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    Fix Your Finances in 4 Easy Steps

    Personal financial responsibilities span wide-ranging obligations, occasionally challenging individual money managers to cover all the bases.  As financial fortunes ebb and flow, it isn’t unnatural to experience cash flow challenges, but if your financial course consistently leaves you in arears; corrective moves may be required to help you find firm footing.

    The particulars are different for each individual, but a few effective finance strategies are successfully tapped by families of all sizes and earners from all walks of life, helping them stabilize cash flow and reach closely-held financial goals.  If you need a financial fix, refine your approach to money management, using the following strategies to ease financial pressure and sustain healthy financial balance.

    Ease Debt Burden

    More than other feature of your personal finances, oppressive debt is capable of undermining your financial health.  While manageable amounts of revolving debt and installment obligations are not problematic, debt you struggle to repay quickly weighs-down cash flow, reinforcing a cycle of financial instability.

    • Freeze your cards – Well-intentioned financial advisors have actually recommended disabling credit cards, by freezing them in a bowl of ice.  While such drastic measures may not be required in every case, a figurative credit freeze stops debt from growing, until you can get a handle on balances.  For the best results, carry only a single card, for dire emergencies, getting into the habit of paying cash at the point of sale.  You are less-likely to make ill-advised purchases, when paying on the spot, and if the money isn’t available, purchases must wait.
    • Consolidate high-interest debt – Depending upon the sources and scope of your personal debt, it may be possible for you to renegotiate repayment, under more affordable terms.  A consolidation loan accounts for your outstanding debt as a single unit, issuing funding to cover your outstanding balances.  In many cases, interest rates are lower than the levels tied to your existing debt – particularly when your obligations weigh heavily on high-interest credit card accounts.  By extending your repayment, and committing to periodic installments, you may also be able to lower the amount due each month, alleviating some of the pressure associated with runaway debt.
    • Refinance your mortgage – The interest rate paid on your mortgage may not reflect current mortgage conditions, creating an opportunity for you to reduce monthly debt payments. Improving your loan rate not only eases pressure in real-time, but shaving a couple interest points from your mortgage repayment terms also represents tens-of-thousands in savings, over the life of your loan.

    Balance Your Budget

    Spending restraint lies at the heart of effective budgeting.  Without balance, each month’s shortfall compounds into the next billing period, creating a cycle of increasing debt.  A balanced budget, on the other hand, ensures monthly obligations are met, leaving surplus income for building savings and investments.

    Getting started with household budgeting may require a nudge, but once you’ve identified unhealthy cash flow patterns and established workable spending routines, maintaining equilibrium is a matter of discipline and resolve.

    Add Income

    Covering ongoing expenses is an essential part of effective financial management, so spending discipline goes a long way reinforcing your financial health.  For further success achieving your financial goals, it may also be prudent to expand income opportunities.  Use these proven money-makers to boost your household income:

    • Sell unwanted possessions – Online marketplaces make it easier than ever to connect with prospective buyers, highlighting an accessible way to make money, without an employment commitment.  Safety is paramount, so in-person sales should be conducting under controlled conditions, exchanging money at the local police station or another secure spot.
    • Earn artistically – Crafts, art projects, photographic images and written content are all in-demand, serving print publications, online venues and individual buyers.  If you are artistically inclined, capable of producing professional-quality output, freelance work and direct-to-consumer art sales may present realistic money making opportunities.
    • Complete surveys/reviews – In addition to earning with your own creative content, it may also be possible for you to generate cash flow reviewing media and completing surveys.  Some jobs call for in-person visits, but many of these types of opportunities require nothing more than a computer and internet connection.
    • Take part-time seasonal work – Seasonal employment offers short-term financial relief, enabling you to earn fast cash, without a long-term commitment.  Depending upon the time of year, flexible weekend shifts may be available in retail settings, restaurants, entertainment venues, tax preparation offices and other facilities facing peak demands.

    Save More

    If one budget area suffers more than others, accumulating savings is the single important financial concern most commonly pushed to the back burner.  So much so, in fact, many mid-life money managers suffer from inadequate savings, with little time to make-up shortfalls, before leaving the workforce.  If your personal savings fall short of expectations, prioritize the practice, using these and other proven strategies to accumulate a nest egg:

    • Set savings goals and review progress
    • Use automatic withdrawals to fund savings
    • Save for emergencies, major purchases, and retirement
    • Maximize tax advantages using approved savings for education, health care, etc.

    Financial stability relies on balance and discretion, gradually building security and wealth you can count on during retirement.  When your personal finances veer off course, follow these four steps to find solid ground.

    How An Entitled Teenager Was Forced To Purchase a Car On Her Own.

    I used to think parents had it all figured out. That adults knew how to do everything right and had all the answers. I know now, we’re all just doing the best we can with the tools and knowledge we were given.

    Growing up, we didn’t have much. My mom was single, working long hours and raising three girls on her own. Buying our clothes at walmart didn’t bother me much as a child. But as I grew older, I remember feeling very self-conscious about my outfits. I started to worry about what others thought of me and my attire. Weekend visits with my dad turned into trips to the mall. He’d buy me and my sister the pricey name brands we so desperately needed to fit in. I gained a sense of entitlement and expected my parents to provide the same things my friend’s parents could afford to buy them. It makes me sick to think of how demanding I was back then. Always expecting more then we could afford.

    When I got my license my dad bought me a brand new Nissan Altima. It was an amazing feeling! To own something so big! So new! He purchased this for me with the agreement I would start helping with the car payments. I was young and stupid. Too self involved to see how much strain this extra payment was putting on his own finances.

    I never paid a penny on that car.

    He eventually sold the car leaving me in a bind I had never experienced before. How was I supposed to get to school? to work? This is when I first learned how to hustle. Things were no longer given to me and reality set in. I picked up a second job and worked day and night to earn enough money to buy my own car (or in this case to get a loan). Loans seems to be a common thing. Buying a car with cash didn’t even seem like a viable option.

    I purchased a Honda Accord. It wasn’t my favorite car but it was nice and I felt accomplished earning the money and getting a loan myself. A few years later, still feeling entitled, I thought to myself, “If I’m making payments on a car, I might as well be driving my dream car.” So I sold the Accord and got another loan. This time for an Infiniti G37. Whoa baby! Talk about buying happiness. The feeling of cruising down the highway in the car of your dreams is one of the best feelings ever! I still own this car. And it still gives me so much excitement to drive. But I also still owe money on it. So technically it’s not mine. It never was.

    I’m writing this because my next payoff goal is my car. To be completely honest, it should have been paid off years ago. But I refinanced it a few times for the sake of lowering my payments, to have more money available, to do other things. It was selfish for me to refinance when I had extra income I could have used to pay it off over the years. Instead, I spent that money on concerts and travels I couldn’t really afford. I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned about the value of a dollar. And I’m thankful my parents finally said, Enough is enough. I believe we enable others by giving more than we have to give. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn at a young age but I am a better person because of it. Wiser and full of gratitude. I’m so excited to finally pay off my car and own it entirely!! If all goes as planned I’ll be back in 2 months to celebrate!

    Do you have a car payment? Have you ever purchased a car with cash?

    TRAVEL: How To Pack For Colorado On A Budget

    This February I visited Colorado for the first time ever. This was actually my first time seeing snow! Growing up in Texas there were only two instances when it snowed very lightly, never covering the ground. So obviously I didn’t own any snow gear. Since we were going snowboarding during our trip I needed to figure out a way to get my hands on a snow jacket and pants without breaking the bank.

    So what did I do?

    I called my cousin who visits Colorado pretty regularly and asked to borrow her gear. She said Yes! This alone, saved me hundreds of dollars! If you don’t live in a cold climate I would definitely recommend borrowing, when possible. Ask around…. You never know!

    As for equipment, we rented snowboards, snowshoes and helmets locally in Colorado. There’s no sense in carrying these items on the plane if you don’t have to. And you can usually get discounts if you reserve your rentals weeks in advance.

    The airline we flew on only allows one personal item on the plane. I decided to bring 1 backpack and ditch the non-essentials. This left me with the basics… LAYERS! Because I’m not used to the cold I wanted to be sure I was prepared with enough items to layer on. I brought 2 pairs of pants and a pair of fleece-lined leggings to keep me extra warm. I also brought 2 tops that could be mixed and matched with the pants.

    MINIMALIST TIP: Most of my clothes are black and gray tones. This makes packing a hundred times easier for me!

    I also brought sports bras, boy shorts, extra socks (these are the items I like to have extra of – it’s all good since they’re small and can easily be rolled up). A hat, swimsuit (in case there’s a hot tub), gloves and GOGGLES. Did I mention goggles?! If someone asked me what’s the most important thing to bring on a snowboarding trip (aside from the safety equipment) I would say goggles! I originally only brought sunglasses but they kept fogging up. Since I wear contacts so my eyes became irritated with the high winds. On top of that, it started to snow and I couldn’t see a thing! It’s extremely frustrating when you’re trying to snowboard down a mountain unable to see. Never again!

    I only brought 1 pair of shoes. Throw in some food bars, a book or magazine, toiletries and you’re all set!
    What is your number one travel essential?

    Budget: Grocery Shopping

    When I first started my financial journey, I kept hearing about beans and rice, rice and beans. I tried living strictly on the same meal over and over but I was miserable! I felt restricted and bored without enough food choices.

    Buying organic is really important to me. I do my best to fuel my body with the cleanest foods possible. So, I was thrilled to discover Costco carries organics! in bulk! I‘m now able to cut my grocery bill in half and prepare a wide variety of meals. Keep in mind I’m a single girl in her twenties. I haven’t had to feed an entire family so this is just what works for me.

    #1 Track how much you spend. First things first! In order to create a realistic budget we must first take a look at our spending patterns. Review your grocery bills from the past two months and get an idea of the amount you will need to set aside for food.

    #2 Look for ways you can reduce your grocery budget. If your bill seems a bit high try buying in bulk. There are many stores that offer wholesale pricing with membership. Want to avoid membership fees? Ask a family member if you can borrow their membership card. Heck, plan a shopping trip together and offer each other accountability. My sister and I did this last weekend and laughed the whole time! It was a fun way to spend time together, while still being productive.

    #3 Divide your grocery budget by two (I get paid twice a month). Pull out half of your food budget per paycheck. This will help avoid spending all of your allotted food money before the end of the month. I like giving myself a little cushion because fruits and veggies are necessities and I never want to feel like I’m lacking money to eat. If I ever have cash left over it simply carries into the next month’s budget.

    #4 Create a meal plan. Meal planning saves so much time and money! I love searching pinterest and choosing new recipes for the week. Because I work full-time I prefer prepping my lunch and having everything ready to go ahead of time. It’s one less thing for me to do when I’m getting ready in the morning.

    TIP: When shopping, always carry a grocery list! Having a clear intention helps me to stay focused and on a time crunch. There’s really no reason to spend hours roaming the aisles. Stores are set up to encourage spontaneous purchases and I’m not a fan of being played. Lists make the world a better place!

    Living on a budget isn’t the most exciting thing in the world but YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB!Remember to be kind to yourself and continue improving each day.

    Do you have a budgeting tip I missed? How do you budget for groceries?

    TIP: Get a Partner That Shares Your Financial Values

    Talking about money has always been a difficult subject for me. There’s all this taboo around sharing too much or too little about financial situations. Especially when dating. I just wanted it all to disappear! I was ashamed of the hole I dug myself into. So when my boyfriend at the time viewed money as plentiful- constantly splurging on anything and everything, I began to adopt his mindset. There was always more than enough to go around!

    Until there wasn’t.

    He eventually ran into financial problems of his own.

    Even though his attitude of Abundance taught me to release my fear of never having enough… it also taught me how important it is to save and invest in an emergency fund. Talking about finances with your partner is HUGE! I didn’t share my debt with him because it never felt like an issue. Everything was always going so well. And truthfully, I was embarrassed.

    I hope that posting my progress on The Budget Awakens will help me to eliminate that shame.

    I’m currently dating a partner that shares my minimalist values and we talk openly about money. It’s still very new for me to let him in on how deep my struggle is. But I will continue to fight debt with lightsaber in hand. Because each time I make a payment I grow stronger and more confident in my pursuit! 😎

    And it’s pretty sweet knowing my boyfriend has my back.

    THE BUDGET AWAKENS

    Greetings! I decided to start this blog to document my debt payoff journey. Like many, I woke up in a daze after years of swiping for everything my heart desired. This included clothing, concerts, travel and going out to eat. A lot. My mindless spending habits finally caught up with me and I was left with $25,000 of debt! I know there are many others struggling with the same problem so I am here to say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We can get through this together and it doesn’t have to be an isolated year of rice and beans (although, I do credit Dave Ramsey with starting me on my financial freedom journey last year).

    Today, I love budgeting! In fact, I adopted a minimalist lifestyle almost immediately! My motto these days is Less is More! And I didn’t even have to give up traveling. Why give up something you love when you can simply travel smarter. Hello travel hacks 😉
    Each week I’ll be sharing tips and tricks that have helped me become a more mindful consumer. As well as the many life lessons I’ve learned in my pursuit to stick to a realistic budget, while still having fun! Are you on a similar journey? Need an accountability partner? Send me your info. I’m here to help!