the most expensive phone package. Think about cutting back and relieving that stress. Even a couple hundred dollars a month will help a ton.
4. Plan, plan, plan! I can’t even begin to explain how much this has helped us. Anytime we’ve been in a financial bind, we feel better just planning our strategy. It also brings my husband and I closer when we can communicate about these things more.
5. Spend $10 on yourself. I know this sounds counterproductive, but “buying stuff” helps me save. The mentality of “I can’t buy this” or “I can’t afford that” is very taxing on the psyche. Sometimes something as simple as a $10 bottle of nail polish will get you through months of less spending and even cutting back. It’s purely psychological, but it helps me.
What do you do when finances get tight?
I know the number 1 complaint of smartphones is the cost. Not only the initial cost to buy them initially but the month charges plus replacing them if they are damaged is a lot for some to chew. But there are ways they can help you save money and sometimes even pay for themselves with their savings. Here are some ways to save money with your smartphone.
1. Coupons, coupons, coupons! A lot of retailers will accept coupons via your smartphone. All you have to do is show them or they’ll get scanned and your good to go. I saved 20% off the other day at JCPenny because I had an email coupon. It saved me from printing it out and it saved me another 20% off my purchase.
2. Price compare. There are even applications for this. You can simply scan a barcode on an item and the apps will tell you where it’s cheaper. This is especially great if you are buying large appliances or electronics where the price can really matter. I love to use Pricegrabber.
3. Loyalty cards. I don’t know why, but I lose these things. Which is why I LOVE the CardStar app. You can store all your cards and their barcodes on this one app and then they can scan your phone and get you your discounts. Never miss a discount again!
4. Cheap gas. Want to know where the cheapest gas is? Download the GasBuddy app and find out.
5. GPS. No reason to buy GPS systems anymore. Most smartphones have their own GPS on them. That alone will pay for the actual cost on the phone.
What do you do with your smartphone?
We all have holes in our spending or little places that we waste money. When trying to cut costs and save more money, finding these holes are a great start. These are some of the most common places people waste money. Check them out and then check out your monthly expenses and see if it rings true for you.
1. Interest rates on credit cards. With the average rate at 18%, if you carry a $500 balance, that’s $90 a year. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you can get rid of several of those $90 a year fees, it adds up. Don’t have the money to pay your credit cards off? That’s ok, call your credit card companies and ask them to lower it. It sometimes works!
2. Cell phone bills. Check your minutes. If you aren’t using the minutes included in your plan, lower your plan.
3. Things you could get for free. Things I never buy are toothbrushes and floss among other things with coupons. Ever year you can get a free credit report, so no use spending that money. The dentist is more than happy to give you a toothbrush at your appointment and I bet they would if you just came to their office and asked for one. Don’t pay for things you could get for free.
4. Late bills. I am not talking about bills that don’t get paid because you’ve run out of money. I am talking about the bills that don’t get paid because you forgot. I won’t lie, we’ve lost bills before and there is nothing worse than late fees when that happens. Do what you need to make sure that doesn’t happen. Get more organized, set reminders on your phone or set up auto bill pay. Just do what you need to avoid those fees.
5. Late fees. Bills aren’t the only place you can get late fees. Library fines and movie rental fines can be huge! They are so unnecessary too! Take your stuff back on time and you’ll be good.
6. Paying for things you don’t use. Our list was the gym and cable. Got rid of both and we are saving over $100 a month!
What are some holes in your spending?