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Do you recall that time you decided to do away with your bills once and for all? You were probably drowning in last year’s bills and promised yourself that you would focus more on planning for the future.
Fast forward a few months later, and you’re still drowning in the same old pool of unsettled bills.
Fortunately (or not), you’re not the only one having sleepless nights over how to deal with years’ worth of unsettled bills. A survey carried out by CreditCards.com revealed that 21% of Americans are frustrated over past and present bills and how they’ll never be able to clear them.
That’s a frustratingly huge number of individuals who are convinced they will keep struggling to pay bills for the rest of their lives.
Not all of us are born with the unique ability to exercise full control over our finances. However, from the moment you get hold of your first paycheck, one of the ways you can truly manage your finances is by practicing self-discipline.
Sure, it’s not an easy path to follow, but it’s well worth it.
Now that you’re ‘stuck’ in this position, take a step back and figure out how you got there at this point. You know very well that you need to pay your bills in time to lead a more fulfilling life; but why are you still stuck in the same old loop of never-ending debt cycles?
This post seeks to provide conclusive answers to your questions once and for all and here are some of them:
1. You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund
Emergency funds are just that: funds for emergencies. They’re there specifically for medical emergencies, home and auto repairs, employment loss, unforeseen family obligations, and so on.
An emergency fund typically covers your expenses in case of any unexpected situations. It should be easily accessible to you or any of your family members.
Experts advise that your emergency fund should be able to cover 2 – 5 months worth of expenses. The following are three reasons an emergency fund is a resourceful tool, regardless of whether you have pressing financial needs or not:
- It makes your life worth living. The less stressed you are, the lower your chances of exposing your health to chronic financial stress.
- It helps you make reasonable business decisions. When you take short-term unsecured loans, you would be adding the high fees and interest to your ever-growing debt.
- It promotes financial discipline. As you will be keeping all your cash in separate accounts, the need to withdraw a portion of it now and then will be lessened.
Based on the fact that your emergency fund is supposed to be accessible, fifty-percent of it should be deposited at home while the other fifty-percent at the bank. If you doubt your banks’ interest rates, credit unions would be the perfect alternative.
Having a hidden emergency fund won’t lift the heavy financial burden from your shoulders, but it can keep your health in check. If you’re on the verge of going bankrupt as a result of the 10% (or higher) interest you owe, SoFi (Social Finance) and refinancing are worth contacting.
2. You Have No Clue How Much Debt You Owe
Most people who are having it rough with their finances are utterly clueless about the exact figure of their pending bills. Upon internalizing this, you may find out why debt is far less mathematical and way more emotional.
No amount of compound-interest calculations or personal-finance books is enough to produce an actual behavioral change. This is why, most of the time, you may find yourself engaging in unusual behaviors such as using your debit card more than your credit when buying stuff.
If you unknowingly or willfully have no clue how much you owe, here are a few tips you can try:
Gather Up Your Credit Reports
An excellent way to begin tallying up your balances is by getting copies of your credit reports from credit reporting firms. Alternatively, you can get free detailed credit scores annually on Credit.com or AnnualCreditReport.com.
Analyze Your Credit Statements
Credit statements tend to change from month to month. If you regularly pay off your credit balances, there’s a chance – and a good one – that the balance reflecting on yours has lapsed. Check your credit bills online to check if there’s an update in your latest monthly payment.
Keep in Touch with Your Creditors
In instances when your account balances are not listed on your credit statement, contact the relevant creditors. Do some digging for accounts such as an unsettled medical bill that you don’t recognize. Some agencies have designated contact pages for complaints or issues from their customers.
It’s not easy keeping track of your debt when you already have a ton of them- no doubt about that. From monthly mortgages to credit card bills and student loan payments, it’s imperative that you find out how you can tally up all your bills.
3. You Don’t Know When Your Bills are Due
Having known your bills and how much they total up to, you need to know the due date of each of them and write them down somewhere.
If the dates are all over the place, you need to make tracking payments faster and easier by tweaking them a notch. In other words, see if you can switch the due dates of all your bills.
Most creditors won’t mind if you commit yourself to any other date other than the one they’ve stated. If possible, contact your creditor(s) and state your case in the most courteous, clear, and professional way possible.
Once they approve of your request, it may take some time before your billing cycles are altered based on your commitment.
For all your bills, it would be best if you chose a similar due date for every statement you may have. Not only will it simplify your work, but it will also reduce the financial stress that comes with meeting due dates.
It can also be quite helpful if you lay out your bills for the day after payday. This can work out especially for individuals who find it difficult to spend their earnings moderately and have nothing left to cater for pending bills.
4. You’re Overindulging Your Kids
You love your kids and you want the very best for them. For that reason, you don’t mind spending a few dollars here and there to make them feel special. When you begin overspending on presents, vacations, sports or birthday parties, that’s where bills and more bills come creeping in.
You can buy your kids all the toys in the world, but make sure it doesn’t affect your budget in any way. If you prioritize their wants more than their needs, it might come back to haunt you sooner than you think.
If it has come to a point where you’re ready to put your retirement and savings on the line, you’re at a crucial point in life where you need to rethink your parenting methods.
Your primary goal, as a parent, should be to set your children up for success. Part of that involves knowing how to save effectively and managing your income and expenses the right way.
The sooner you instill positive and easy-to-grasp financial values, the better. Spoiling your kids in their childhood makes them more likely to depend on your handouts when they’re older.
A study conducted by LIMRA revealed that about forty-five percent of parents who financially support their grown-up children said it impacts their retirement savings negatively. From a young age, teach your kids to be independent.
Allow them to make money selling cookies, clean your neighbors’ lawns and any other productive activity they’re comfortable engaging in. As they earn their own money, you’ll be able to save on yours and cater for your bills.
5. You’re Not Managing Your Finances Wisely
If you were among the 41% of Americans who budget for their income, you probably wouldn’t be handling your finances so haphazardly. We all love nice things – that’s for sure.
Treating ourselves to sports cars and luxury holidays is okay, provided they’re within your reach financially.
If you take out a personal loan or load your credit card to pay for them, you’re on the path of a severe debt problem. Chances are, you really can’t afford them. As tempting as it may be to overstretch yourself financially, it pays to live within your means.
Today’s innovative generation has come up with a crop of finance apps that will help you stick to your budget, handle investment decisions and manage your money.
The following are some of the best personal finance apps that are available on both Android and iOS platforms:
- YNAB (You Need a Budget)
As you make use of any (or all) of these apps, look into saving each month to avoid plunging yourself deeper into debt.
Alternatively, if you’re one to swipe your card now and then, consider canceling your credit card(s). Doing this will help you steer clear of any temptations to splurge on items that are not really essential for your welfare.
6. You’re Not on the Same Page with Your Spouse
Perhaps you’ve been trying to save money as a couple, but your spouse isn’t very cooperative. When it comes to financial management, it is normal for couples to have conflicting opinions.
More often than not, a situation like this can prove to be tough to contend with. Based on a survey carried out by Sun Trust Bank, finances are a leading cause of stress, arguments and divorce among married couples.
Convincing your spouse to save is a daunting task, especially if they’ve been spenders all their lives. There are three relatively simple ways to talk your spouse into saving your consolidated income:
Show them the Consequences of Poor Spending Habits
First of all, you’ll need to understand the financial habits of your spouse to make your point more understandable.
For example, if they buy expensive toys for your children every day, how prepared are they to pay their school fees ten years from now? Whatever else your spouse wastes money on, help them see the need of saving.
Make Financial Plans Together
Regardless of whether one or both of you is employed or not, it’s important to be at par with your spouse concerning financial decisions.
Setting common goals will give both of you motivation to make the necessary sacrifices to grow your savings quicker. Additionally, sharing a common goal will make you stronger as a team and closer as a couple.
Seek Assistance from a Third Party
If all goes south and your efforts are futile, it would help a lot to seek help from an outside party – more specific, a financial planner. Hearing it from someone else’s perspective will make him/her realize their folly and see the benefits of saving their income and increasing their savings.
It’s useless to manage money as a couple if there’s no sense of communication between the two parties involved. Try out any of these three tips to save money, so you can both share a common goal and work towards achieving it together.
7. You Consider Yourself Hopeless
Whether you’re unemployed, earning insufficient income or financially irresponsible, you’re bound to feel hopeless when you try to clear your never-ending bills with effortless endeavors. Despite your desperate situation, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel – no matter how long and dark it may be.
Each of us has our unique financial situations – that’s for sure. Acknowledging your economic status quo is the first step to ridding your mind of all negative and hopeless thoughts. Next, try talking to a professional financial or credit counselor.
The National Foundation for Credit Counselling is the best site for individuals in need of critical financial help. It offers financial education, bankruptcy counseling and free/affordable credit counseling across the U.S.
If you find yourself in a legitimate financial emergency (unable to pay rent, cater to everyday meals, etc.), seek assistance from local organizations or government assistance programs. Having your most pressing bills catered for can enable you to focus on tackling the rest.
We all find ourselves in a financial problem that feels downright impossible to get out of. As inevitable as feeling hopeless may be, it’s not enough to bail you out of your predicament. Take this chance to figure out the steps you can take to rise from the financial ashes and live up to your true potential.
8. You’re Unwilling to Make the Necessary Sacrifices
Contrary to common misconceptions about getting out of the continuous loop of never-ending bills, it will take a lot more than leading a frugal lifestyle to get it over and done with. Yes, frugality is essential, but sacrifices have to be made as well.
To walk the path of financial freedom, there has to be a set of tough changes you may need to implement.
You should know when to cut unnecessary expenses and earn extra income. Go easy on yourself, and you’ll probably never be free from your bills. If you’re intent on clearing your bills, you should be ready to get rid of the following:
Get rid of things like memberships, subscriptions, drugs ( marijuana, etc.), going to the movies, dining out, fast internet, buying new accessories, cable TV, clothes, etc. If the worst get to the worst, sell your incredibly expensive phone. Switch to a less-costly phone and cancel your service plan.
Most of Your Belongings:
Items are lying around in your house that are worth a few bucks. Walk around your home with a notebook (or tablet) and list everything you use in a week.
Put up the rest of the stuff up for a yard/garage sale or sell them on sites like Craigslist or eBay. The money you earn can easily be spent on clearing your debts.
Like most American families, you probably have a car or two parked on your driveway. As painful as it may be, sell off one or both of your vehicles and purchase a cheaper one.
Think of the debts you can pay off from doing the same to luxuries such as motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet-skis, boats, quads, etc.
Nothing good ever comes easy. You may hate yourself now for letting go of your most prized possessions, but love yourself later for getting your life back on track.
9. You Haven’t Set Up Automated Payments
Your payment system should be set up based on your list of bills and how soon they’re due. One way to go about setting up automated payments – which also happens to be the best way – is to pay as many bills as possible electronically.
Automating monthly bills that occur regularly will remind you to get to the post office in time or write a check. Once you receive your paycheck, you may get distracted too easily and forget all about the bills.
Setting up automated bills via creditors will give you the option of specifying whether or not you need them to debit the full balance, the minimum due or any other amount.
If you wish to pay exceedingly more than the minimum, there’s no harm in setting up an automatic payment in case it slips your mind to pay manually. Most lenders won’t reject automated bank account payments.
If you wish to earn extra reward points, have all your regular bills charged to a single credit card. Do this only if you’re sure that you can pay the card in full and on time. Otherwise, you may end up building up a balance that charges you interest, which could jeopardize your efforts of staying ahead of your bills.
10. You Don’t Have a Bill Reminder Installed on Your Phone
You’ve always been wanting to meet your bills on time, but something comes up, you forget, and the bill is pushed over to the next month. Rather than accumulate bills you can pay for once and for all, why not download either of these useful bill reminder apps on your phone?
- Bill Minder
- Swift Bills
- Bill Tracker Lite
- Bill Organizer
- Bills Monitor
- Money Journal
As always, technology’s got your back – even when it comes to pressing financial matters like paying your bills on time. Now more than ever, it’s possible to keep track of all your pending bills with the help of these cool apps.
They’re specifically designed to be put to use as a bill payment reminder on your Android or iOS smartphone. Therefore, if you’re sick and tired of scribbling your pending bills on notebooks or calendars, these apps are worth your time.
The best part about these apps is that you don’t have to pay a single cent to use them. Just head on to your respective app store and download them for free.
They each have simple layouts that make it incredibly simple to use. Only a single bill reminder is enough to handle all your due reminders.
Try Not to Be in the Same Spot Ten Years from Now
Settling your bills can be one of the most complicated things you and most other debt-ridden people will ever do in your life. Trying to impress a friend or loved one with a fake expensive lifestyle while you’re drowning in debt can land you into grave financial difficulties.
It’s time you stopped living in a lie and come face to face with your worst nightmare: accruing bills. There’s every need in adopting the frugal lifestyle.
It may help you clear a few bills here and there, but it won’t take care of the bigger ones. The secret to becoming truly debt-free is making tough choices.
You won’t keep selling your car or eating what you don’t want to for the rest of your life. Once you’ve rebuilt your life, you can buy what you want with no fear of raising any bill.
For now, prioritize your bills with these tips and try as much as you can not to raise any more bills once you’re done with them for good.