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There’s no doubt about it – money issues are stressful for anyone. Whether you are single, or you have a large family, when the cash stops flowing and the bills pile up, no one is feeling at ease. But, it doesn’t have to always be a stressful time. There are ways to manage income and expenses to keep everyone calm and to get back on track.
Make A List
What do you bring in? What do you owe? Write down everything so that you can look at everything flowing in and out of your household each month. I recommend Quicken to track everything. If you are familiar with using Quicken, it is so easy to import your bank account and categorize everything so that you won’t miss anything.
Make a list of everyone’s net income. Net income is after everything comes out of your paycheck. Then, make a list of every regular monthly expense. Try to be exact. You’ll want to capture utilities, mortgages, insurance, tuition, credit cards, student loans, etc. No expense should stay off the list unless you’v eliminated it.
Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses
Cutting expenses is easier than you might think. Just today, I cut my Dish Network bill from $129 per month to $75 by adjusting my programming package. I then saved $40 with AT&T by calling their Customer Loyalty department and negotiated my internet from $80 per month down to $40.
Other ways to cut expenses include calling your utilities (water, trash, sewer, electric, gas) and setting your accounts up on budget billing. Budget billing averages out your last 12 months of usage and creates a steady monthly payment. This means no surprises come bill time.
Analyze how often you dine out. Do you eat out at restaurants 2-3 times a week? Cut it down to 1, or even 0. Make eating out a luxury or a reward for a special accomplishment.
Look at what you spend at the grocery store. Buying store brands, using coupons, and only buying what you need will help make a huge dent in your grocery bill. Never go to the grocery store hungry. I’ve made that mistake way too many times.
Analyze Your Paycheck
Another great place to save money is by looking at your paycheck. Do you have the right amount of taxes withheld? Use a tax calculator or, visit www.irs.gov for advice on how to calculate how many exemptions you qualify for, and adjust your paycheck accordingly.
Do you have other items coming out of your paycheck that aren’t necessary? Although putting back money into a 401K is always a great idea, most employers allow you to adjust your contribution level at any time. May temporary adjustments to this level to adjust your paycheck in a positive direction.
Call a Credit Counseling Agency
A great place for anyone to go for credit counseling advice is with certified credit counseling agencies. If you are drowning in credit card, agencies such as National Debt Relief are equipped with many different debt management plan options. Here is the link to fill out the debt relief application.
Be cautious with the agencies you choose from, as many work for credit card companies and not for the consumer. Many agencies charge a fee to participate in plans, so make sure you aren’t hurting yourself instead of helping yourself. Most agencies will work with creditors to lower interest rates and reduce minimum payments to help you get caught up and pay off debt.
Don’t Fight About Finances
The number one problem in any household usually has to do with money issues. Fighting and blaming do no good. If you follow my recommendations above, you can alleviate pain and stress caused by financial disorder. Keep a cool head and remember that you control the outcome.
There are going to be unavoidable times when couples disagree with finances. Marital counseling, as well as financial counseling, can both be positives in the midst of disaster. Never be afraid to admit when you need the help of outside parties.
The last thing you want to do when you are experiencing debt problems is to procrastinate. Not only can late payments impact your credit rating, waiting to seek help only causes the debt and late fees to mount. Take action as soon as you know you are starting to have problems. The earlier you start seeking help, the more likely you can obtain the help that you need.
Consider Legal Help
Many people simply dig themselves in too big of a hole to be able to dig out without help. There is no shame in consulting with a bankruptcy attorney. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, while they can be embarrassing, do work if all of the steps are followed. While you will take years of a credit hit, sometimes its the only way to get completely out of debt.
When you file for bankruptcy, you are required to complete a credit counseling class before you are allowed to proceed. Pay attention in these courses and make all efforts to follow the steps after the bankruptcy is over.
Bankruptcy may not be the right course of action for everyone, and I’m not an attorney, so seek professional help from a licensed attorney for assistance with your specific needs.
Over to You…
What ways have you found to help out your household in times of financial crisis? Share in the comments below.