Approximately 80 percent of folks in this country are living paycheck to paycheck and have zero cash at their disposal if faced with an unexpected expense. According to statistics, seniors, African Americans, and Hispanics typically have fewer financial resources. Life happens, and it happens to cost a lot—sometimes more than we can pay. Financial fragility is associated with depression, angst. It ruins relationships between spouses, children, relatives, friends. It keeps you up at night and makes you not want to get up in the morning. It eats away at your sense of pride, your confidence, your energy, and, worst of all, any inkling of hope.
Financial instability can lead to debt and lots of it. Need to get a better grip on your finances? Here’s how to do it!
Is your home too expensive? Living beyond your means can eat away at your dollars. Most folks who have financial problems state that housing and utilities are doing them in. If you cannot afford your dwelling, consider moving to one that is more within your financial reach. Moving might mean relocating to another city that offers more affordable housing. Perhaps there is cheaper housing directly outside of your city’s limits so that you can retain access to jobs and amenities. Another way to go is to downsize your much too large home if you want to save a few bucks.
Don’t fear budgeting. When many folks hear the word “budgeting,” they tend to cringe. How can you manage your finances if you don’t have a clue as to where your money goes day in and day out? Putting yourself on a financial diet does not have to be a scary situation. Think of budgeting like this; you can spend with confidence without worry because you’ll know that your bills are covered and your bank account is growing! What is terrifying is swiping your bank card without knowing what you have in the bank. Here’s another scare, never being able to retire because you can’t afford to do so.
If you can’t afford to hire a financial planner, go the cheap route and try a mobile phone budgeting app. They are a handy, easy, and effective way to keep track of your expenses. Here are some great apps to try:
Mint (free)–syncs to your bank account and tracks all incoming and outgoing money, tracks bills, and reports your credit score; issues overspending alerts
Wally (free)–only does budgeting, it balances your income and expenses; lets you know when a bill is due and when you’ve reached a financial goal; the app is completely secure, private and allows you to save receipts with each transaction
Goodbudget–The app enables couples to work together on a household budget, and get proactive together about curbing household debt. While the app is geared toward merging two different personal financial accounts and scenarios, singletons can use it too. You can plan for different financial categories via the app’s “envelopes,” dropping money in and taking money out of the envelopes as you need it. The app offers two plans – a free one for basic services and a more advanced app for $6 per month or $50 annually.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)–each dollar of your income is given a job, such as bill paying, saving, or investing. By accounting for every dollar each month, it helps you cut down on overspending. YNAB helps you plan for unexpected or infrequent expenses. It helps you get ahead, so you’re not living paycheck to paycheck while teaching you to be resilient if you’re hit with an unexpected overage. It offers both desktop and mobile interfaces, options to sync your bank accounts automatically or enter expenses manually, and includes debt payoff and goal tracking features to help motivate you to reach your money goals. The company also offers personal support via email. YNAB charges $5 per month or $50 per year, with the first 34 days free so you can test it out.
Get a side hustle. If your day job does not poop you out, consider working an evening or weekend job to boost your earnings. How about turning something you are good at doing like baking, jewelry making, or even cooking, into a profitable side business?
Check out programs that can lighten your load. You might be eligible for financial help from public or private programs that can help pay for healthcare, prescriptions, food, utilities, and more depending on your income. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) can direct you to programs that can help save you money. People who have applied for these benefits can save, on average, $4,900 annually in assistance. Check out NCOA’s Benefits Check Up–www.benefitscheckup.org