Waiting upon an Economic Star

Families today often find themselves with large amounts of debt. College loans, car payments, desperately trying to put enough back to buy a home, while maintaining the expenses of having small children can lead to financial struggles. Any financial planner you speak to will tell you the first thing you need to do is to sit down together and develop a financial plan you both agree on. What they will not tell you about is leverage.

Popular host and author of the book The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey, conducted a study and found that seventy percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  If you are one of these families, then you have too much household debt; too much household debt leaves banks reluctant to extend new loans for home purchases and business expansions, because these lenders don’t want to make bad investments. This causes leverage. When the banks hold back consumer spending as a result of consumer spending, home foreclosures and the prevention of future credit it sets a pattern not only for you, but for your children as well.

What you should do to improve the present and future situations, is to create a plan to accomplish goals and stick to that plan. Keep things in order by making changes like increasing your income. If you can increase your savings or simply reduce expenses you have a starting point, but above all make it a manageable plan. Don’t allow pleasing things to the eye to pull you away from your goals. Many people perceive budgeting as a restriction on their finances and they do not want to take away from what they already have. Instead they would rather take out a loan, or a mortgage. They can pay it back, right?

Your probably questioning, how do I save money? At the end of the week, there is nothing left. I researched several different opportunities to save money that I was unaware of and I will be happy to share them with you. Are you ready to save? Okay, here are some ways to save and to teach our children to save too. Create a simple budget with all of your expenses. Include a column for an emergency fund, birthday fund, Christmas fund, and to tithe. When you create the budget, include the family. Explain to the children that instead of getting an allowance, their allowance will be a contribution to the family budget. Explain to your children, this is for the new game, the new CD, the money for movies on the weekend or the money for gas. If they do not want their money to come from the allowance, they will have to get an afterschool job that does not come from the family budget. Most importantly, if your employer doesn’t have a retirement plan, include that in your budget. Hold out $50 weekly so when you retire, you will know have to go back to work second jobs like some people do.

Another way to get out of debt is to embrace the trend. Avoid those financial struggles on daily basis. If you need something, ask for it. Try to connect with your friends by phone, Facebook or Twitter. Let them know what you need. I no longer have a Land Line. With cell phones, you have no long distance fees. I saved $80 a month discontinuing that expense. Stop eating out! Open your refrigerator door or your kitchen pantry. It is cheaper and healthier to eat at home. Save money on exercise. I know there are 24 hour gyms you can go to. How many people go to the gym at 3:00 A.M.?  There are several recreational centers that offer free classes. There are high schools in every community. Go take a walk on their track. If you have access to a swimming pool, what a wonderful form of exercise this is. Either way you save around $35.00 a month. If not, take that money and utilize that activity center or the natatorium at one of the colleges. The Glenwood Wellness Center Track is open to the public and it is free. If you live in Lincoln Parish, you have one of the most beautiful places to walk – The Lincoln Parish Park. It is one-time fee a year, and it is worth every trip.

Shopping – the threshold of wealth for retailers, shop when the time is right. After season you can get holiday gift wrap, decorations and holiday cards for next year for half of the price. August has been proven by markets to be the best month to shop due to the back to school sales and with the tax-free weekends. Thursdays are the best day to shop as this is the day the shipments come in for retailers, and they begin sales on the items out front, to make room for the items in the back. Most importantly, when you shop, only take cash. You can’t over spend then, because you will not have the money to do so.  

There are many things you can do to get into debt. The pitfalls are always there. However, there are some ways of getting out, and some ways of avoiding them all together. It takes planning, it takes discipline, it takes family, and it takes motivation to stick to these plans. It can be done.

   Published February 23, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.