Do you feel the stress of money and debt in your life, in your world, and in your current relationships? Is financial stress one of your daily, weekly, and monthly concerns? It’s not uncommon for debt, finances, and money to be among the top issues that couples and families have to deal with in difficult times. But it’s entirely possible to create a debt and budget plan that helps you cope with the stress of your bills, and can put you on the road to building some security through your own savings and personal wealth plan.
Everyone knows friends, relatives, and others whose relationships were challenged or even ruined by money issues. Celebrity finance guru Dave Ramsey calls his effective system of debt recovery a plan for “Financial Peace”, which he believes we all seek. Author David Bach talks about becoming an automatic millionaires by closely monitoring how you spend money and saving automatically without thinking about it. Before we can deal with our current money issues, we have to find a way to deal with the stress. One of the ways we can do this is to really focus on and understand our money.
TOTAL YOUR DEBTS AND BILLS
A careful budget done with loved ones, or with a spouse, is absolutely necessary to begin to work on stressthey don’t have any interest in knowing the real numbers. People struggle each month to pay minimums, but never want to know the full balance of their bills and debts. Getting a handle on your debts, and your finances is a great way to change the stress level in your life. At first it is very scary to know the total amounts owed, and it may seem insurmountable, but it is step one in your personal wealth recovery plan.
TRACK YOUR SPENDING
After making a careful budget that details what you owe -- how much you must pay each month -- you must also carefully track what you make and where every dollar is spent. Personal finance experts have been suggesting for years that you track all of your expenses for a month or two writing down everything you purchase. If you do this regularly, you may reconsider that morning drive-through breakfast, and just eat something at home before you leave. Every budget has room for belt-tightening.
Because of the stress of regular credit card bills, high utility bills, prescription drugs, expensive grocery bills and more, some believe that they cannot make ends meet. But to relieve stress on yourself, and on the most important relationships in your life, wouldn’t you want to fix what you can. Sure for some the idea of credit card settlements, payday loans, debt consolidation, bankruptcy, and other choices may seem like the only means of getting back on track, but often consumers pursue these avenues without doing a careful budget, and before making hard choices. If the thought of bankruptcy seems hard, then consider cancelling cable TV for a while to leave some more money in your budget.
Often after making a careful budget, you may be inspired to get another job to create more income to clean up the mess that your finances have become. At some point isn’t a second shift job more proactive than being home each night worrying, or fighting, about your current situation? This is what drives many to try to earn money online, or to start a small business on the side. If you think about your skills, they may be a way right now to earn extra money for your situation.
ACCELERATE YOUR DEBT AND SAVE 5-10%
At some point, when you have a handle on all of your monthly expenses, the goal should then be to pay a extra to accelerate the payoff of your debts. With some new habits, like saving a small portion of each paycheck in an emergency fund, you many never have to reach for a credit card again when a car issue comes up, or some other unexpected inconvenience. In David Bach’s book he suggests saving 10% of whatever money you receive. This is a great goal if your income can allow it -- otherwise start at a smaller number, perhaps 5%. For example, if you bring home a check for $500, then you would move $25 (or $50) immediately into a separate savings account. It becomes your own personal “tax” based rainy day fund. That money can be a buffer to emergencies, and if it gets too large, can be used to send a big payment or payoff check to delete one of your debts.
YOUR SAVINGS "SAFETY" NUMBER
This is where savings works miracles with personal and relationship stress. Everyone has a number that makes them feel grounded, or somewhat safe and secure. It could be the amount of a full paycheck saved as ready cash -- maybe it’s a full month’s rent or a mortgage payment in the bank. Your stress can easily be reduced by finding that reasonable amount of money that you, and your significant other, need to have in the bank to not worry too much about debts, taxes, or bills. You will still be digging your way out of your financial turmoil, but the stress of money will be relieved. Later this can be increased to three to six months of total expenses, but initially any amount will change your perception about your situation.
YOUR PERSONAL WEALTH PLAN
The final stage in your personal wealth plan is to continue and complete the debt reduction and regular savings until you can really begin to seriously invest. This could be stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or bank CDs - having assets where your money works for you. (It could even be rental property or investment real estate!) As much as possible, you should try to begin that process while you are fixing your finances -- even if just a little. While some think it’s wise to wait to invest after all debts are erased, time and compounding can help grow your savings accounts, which are often retirement assets, while you cash flow your bills and debts. It’s a personal decision for you and your family.
There is no single plan that works for all situations. But it’s useful to read a few personal finance books and strategies so that you can take back your life from the stress of money and debt. You will start to make better decisions and will have a solid chance of coping with any challenges that life brings your way.