Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Financial Freedom compiled by Me

As anyone who has known my awesome financial expertise, or those nice bill collectors who used to phone me during college, can attest to - I know a bit about financial freedom. I don't have it, and will take years to get there, but I know something about it.

As I've shared previously, I'm a reader. So to learn more about being more financially sound or savvy, I've read a LOT of books. And I've come to an amazing conclusion. You can sum up the main tactics of almost every financial guru out there. And I'll share it here with you, for free. You will never need to send me $19.95 for a free trial, or sign up for an online service that bills you quarterly. THAT tactic is how those toting their expertise on financial freedom actually got there so fast and have "grown their wealth" so greatly. I hate the idea of using the hope of those struggling to make money, but love their main ideas.

First, look at where you are spending your money, and do everything you can to cut back on incidentals. I love organic foods, but have learned that when grains are processed, the parts of the grain most affected by any chemicals have been taken away. So go for whatever bread or cracker product you can find without trans fats. No worries (plus a savings). Plan your restaurant trips, and stick to the budget laid out for them. Seek out cheaper hair cuts. Shop consignment shops & donate your unwanted clothes, small appliances and other items for a GREAT tax break.

Second, commit as a couple to a budget. I hate this part. How should I know if there is going to be a fabulous sale on the things we use every day? Well, I'm learning that I CAN buy SOME things from those great sales, just not so much that it sends our budget out of whack. Committing to a budget together gives you someone to be accountable to, and someone to lean on when you really want to buy something silly.

Third, list your debts. Not your monthly bills like groceries and gas, but your credit payments that CAN be paid off someday. Figure out how long it will take you to pay off each amount using only the minimum monthly payments. You may need a flow chart or graph to keep the numbers organized. Put them in order of least amount of time to greatest amount of time. Go to step four.

Fourth, look over your income for the month, and try to use as close to 10% of that number as you can, and add it to the payment for the debt that you can pay off the fastest. Even if you add $25 to that payment, you'll save $$ on interest and pay off the debt faster than you would be doing otherwise. Oh, keep paying the minimum monthly payments on everything else on your list. Those bill collectors aren't so friendly at 2am.

Fifth, when this debt is paid off, add the $$ you've been paying on this debt to the debt that can be paid off next fastest. Say you just finished paying off your Target card, with a payment of $200 a month. The next debt on your list is for your car. You take your minimum payment to your car loan, and add that $200 you've been paying to Target (which is now paid off, and you are not going to use again). Now your car will be paid off $200 a month faster than you've been paying before. You go through each debt on your list doing this. Adding the money you've been paying to each debt to the next one. The payments snow ball into really huge payments by the time you reach the bottom of your list.

**Lots of people will feel safe using their credit sources again once things are paid off, or feel better closing the accounts. Don't do either one. Having "paid off debt" looks great on your record, and having "unused, available credit" also looks wonderful. Your credit score will reflect your responsible new life.

The Hub & I are working on this ourselves, and will hopefully have ALL OUR DEBTS, MORTGAGE INCLUDED, paid off in 15 years. On one income plus my little bit added, I would never have thought it possible. We'll see how strictly we can stick to this, but knowing it's possible is so encouraging. I hope this helps you, and keeps you from spending $100's on someone else's "system".

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