Say you received an unexpected windfall of a few thousand dollars. How would you use the money? Many of us would rank “saving” and “paying down debt” pretty high on our list of ways to use these funds, as these are two of the biggest personal finance challenges we all face.
While getting a surprise payout is certainly out of our control, how we approach managing our money day to day is well within it. There are many actions we can all take to save money and decrease debt — here are just a few.
Get a Plan for Your Debt
It’s expensive to let debt keep existing, especially making only minimum payments each month barely capable of making a dent in what you owe. So, why not get a plan with a timeline for paying it down? Explore your options, whether you consider meeting with a certified credit counselor, trying a balance transfer credit card, negotiating with your creditors or simply getting more organized in how much you pay toward each of your balances every month.
Even something as simple as targeting whichever credit card has the highest interest rate rather than spreading your funds out evenly amongst all your credit cards can help you keep more dollars in your pocket, as it eliminates the balance with the steepest interest sooner. Just be sure to keep making at least minimum payments on all your accounts each month, whichever strategy you pursue.
Use Cash/Debit Rather Than Credit
To say it’s easy to overspend using credit cards seems almost like an understatement. However, reality always catches up eventually in the form of next month’s balance. The average American family carries more than $6,200 in credit card debt, illustrating how common it is for credit cards to exacerbate the debt cycle.
Debt relief expert Brad Stroh has a simple suggestion for anyone who finds themselves overspending on credit: Use cash. He notes there is both a practical and psychological angle to this. Using cash requires a bit more effort put into planning how much you believe you can and need to spend, as well as a finite limit. When you’re out shopping and you run out of cash, it means your session has come to an end. Furthermore, he notes that having to hand over tangible cash can feel more “real” than swiping a card and seeing some digital numbers on the screen.
In today’s increasingly cashless world, utilizing a debit card can provide similar limits, as the funds immediately draw from a checking account rather than getting added to a revolving credit card balance.
Take Advantage of Personal Finance Technology
There are many personal finance technology tools making it simpler and more convenient than ever before to set and meet financial goals — like saving more or chipping away at debt. Many consumers appreciate the ease of using an app to track their daily spending, and some apps will even make automatic transfers to savings accounts for you to help you meet your goals.
Finding the right tool or tools for your lifestyle can help you make money moves without having to devote much manual time and energy. At the very least, it’s smart to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to various savings accounts so you end up “paying yourself” each month before your whole paycheck ends up spent.
Saving money and reducing your debt go hand in hand, which is why it makes sense to revamp your approach to saving, spending and budgeting so as to make achieving your most important financial goals a major priority in the coming months.