Want to get your debt under control? Here are tips that don’t take big money, just small changes.
Let’s face it: It’s hard to make ends meet these days. Millions of people – even those that earn big paychecks – struggle with debt. There’s no easy solution, but here are a few simple tips to help you get started. And remember, payday loans can be a smart way to avoid more costly forms of credit, but they’re not a long-term solution for debt.
Track your debt: The first step in taking charge of your debt is to make lists. Like lists of what you owe this month – utility bills, phone charges, rent, car payments, loan payments, and other expenses. Once numbers are on paper instead of in your head, they are a little easier to face. If your list of expenses adds up to more than your take-home pay, you’ll need to look for ways to cut those expenses.
Buy second generation: Whether you are talking about clothes, books, cell phones, or cars, you can usually save a bundle when you buy “pre-owned”. Now before you scoff at the idea, consider this: second generation isn’t what it used to be. These days you can go online and buy great stuff while saving a bundle. Need proof? Just go to Trademe.co.nz or Google.co.nz and search for “used cell phones”. You’ll be amazed at what you find.
Think local, not global: Many people like to imagine what it would be like to jet set off to their private vacation spot. But big trips can put you in an even bigger financial hole that takes months to recover from. Instead, think about road trips you could take near your home town. Live in Christchurch? Head west into the Hill Country and explore our great land. No matter where you live, there are great get-away spots within a couple hours’ drive.
Stick to the small screen: A night for two at the movies can cost you $20 – $30. Throw in dinner and you can easily spend $50 or more for one night of entertainment. Instead, try renting and see how much you save. Better yet, swing by your local library. Many of them carry DVDs that you can rent for nothing more than the cost of a library card. Put the money you save into a savings account – or better yet, use it to pay off loans, credit cards, or other debt.
Review your credit report: Many people have old or incorrect information on their credit reports. You need to know exactly what is on yours to ensure you’re not being punished for something someone else did or something that happened a long time ago. So, get a copy of your credit report by contacting one of the three major credit reporting agencies (VedaAdvantage.co.nz, Mycreditfile.co.nz). Review it and get rid of anything that is outdated or just plain wrong.
Give your checking account a checkup: Unless your checking account is already loaded with perks, odds are you can save by shopping around. Some offer free EFTPOS or no ATM fees. Others pay interest for keeping a minimum balance. Analysts say that most customers can put an extra $100-$200 in their pockets annually by choosing the right checking account.
Review Mortgages and Insurances: Mortgage and insurance payments make up one of the largest expenses to most people. It pays to check these with a professional mortgage or insurance broker, to make sure you have the best package for your needs and secondly check you are covered for what you think you are so you're not paying unnecessarily.
Discover savings under your own roof: There are many simple things you can do around your home to reduce your monthly bills. For instance, turn down the temperature on your water heater to lower the gas bill. When doing dishes or laundry, make sure you’re only washing full loads, so you don’t waste water and electricity. Even fixing a leaky faucet will help. Add it all up, and you could see you bills go down 10%, 20%, 30% or even more! You may even find things that you no longer need which you can sell to reduce debt!
Use Credit Wisely: Credit cards can be a good tool if used properly. But if you rack up a lot of charges, they can become a big financial drain. So, make sure you pay more than the minimum to get your balance down. Always pay on time to avoid expensive late fees. And if you are charging too much, start using cash instead. You’ll find yourself spending less.
Be Smart When Grocery Shopping: If you’re like most people, groceries are one of your biggest expenses. The best way to keep your grocery bill in check is to plan ahead. That means making a list and sticking to it. Impulsive shopping won’t lead to saving money. Also check out coupons and store specials to double or triple your savings. And remember you can score big by buying in bulk, especially on basic items you use a lot like coffee, bread, cereal, etc. Follow these tips and you might save $50 or more each month.
Savings Around the Holidays: One great thing about holidays is that afterwards, stores need to get rid of all the things they stocked up on. Know any kids who need presents after Halloween? Costumes can go on sale for 75% or more. If you’ve got a place to store them, pick up next year’s Christmas decorations during post-Christmas sales. And you can save a bunch on other items (cards, gifts, etc.) during other holiday sales.
Frugal Gift Giving: Instead of spending a lot on gifts for others, try to come up with something simpler and more personal (and less expensive). For example, put together a photo album or scrapbook for a loved one. It might take a little more work, but they’ll appreciate the effort. And you won’t have to spend the next month paying it off.