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Basic Approach: The New Year allows you to smartly start over and fix finances

Everyone is going to have some sort of New Year's Resolution.

Losing weight, getting a better job or finding that special someone all rank fairly high on the list of promises you'll make to yourself as December turns into January.

Equally important for the masses is getting yourself back on track financially on a number of levels: saving money, spending less, planning for retirement or actually piecing together a budget you'll adhere to for more than a month.

Far too often as it relates to money, people tend to complicate what actually can be whittled down to something quite simple: spend less than what you make.

As rudimentary as that principle sounds, you'd be surprised to hear just how many stories and, to a degree, excuses people come up with to explain why that can't follow that protocol to ensure financial security and freedom from debt.

It starts with a budget, plain and simple. More than 50% of the population don't have a budget or can tell you exactly how much money is going out the door on a monthly basis in terms of expenses. Sure, they know their mainstays such as homes, cars and credit card bills, but they fail to capture the information that is equally important and easily missed: fuel, clothing, entertainment and dining out at restaurants.

Those who are truly adept at budgeting and want to reverse their fortunes for the new year go as far as to allot a certain amount of money for something as incidental as coffee or water that they purchase daily. Laughable as that may seem, they'll almost always stick with that plan and have the right amount of money leftover at the end of the month that they are expecting.

In addition to budgeting, don't be afraid to find out if you have raise in the future by asking your boss at the right moment. You also want to make sure your itemize your debt and start looking long and hard at the ones with the highest rates or that are dangerously close to your credit limit (think credit card balance of $4,900 with a limit of $5,000).

All of what you plan is a moot point if you don't set the goals and ultimately track how you're doing. Writing out a budget means little if you don't “audit” yourself after three months to see just how well you're doing with it. Yes, this means you'll be putting in a lot of proverbial leg work work, but the end result should justify your actions.

You'll be one step closer to being out of debt but more so finding a balance financially that was sorely lacking.


Loan Inducing: Paying back student loan debt should be priority despite rates

The conflicting arguments as it relates to debt and student loans centers on the interest rate versus the monthly payment and how someone can manage their budget accordingly.

Those who remain steadfast that the student loan isn't a priority pertaining to paying off debt focus their attention on the typical low interest rates in comparison to other potential debt you might have. Credit cards immediately come to mind since they'll typically have a 10% interest rate at minimum, while others can go as high as 30%.

When it comes to student loans, what really needs discussed, however, is the monthly payment that is factored into your budget, and, quite frankly, if that total amount is large enough to wreak havoc on trying to save money or handle your additional expenses.

Plenty of would be graduates spend their fair share of borrowed money on college, counting books, tuition and housing. The result often is a monthly student loan payment that can mirror the total cost of a mortgage payment, leaving you with very little wiggle room to pay for other pertinent items like food, gas, rent and even a car payment.

And with that, the poor college student moniker continues beyond the four years of schooling.

Refinancing isn't an option, so the better option is throwing as much time, effort and money at your student loan as possible. What you don't want to do is fall in the trap of deferring your loan (unless it is absolutely necessary) or going on a payment plan that has you paying a fraction of your monthly payment, since that total amount is only you paying back your interest on the loan for the time being.

The goal is to treat the student loan the same way you'd approach a credit card, particularly since the school loan carries with it a monumental monthly payment. Like any debt, student loans come with sacrificing to get that burden off your back faster than 10-15 years, the average time a student loan is repaid.

You may want to cut out expenses like eating out at restaurants, cell phone data plans or cable television when Netflix, Hulu or streaming will do the same for a fraction of the cost. Any extra income you have at the end of the month should be put toward the student loan. You have to remember that the student loan won't go away quietly or quickly unless you put some real effort into paying it down.


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