Personal Finance: A Simple But Powerful Step To Start Digging Your Way Out Of Debt

Throughout the middle class there is a personal finance disaster looming as personal debt rises to record levels. If you’re struggling with personal debt levels or even getting close, here’s a simple first step to turning it all around…Credit card debt is often the biggest personal debt load after a mortgage. When you got your first credit card, you most likely promised yourself you’d treat it with respect – you’d keep it for emergencies and pay it off in full whenever you did need to use it, right? Not quite the way it turned out though, is it?Your personal finance plan worked OK at first, but then that started to slip and through habit you started using your credit cards more and more and today you couldn’t possibly pay them all off this month – or even in the next 2 or 3 months, most likely. And how many times have you sworn you’d stop using them for a while and get things back under control? Unless you’re foolishly overspending for your current income and debt load, the problem is convenience.The earliest credit cards were for those already fairly well off, to help them keep their accounting simple. They weren’t thought of as credit cards but as ‘travel & entertainment’ cards, and they HAD to be paid off in full every month. Diners Club, American Express and a few others led the pack, and most people would be better off today if all cards still worked that way.But then there was a demand for ‘convenience’ cards among the growing middle class and Chargex was created to fill that need. Over time Chargex became Visa, MasterCard emerged on the scene and department stores began creating their own credit card programs, usually at a much higher interest rate. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the western economies were moving ahead full-tilt and credit became easier and easier to obtain – and people slowly started using credit cards instead of cash for many, if not most, of their purchases.In theory, that should create more jobs, build the economy and lead to greater income for all, making it easier to pay higher and higher credit card bills each month. Cardholders would make a major purchase and just pay part of it the next month, then make another major purchase before paying off the existing balance. People still made their payments each month, but each payment was more than the minimum but less than the full balance. And over time most people’s personal finance plan went out the window, replaced by higher credit limits, more cards and more total debt.You know you’ve hit the point where you need to pay your cards off, or at least pay them down, if for no better reason than to save all of the interest you’re paying across all your cards. Fortunately, Visa and MasterCard recognize the issue too, and have a solution that can be your first step in correcting your current personal finance imbalance – the pre-paid credit card.Don’t mistake these for the gift cards you see by the cash registers of the big chain stores. These are actual reloadable cards that are accepted just like any other credit card worldwide. And while they’re still referred to as credit cards, they really aren’t – there’s no credit involved since you can only use them up to the dollar amount you’ve already deposited on your account. You do pay a small monthly fee for these reloadable pre-paid credit cards, but in most cases it’s far less than the interest you’re paying currently.So if you’re serious about taking control of your finances and starting to dig you way out of debt, get yourself one of these cards today – or at least this week. They’re available at many banks, some big organizations like the auto club, and a variety of other outlets. Be sure to find out the fees for the card, the maximum and minimum loads you can put on the card, and double-check to be sure it’s a reloadable prepaid card. Most can be loaded online through your bank, but check to be sure so you don’t run into any problems.Load the card with enough to get you through each month, with a little extra just in case – there’s nothing wrong with building up a bit of a cash balance. Then take the other credit cards out of your wallet or purse and put them away in a safe place for now – if you keep them on you you’ll end up using them from habit, not from need. Keep paying as much as you can on them each month, just don’t use them. That will keep them in good standing in case of emergency, but your balance will be dropping each month. If you’re deep in debt most of your payment will be eaten up by interest, but the total will drop a bit – and each month it will drop by a little more since the interest drops as the outstanding balance does.This is by no means a cure-all for your personal debt, but it IS a step in the right direction and a fairly painless one at that. You’re starting to wrest back control over your personal finances and moving toward a viable personal finance plan. As you see your overall credit card debt receding, use the confidence and motivation it brings to tackle other aspects of your personal finances and bring them under control as well. Your current situation stems from too little income, overspending or both – your goal over time is to balance that back out in your favor. You CAN do it – just be sure to focus on solutions instead of worrying about your current debt load or worse yet, ignoring the problem.

The Key to Personal Finance

Additional effort in managing one’s personal finances will result to a more positive usage of personal resources. With attainable, realistic goals, ones financial standing will progress in no time at all. However, for the part of the individual concerned, this calls for proper planning and monitoring. There is also a need to assess at some point to see if the goals set are being met or further intervention is needed to alleviate the financial condition.Available Income:Regular household cash flow
After Budget cash or net flowRegular household cash flow is what remains after the expected yearly expenses are subtracted from the expected yearly regular income. After budget cash or net flow is simply what one ends up with after subtracting regular household liabilities from the known assets. The part of the regular income that does not go towards normal expenses is a very important resource that can be diverted towards other personal financial goals. A balance sheet should be able to determine the net worth before proceeding to plan further on how to save enough for bigger and more important purchases.Factors to be considered if 50% net increase is desired:Full liabilities
Outstanding debts
Investment Instruments
Savings yield- savings + interest gained
Outstanding student loansIt only goes to say that when liabilities decrease, a person’s net worth increases along with it. The number one advice for people with plans to progress financially is to avoid taking juicy bank loans on offer as they are ever-potent dangers to one’s credit score specially when the interest pile up. Recovery from debts will be a much needed boost to personal finance. The more payables are settled, the fewer the liabilities are and this carries a positive reflection on one’s balance sheet and also his credit standing.Personal investments make up most of a person’s net worth and thus it is a perpetually good move to gain as much valuable assets as a person possibly can in the course of his lifetime. This is not to say that forethought should not be employed here but the contrary. Investing by buying up profitable assets should always be preceded by careful analysis, so that a purchase will actually add vigor to one’s portfolio. The general trend is that if you are the risk avoidant type of investor high risk investments are avoided. These are properties which have value that changes with the ebb and flow of time like real estate, precious metals like gold and other physical goods that are known to have volatile values.The riskier among us, those whose mettle are undeniably more resistant to fear easily trade in stocks and other financial instruments of our time. In this type of assets, the rule goes that the higher the risk, the higher the possible gains. This kind of investments no doubt needs to be studied and studied again due to the very nature of it to avoid excessive losses and to catch gains when and where they are likely to fall.As savings is an important and integral part of a person’s net worth, due research is called for to yield the names of institutions that offer better products or simply better rates for one’s hard earned dollars. For example, American soldiers have the option and the privilege to take advantage of the DOD Savings Deposit program that has very high interest rates at 10%.Savings accounts and CDs serve you in two ways: firstly by increasing your total net worth and secondly by giving a much needed buffer zone to your personal finance portfolio, as seen by prevailing trends all over. The reason for this is because such instruments are federally insured and grows at a steady, favorable rate every year.One thing that has perennially damaged net worth are student loans as they can persist a long time after a person has graduated and worked. To counter the negative impact of this, one effective practice is to take advantage of seasonal tax breaks. With American opportunity tax credit alone, an individual can save as much as $2,500 and those who are still studying should altogether shun away from private student loans in favor of federally funded loans as these carry a lower, or fixed rates in general.Most effective ways to maximize cash flow:Highly informed financial decisions
Making and adhering to a budget
Controlling impulsive buying
Putting Cost cutting measures in placeSmart financial choices can sometimes spell the difference between ruin and progress. For instance, there is a choice between buying a house which becomes unaffordable later on as opposed to renting a modest accommodation. If the sale price of the house is proven to be a figure greater than 20, when the actual sale price is divided by the yearly rental, then you would be wiser if you rent. Managing personal finance need not be a daunting task; it only requires patience and practice.Where you can cut costs:Cut back on unnecessary expenditure
Cooking instead of dining out
Look into car insurance cost cutters
Collecting and using coupons
Buying wholesale instead of retail wherever applicableThere is absolutely no shame in using coupons and the benefits are tremendous, it can even get to be a habit. Why pay the full price when a little vigilance in cutting and saving coupons goes a long way? If no printed material is available from where to glean coupons, the internet is always there, the perfect place to search for printable coupons.Cook at home and cook in batches. Then freeze for later meals. Have the due diligence to look after leftovers and you will probably save a fortune in take-out budget. There is no shame in keeping eatable food and it does wonders to a family or individual’s food budget.Cut down on company offers, like phone packages, cable or internet packages, whatever has hidden charges, zero in on them and ask to get only the basic service, pay only for what you actually need and use. The extra features cost and pile up in the long run.Carpooling is also one way to save, and if you must absolutely drive, drive safely to avoid charges. These small things all contribute towards managing one’s finance in a sane and productive way. And the habits that are changed also stick, so it is best to make sure that you make changes for the better.How to estimate: Tools in Determining WorthSimple Net worth calculator
Retirement calculator- many are downloadable
Mortgage rate calculator, again downloadable
Spouse or partner income calculator for multiple income households
Loan calculator, for free from many sites
Currency converter- already in wide use everywhere
Home budget calculator- a standard for many housewives
FICO score range tool- again available for free online
Student loan calculator- for up to date interest ratesThese personal finance calculators are absolutely necessary when strategizing and setting up your long and short term goals, tax payments and schedules, mortgage resolutions and other financial steps. The closer the estimates are to real figures, the closer you will be to realizing your plans and these depend heavily on calculators.Personal finance is simply net worth, cash flow, the relevant planning, savings, investment instruments, budget or allocations and cost cutting. If effort is made to understand the concepts in theory and applied wisely, a personal balance sheet and credit score will improve continuously beyond recovery and go well into growth.