Chances are, you’ve been stressed out by your financial situation at some point in the last year — and if you’re struggling with debts or unexpected expenses, that stress probably isn’t going away anytime soon.
If you allow things to get out of hand, financial-related stress won’t just hurt your wallet — it could even have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health.
Thankfully, even if you are currently experiencing a credit crunch, you can still work your way to a more positive financial situation. Here are some valuable insights from five credit experts that will help you change for the better in 2018.
1) Fix Your Scores
A healthy credit score makes a huge difference when buying a home or car — or even when applying to live in a new apartment complex. Says Cynthia Thaxton, associate attorney at Lexington Law, rising interest rates and other market trends make improving your credit score more important than ever.
“Focus on achieving and maintaining an excellent credit score and credit history in 2018…If you need to fix your credit score or other issues with your credit history, now is definitely the time to explore professional credit repair services and actively begin working toward managing your money more effectively in the new year.”
The sooner you act to repair your credit score, the easier it will be to get good rates on any major purchases you might need to make during the year — and that will definitely reduce current and future financial stress.
2) Make a Debt Payoff Plan
Paying off your current debts is a key part of fixing your credit score. Gerri Detweiler, the author of several books on credit and debt, notes that you should start by figuring out how much total debt you have.
Her basic debt payoff strategy is as follows: “Total the three-year pay-off amount for all your credit cards. Add the monthly payments for all other debts. Write down the result: your total monthly payment.”
By focusing on one debt at a time while continuing to make minimum payments toward other debts, you’ll be able to gradually work off your loans and reduce your total interest payments.
Negotiating with your credit card company can be a bit stressful, but it can go a long way in helping you reduce your long-term financial stress. As Leslie Tanye, a debt-related advisor and attorney notes, negotiating to remove your annual fees or reduce your interest rates can lead to valuable savings.
The negotiations become much easier when you know what kind of rates you could get from other credit card providers. “Take those other offers and use them as a bargaining chip instead. Come to the table prepared with all the perks, interest rates, and other benefits that you would be getting if you switched cards. More than likely, your credit card company won’t want to lose you as a customer and will be willing to beat or at least match the offers you are getting.”
4) Cut Back Credit Card Spending
For many households, receiving the monthly credit card bill is one of the biggest contributors to financial stress. Even individuals without excess debt may find themselves wondering how they managed to spend so much.
The simple truth is that many people struggle to accurately track their spending habits when using a credit card — and all too often, this makes it easier for them to waste money on unnecessary purchases.
As Gary Foreman notes, however, you don’t need to get rid of your credit card entirely to reduce spending. Simple strategies are often the best. “Leave your cards at home unless you have a specific purchase in mind. If the cards are not with you, there’s no way to use them…Put a sticker on the card: ‘Do I really NEED this item?’ Sometimes a reminder at the right moment is all that we need.”
5) Start Building an Emergency Fund
Even as you take steps to consolidate debts and better manage your current financial responsibilities, you never know when you might have to deal with an unexpected car repair or medical bill. Because of this, it’s not enough to set a budget for each month — you also need to actively save money in an emergency fund.
As Miriam Caldwell explains, “It is also easier to use the money in your budget the way you planned if you know you have the extra money in the bank ready to cover the unexpected emergencies that may crop up. You should have at least $1,000 in the bank until you are out of debt and after that you should work up to about six months of your expenses.”
Even a small contribution from each paycheck will make a difference. The more you save now, the better prepared you’ll be for a rainy day.
Achieving Financial Freedom
By following these tips and other basic money management practices, you’ll be able to stretch your paychecks farther, reduce unnecessary debt and improve your overall financial situation.
You and your loved ones will be able to enjoy life that much more without credit-related worries hanging over your head. Start today, and you’ll be well on your way to a much less stressful 2018.