Can I ask you a personal question?
You make good money, but do you feel you are making the best possible use of it? or that you are missing out on the experiences you want because you have debt and can’t afford it?
You may think that earn a high salary so you should be in a better financial position than you are, or that you shouldn’t have money problems. But high earners can live paycheck to paycheck too, just like lower salaried workers.
I know because I was there.
A few years ago I went through a ‘mid-life financial crisis’ if you will when I couldn’t responsibly buy my husband a birthday gift because we had so much credit card debt. There were so many experiences we wanted for our family but our ‘comfortable debt’ had made it impossible.
That’s when I realized that we had settled into our current life of debt and lifestyle creep. We weren’t unhappy. We had a home, job, and family. But knew we had to make a change.
I needed quick wins in managing my money to signify my commitment to the process and keep my momentum. So if you need a kickstart to getting your financial gravy train running then here are some quick tips to help you manage your money better right away.
1. Sober up
Decide that ‘another year/month/week won’t catch me in debt’ and stick by it. Recognize that running on autopilot regarding your finances won’t get you where you want to be and deciding to be deliberate with every dollar is a great starting point to get you the life you want.
2. Isolate the bills
Open a separate ‘bills only’ bank account with a bank offering zero maintenance fees and 24 hour grace period to put bills in. Separating your bills from your ‘fun’ money can allow you to spend without fear of overdrawing your account and missing your bills.
3. Give more
Whatever your religious persuasion, giving back from your blessings is a great way to abundant living. Yes I know we should be conserving money, or clearing debt, but I personally live by Malachi 3: 8-11.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
11 Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.
Here is why.
This is one of the few places where God actually asks us to put Him to the test. He asks us to give him more in our offering and in return He will bless us beyond our imagination.
And I know it to be true because when I lower my offering or don’t give it at all, my money acts funny.
It’s not that I miraculously get more money, but instead, fewer things come out of the woodwork that requires me to spend money. For example, my glasses breaking, water softener exploding, etc.
So while working on fixing finances, never exclude giving back to God from what He’s blessed me with. I always ensure all the bills are paid and that the family is taken care of but I count my offering (no set amount, whatever I can cheerfully afford) with my fixed expenses.
4. Look for credit mistakes
Check your credit report twice a year for errors, old data, late reports, and disputes that can be corrected. If you find these, call the company or send a letter requesting if they could resolve or remove the report. It doesn’t work all the time, and it takes some legwork, but removing errors or old missed payment reporting is the fastest way to jump your score. I’ve had it work before so it’s worth a try.
5. Lower interest rate by consolidating or balance transfer
Credit cards send me 0% balance transfers all the time and when working on your finances you should give each one of those offers a second look.
You should also look at the interest rate on your current credit cards and talk to the companies to try to get them lowered. The lower your rates the less you ay over time.
Check out this post to learn more about evaluating balance transfer offers.
Spoiler alert: I always get shot down when I call my credit card company to ask for a lower rate so I can get my financial sh*t together. Whenever it happens I set that card as a target for consolidation. I clear the card and stop using it, partly to be more responsible but also because I hate giving them one red cent more of my money when they tell me they can’t help me become financially secure.
6. Target promotional debt for early payoff
Debt that has promotional terms, for example, 12 months 0% interest should be targeted for early payoff.
If the promotion is ending soon then you could risk having all the deferred interest over the course of the promotion (possibly hundreds or thousands of dollars) added to the balance. To avoid incurring massive deferred interest, make this debt a priority.
7. Pick Your Salvation
After targeting promotional debt, pick the method you want to tackle your other debt.
There is no wrong answer, just the one that works for you.
The debt snowball method works by paying down the lowest balanced debt. Great for folks that need to see the progress of cards getting to zero for the psychological and motivation boost. The debt Avalanche method works by paying down the debt with the largest interest. Great for folks who want to pay less interest and who care about the numbers, not the feeling. And there are even more options. You decide how you want to roll.
8. Reward yourself
If you’ve hoarded all your credit card reward points for a rainy day, then consider today that day. Pool credit card rewards and points and start adding them back to the balances or cash out where you can and use it to start a maintenance fund, or even to save for your next vacation.
9. Get rid of temptation
Merchants that try to ruin your credit stink, and you may want to close them out of principle. I get it and agree.
You should NEVER support a company that doesn’t care about you getting your act together. It’s fine for them to make money, but if they try to ruin you or refuse to help you pay your bill faster/quicker/easier etc (by not lowering your interest rate, or charging you an early payoff fee etc) then they should not get your money. But if the creditor is your oldest card, or has the highest limit, then be strategic about when you close and ways to lower the impact.
10. Consolidate credit cards into ‘big girl’ cards
If having too much revolving credit is impacting your score, then closing some cards can help.
But you need a strategy.
First, don’t close your oldest card. Second, ask for credit limit increases on other cards to offset the closures. Third, check each credit card company for card offerings with better rewards or terms and ask for your card to be converted to the ‘better offer’ card or at least to the card with no annual fee.
11. Earn more cash back rewards
Pay fixed bills with your credit card and automatically pay your credit card each month for the same amount from your ‘bills only’ bank account.
12. Save without thinking
Sign up for a savings app, like Qapital, or Digit to help you save a smidge more. Now I do love digit. However, I loved them more when they were free. I can’t say I love that you have to pay ~$3 per month to save. But, if you CAN’T save on your own, and REALLY need help, and WON’T save without help, then pay the money.
It’s better to pay $36 bucks per year to save money, rather than spend nothing and save nothing).
13. Roll ‘old’ 401ks into an IRA.
Regain control of your old 401ks.
401ks that are left with old employers are not accessible for contribution,. Since you no longer work with the company they cannot payroll deduct fund to contribute. If you want to keep adding to that nest egg, then you’ll need to move it.
Ideally, you’ll want to roll your old 401k into your new 401k, but if your company doesn’t have one, or you hate the terms then gain control and access to contribute to them again by rolling them into an IRA. Preferably a Roth IRA if your tax situation allows for it.
14. Save some more (as much as you reasonably can)
Only you can determine what reasonably can is. And what is reasonable for you might not be for someone else. But you should have a standard amount that you save regularly and automatically every paycheck towards your building your emergency fund or your regular maintenance fund,
You Are Ready
It doesn’t take long to move from financially inebriated to wanted to financially conscious. It all starts with wanting to be more than what you are or have right now and taking one step at a time.
So start with one step. Sign up for an app to help you save more, examine your credit report or try increasing your offering and watch what happens.
You don’t have to live a life constantly seeing what you can’t have or can’t afford. Now is the time to get started. Once you do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
I know I did.