Have you ever been stuck financially? I mean STUCK. Do you feel so stuck that you can’t even gain any traction to get control of your finances?
Perhaps you have no income because you have lost your job. Maybe you are in college and accumulating debt to pay for it. Perhaps your spouse spends money faster than you make it. Or maybe you are just lost when it comes to managing money. It might even be the fact that you have so much unsecured debt that you feel that the creditors should just change the amount owed to a cool $1,000,000 because it might as well be that much! Maybe you are disabled, and can’t figure out what to do to earn more money.
If this is you, this post is for you! In this post, I will be sharing steps you can take to become “unSTUCK”.
I am FIRED UP!
Step One: Why are you stuck financially?
It is important to understand why you are stuck financially. There are some situations that have definite ends to them (college) and other situations that have indefinite ends to them (job loss, disability, and overwhelming debt).
Why are you stuck?
Write it down on paper. Right now. Write “I am stuck financially because … “.
When I encounter situations where I don’t know what to do, I start writing. Writing enables me to put all of my thoughts on paper.
After writing all of my jumbled thoughts down, I set it aside for awhile. After a day or two, I revisit what I have written and identify the repetitive thoughts. This helps me identify the core issue.
Why are you stuck or what caused you to be stuck in the past?
Step Two: Plan what you have!
Now that you have written down the reasons that you are stuck, it is time to prepare a written spending plan.
Yes, a budget. Here is something I have learned – managed money goes farther than money that isn’t managed.
I know that what you have is limited. In some cases, VERY limited. BUT, it is imperative that you plan what you do have.
We offer free budget tools on the I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. website to help you start budgeting.
If you are paid once per month, this is the budget tool for you.
If you are paid multiple times per month (twice/month, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, weekly, etc.), this is the budget tool for you.
If you want to learn how to put together a great budget, you might want to read the “How Do I Budget?” post.
Step Three: Remember the priorities!
When you have an extremely limited amount of funds, it is important to remember the priorities. I have met a lot of people who have been tricked and shamed by credit card companies into paying the credit card bill instead of the house payment.
You have completed step two and planned what you do have, so now the next step is figuring out who gets paid and who does not.
My priorities are:
House payment (or rent), basic utilities, car payment, gasoline, and food. This does NOT include cable, internet, phone, restaurants, fashion clothes, etc.
If money remains after covering the essentials, then it is time to pay for the secured debts. If secured debts are not paid, the creditor has the right to come take the item. They will usually sell it at wholesale and come after the rest from guess who? So I would pay the secured debt next.
Creditors cannot immediately come take something from you so they can be paid later if the money runs out.
This is last on the list. Besides I can have fun for free. Pickup basketball games, watching old movies, etc.
Who is the manager of YOUR money? It should be YOU! Not your creditors! YOU choose where it goes.
Even if you don’t have enough money to pay all of the bills, go ahead and put all of the bills into your spending plan. This is a KEY step! You need to clearly understand how large the gap is between your INCOME and your OUTGO.
I call this gap the “GO GET THIS” gap. That is the next step!
Step Four: Fill the “Go Get This” Gap!
I am sure that some read this as “Go work like crazy and earn more money”. I would certainly not disagree with working more and earning more! It is a GREAT way to fill in the “Go Get This” Gap.
But there are many more ways to fill in the gap! Here are quite a few.
I am a Christ-follower, and I have seen the power of prayer.
If married, ensure that your spouse is on board.
There is POWER when you work TOGETHER on your finances! How do you get a spouse on board could be a year-long series, but it is so necessary. Jenn and I work together because we wrote down all of our earning and spending. When we saw that our OUTGO exceeded our INCOME, we knew that it was a serious issue! One strategy to try is to mail the kids off to Grandma & Grandpa’s (eliminate distractions) and tell your spouse that you want to talk to them about something that you really need them to hear. Something that is really important to you. Very important to you. And then show them your family’s finances planned out on paper. When you write out where you are stuck financially it tends to reduce the emotion towards each other. You have the opportunity to become a unified in your effort!
Govern your business.
If your business is struggling, it might be worth putting some “mileposts” in place. Mileposts are points one month, three months, six months, and twelve months away. An example of a milepost is “If we are at $5,000 sales in three months, we will keep the business. If it is at $3,000, we will keep it open for three more months. If it is less than $3,000, we are going to have to shut down the business.” The hardest thing in the world for an entrepreneur is to close their business. Tough, but necessary sometimes.
Maybe your house payment is eating you alive. Sell the house. It could be time to sell the motorcycle, the boat, the truck, the swing set, the four-wheeler, or the 50″ TV. Whatever you have of value that isn’t a “need” – it may be time to part with to help.
If you’re looking to sell something online check out Episode #106 of the Monday Money Tip Podcast for tips.
Many times you can substantially lower your credit card payment just by calling them! I lowered my cable/internet bill by 75% just for calling! Get rid of the home telephone – you never use it anyway. Use cash envelopes for the categories you tend to spend impulsively (groceries, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, spending money). Call and get a new quote on your homeowner’s/auto insurance.
Chop up the credit cards!
If they are a crutch that keeps trapping you, it is time to chop them up. I chopped up my credit cards December 2002!
Make it a family effort!
There is NOTHING like a unified family. Nothing.
Pay secured debt before unsecured debt.
If you can’t pay everybody, consider paying just the secured debts. Call the unsecured companies and tell them that you will not be able to pay them this month, but that you fully intend to pay them. Tell the truth! There is power when you call someone and ask for help! They may or may not work with you, but when you are in bad shape financially you can’t pay them if you want to!
What are some other ways to fill in the “Go Get This” Gap?