3 Ways to Recover Your Finances in 2018
Although the holiday season is full of joy, it’s also a time when many people feel financially stressed. It’s totally understandable. In addition to holiday costs, a new year looms ahead. This can be emotionally overwhelming if your finances are in disrepair. Getting back on a path to financial success is often a long journey, so this week I’m sharing three starting points for getting your finances back on track in 2018.
1. Assess the Damage
This is where people sometimes exercise avoidance, taking an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach. If you or a member of your family hasn’t been tracking spending and you know your credit cards are getting out of control, it can actually be scary to come to terms with the totality of the situation. Although it can be tempting, this isn’t a time to play the blame game. It’s best to sit down as a family with the credit card balances so you can identify a grand total and formulate a plan for payoff.
2. It’s Budget Time
I talk to many, many people who claim they can’t make a budget because they are living paycheck to paycheck. This is, in fact, the most important time to create a budget. If you want to get ahead, you must have a line item for credit card payoff. If necessary, start in January paying just the minimum balance, and every month increase it by a little more so you are tackling it quicker. If you follow the ‘You Need a Budget’ philosophy, every dollar has a job. By giving every dollar an ‘assignment,’ you are less likely to spend flippantly.
Once you assign money to your bills and a credit card payment, whatever is left becomes flexible. You can assign it to a savings account, eating out, social events, you name it. But at the end of the exercise, you should have ‘0’ left. All income should be assigned and accounted for.
3. The Secret’s in the Tracking
This process is only as valuable as your desire to stick with it! Use an app like Mint to input, monitor and assess spending. Set a time, maybe it’s once a week, to sit down and talk through how you’re doing. If you find you’re consistently spending over in one category, do you need to increase that budget and reduce another? Or, if there’s very little wiggle room, how can you keep yourself motivated to stick to your budget long-term. Little changes go a long way towards reversing large problems.
Remember earlier when I said the ‘assessment’ period isn’t the time for the blame game? The tracking period is the best time to identify if one person has a more serious spending problem, and how that can be addressed. Usually it becomes obvious if one person chronically overspends in an agreed upon budget line item.
I won’t lie — this is a difficult and grueling process. But do you really want to spend another year financially strained and stressed? This is just the start to get you back on track. Knowledge is power, and if you acknowledge and take control of your spending, you can get on a path to success in 2018 and beyond!
Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.