Saturday, February 16, 2013

Steps to Getting in Control of your Finances

For many people, personal finances are a worry - with credit card debts, the worry of mortgage repayments and fear that incomes will fail to keep pace with the cost of living. It's essential to be in control of your finances in these difficult times. We look at ways to stay ahead.

Assess the situation.

The first step to dealing with problem finances is to face up to them. This means taking a deep breath and adding up your debts, from all sources. Once you have done this, categorize them. If you have a mortgage debt, this is less of a concern because it is held against an asset; your home. However, you may still want to check that you are on the most competitive mortgage product that you are eligible for and that your repayments are affordable, as you can make substantial savings just by shopping around.

Personal debts.

If you have non-secured debts, these are your focus area. Non-secured debt is held in many forms; credit cards, personal loans, catalogue debts and overdrafts. They are called unsecured debts, because there is no asset held against them. For example, if you have a car loan - then it's against a car. If necessary you could sell this asset to recoup the loan, or part of it. However, credit card debts usually have no assets attached that could be sold to pay them off, especially if you have an unchecked spending habit.

Do a budget.

When you can see your debts on paper, work out your monthly budget. Assess your income and work out which bills you have every month. Go through your direct debits and see if any can be cancelled. Assess how much money you have after bill payments for your living, shopping, entertainments and other costs.

Decide on a repayment plan.

Your budget will show you where you can save money. Cancel non-essential services, shop around for better deals and downgrade your brands when doing the weekly shop. Set aside a sum each month to repay your debts bit by bit, starting with the most expensive. If you can't find income to do this, work out ways to increase your income or further reduce your outgoings.

Stay motivated.

Nothing feels as good as being debt-free and if you are working towards this goal, you will find plenty of support from national debt charities, online forums and other debt support groups. Seek help if you can't find a way out of your debt and speak to others with similar goals to you. As well as finding great sources of fellow support and motivation, you will start to identify ways of socializing and meeting new people without spending money. 

Once you can change your behavior patterns, switching shopping for new and absorbing hobbies and meeting friends with common goals, you will find new impetus and enthusiasm for your new objectives and be far less inclined to fall back into debt again. With planning, organisation and self-discipline, the freedom of a debt-free life can be yours.

Jackie Graves writes regularly on personal finance, debt support and tools such as prepaid credit cards for a range of websites and blogs. She strongly believes in the ability to rebuild a bad credit score.

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