Getting into financial shape does not have to be complicated. It really is not, and it takes more discipline than anything. I wrote this post to show what I did to get on the road to becoming wealthy and stop wasting money and living check to check. I found that the most important thing is motivation and determination. Once you have that and you follow these steps you will be on the road in no time.
1. Organize Your Finances.
You need to know exactly what you have and donrquote t have. Donrquote t think you have to buy some expensive software to do this. You can simply use an Excel Spreadsheet. I started with Microsoft Money and found that it is way to complicated for what I was doing. There are only certain things you need to keep track of and a simple spreadsheet is all you need.
Start by gathering all of your bills, bank loan statements, credit card statements, and anything that has to do with debt. Put them all in one easy to access place. I used a folder in a file cabinet next to my computer. Start by listing each of your debts in the spreadsheet. Include the name of the debt, the due date of each payment, the amount you paid last month, the minimum monthly payment, interest rates and the total balance of each debt. Keep track of the total debt by sub tracking what you pay each month from the total balance. I created a sample spread sheet that you can use if you are not that good with excel. Email me or comment on this post and I will send it to you.
2. Destroy Your Debts Without Destroying Your Credit.
You should focus on unsecured credit card debt first. They tend to have the highest interest rates. Close all of your accounts, except one. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You only need one credit card, period! And you should only use it for emergencies. If you are like I was and have 5 mall department store cards, 3 visas, and some off the wall other cards, then you are probably too far into debt than you need to be.
Start by paying off your highest interest card first and paying the minimum on the rest. Pay as much as you can afford on the high card. Remember, the more you pay each month, the faster the debt will be gone, and the less interest you will pay. After you pay the card off move on to the next highest card, and so on.
If you realize that you have more debt than you can handle, then you may want to consider getting professional help. I had about 10k in just credit card debt and I let it get out of control. I ended up using this debt management company to help me. If you are in this situation you may want to consider using the company I used. Read the article here.
If you have student loans, consider forbearance's until you can afford the payments. Other high interest loans should be paid off as well. Once you get the really bad debts out of the way and have your situation under control start saving and investing.
3. Save and Invest.
Start saving and investing the extra money you created by eliminating debts. I recommend Sharebuilder. It is easy to use and a cheap way to getting in on good stocks. I won't go too deep into investing here but you can check out The Motley Fool for some good investment advice. This is the source I trust the most when it comes to investing. They are self made millionaires and they were used as a model when I was in college at DeVry University.
Save money and invest it in different things for diversity. Invest in things of true value and things that appreciate over time. Invest in education, real estate, stocks, bonds, index funds, etc.
4. Stop Spending More Money Than You Make
Living within your means is the single most important thing you can do. If you can learn how to consistently spend less than you make each month you will never run out of money and you will retire comfortably. Breakdown all the expenses you incur in one month. Now subtract that amount from the amount you make. Whatever is left over should be saved and invested.
Another good rule of thumb is to save first, pay bills, and spend last. If you always save first you will learn how to live within your means. Don't be tempted to spend your savings. I know it is a hard habit to break but the key is to keep yourself busy and motivated by learning more and more about saving and investing. Another helpful thing is to teach others about what you learned. It will motivate you even more to keep on track. Over time you will develop a habit, but a good one.
Don't forget that this is your life we are talking about and if you have kids it is theirs too. You have the power and right to make yourself wealthy and to be happy. Take full advantage of what is out there and don't take what you have for granted. if we only live once, then it makes sense to live it to the fullest.
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