By Kristina Ludwig, Fall 2014 Student Intern
33% of Americans spend more than they earn. This is obviously problematic and can lead to some serious debt. How do you know how serious your debt is?
- Can you only afford to make minimum payments on your credit cards?
- Do you worry about finding the money to make monthly car payments?
- Do you borrow money to pay off old debts?
- Have you used a home equity loan to refinance credit card debts, then run up new revolving balances on your cards?
If you answered “Yes,” to any of these questions, Military Saves says you need to get your debt under control.
Step one in making your debt manageable is to stop borrowing, which means that you need to stop spending more than you’re earning. In order to do this, make a budget.
A budget compares your monthly income with your monthly expenses to ensure you have enough money each month. Start by writing down your expenses and your income. Consumer.gov has a very handy budget worksheet you can use to better itemize your expenses. Then subtract your expenses from your income. If you end up with a negative number, your budget needs some trimming! Look for things that are not essential, such as luxuries dressed up as necessities, to cut. While you are slimming your budget, Military Saves says to “figure out the most you can afford to pay each month to reduce your debt, then make those payments without fail.”
Military Saves Pro Tip: “If you have debts on more than one credit card, either pay off the card with the highest interest rate first and work your way down to the card with the lowest rate, or pay off the smallest loan first and work your way up to the largest.”
Use your budget every month to keep track of your spending, and once you’re out of debt, do not start over-spending again! Save your money for a rainy day instead.
If you need help, MilitaryOneSource offers free financial counseling on their website or by phone at 1-800-342-9647. For more sources of financial assistance, visit Military Saves’ website here. For more information on how to make a budget, visit Consumer.gov.