Simple Steps to Manage Debt this Year

Accumulating debt is something many people do at some point in their lives. This can be a result of purchasing a house by taking out a mortgage or getting an auto loan to buy a new car. College debt is another increasingly common factor in the US.

Even small purchases can put people into debt. Using any type of credit card to make purchases of any kind can cause debt to accumulate, so anyone with any amount of debt needs to know how to manage it so that it does not get out of control. If a person has too much debt, they may spend more time juggling payments than actually paying them off. A few simple tips can go a long way to help manage your personal finances.

Make a list of what you owe.

This list will include the creditor (like a bank, a mortgage company or other lender), the total owed, required monthly payment, and the date the payment is due. Cross reference the information on your list with a statement or by logging into your account online. Analyze your list every couple of months to see where you are with any particular debts.

Pay your monthly bill on time.

The late fee for missing a payment is easily avoidable and will only add to your existing debt. You will also likely end up with higher interest payments, adding to your debt. Create a reminder or an alert on a tablet or your smartphone of when payments are due. A reminder should be at a few days before the payment is due and not on the due date. Remember to take into account when your payment will be sent and when it will be received. If you are sending a payment on a Friday night, it may not be received until Monday.

Something you may want to do is sync your smartphone and tablet so a reminder or an alert will be displayed on both devices. You may also want to schedule your payments in advance if you have this option.

Create a payment calendar for bills.

If you have certain bills that will be paid at different time of the month, a payment calendar can help to keep you on track and manage personal finances in a simple, organized way. Indicate on your calendar which bills you will need to pay with each paycheck or expected payment. Sometimes due dates for bills can possibly get changed. This might mean you need to try and adjust your payment calendar so that you do not run short of funds.

Pay more than the minimum when you can.

Paying more than the minimum payment for bills like credit cards helps keep your balance in check; if you only make the minimum payment, interest will add to the balance in time. Keep in mind that when you charge more than you pay each month, your debt will grow.

Prioritize your existing debts.

Certain debts need to be paid before others. The debt with the highest priority is typically the payment for a credit card. The credit card with the highest interest rate should be paid first (while still making at least minimum payments on all other cards, of course). A trick you can use to help decrease interest charges is to transfer balances to a lower rate card. This may be a good option for anyone who has multiple credit cards with payments at different times of the month. Another option could include making a payment on a credit card that has the highest balance.

Create an emergency fund.

Unexpected events can happen at any time, and you never know when you might need funds for something unplanned. These events could include getting let go from a job or maybe an accident that has damaged your vehicle. Try putting something like $25 or more every week into an account at any bank or credit union. After a year you will have $1300 to use as an emergency fund. If you keep adding to this fund, you will have a solid cushion for three to six months of living expenses.

Create a monthly budget.

Knowing how to set up a budget is a great way to know what you can spend each month. If this is done at an early age, managing money in the future will become that much easier. The best thing about setting a budget is that any funds left over each month can be saved or even used to make an additional debt payment.

Breathe.

Debt will not go away overnight. But having a system in place and keeping on track will allow you the joy of watching your debt decrease. Once you’re out of debt, it’s important to keep the system going to ensure that you can live without the fear of debt and can eventually achieve the financial freedom that everyone looks for.