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Minimum Effort: Making minimum payments won’t help debt issues

Credit experts will argue one of the keys to keeping your credit score afloat is to always make your payments on time, even if that means minimum payments only.

While that mindset ultimately is true, you can’t assume that those barely there payments are going to lead to getting out of debt any time soon. Now, if the argument is whether you should pay your bill on time or not, the answer is quite simple.

You always want to pay on time, even if it’s the bare bones.

But for those who struggle with making the minimum payment in that you’re tired of not getting ahead or having that minimum barely cover the interest, you need to develop a new game plan moving forward to tackle that debt once and for all.

If you have multiple debt or sources of debt, you want to think about the interest rate first, and not so much the balance. The best plan of attack would be to find the account with the highest interest rate and make as much of a payment on that one as possible, paying that one down first.

Some will say you should take that approach with the lowest balance first, pay that off and then move on to the next highest balance. But if you stop to think about it, you have to look at the bigger picture and that your interest is killing any chance you have of doing anything except treading water.

That minimum payment won’t do much, and if you have three credit cards for instance that you pay $50 per month on and the average interest month to month is $37 for example, you’re only paying a net of $13 per card. Instead, take that $150 you’re spending on three and put a $100 toward one with the highest rate and $25 to the others. You need to start thinking not so much about dividing and conquering but rather setting your sights on that one account that is going to disappear a lot faster when you take into account that you’re spending above and beyond the minimum because it has an interest rate that is double what the others are.

Having trouble making any payments at all should lead you to some sort of credit counseling service, but if you have the means, make more than the minimum on those accounts or lines of credit that are creeping along and actually costing you more but just barely making a payment.

Tracks Star: Keeping tabs on all your spending is true budgeting

Plenty of good standing, financially competent individuals sit back and are in awe of their budget. But is it truly a budget that is true to spending and will result in saving?

The fact remains is that budgeting is only as good as just how specific it is, down to the last cup of coffee or pack of gum you have had.

Your budget should be a spreadsheet, with particular attention to all that you are spending.

So maybe you don’t have to get down to the last penny per say, but you’re kidding yourself if you believe your budget should only consist of the major players. That would be the car payment, the utilities and your house. Sure, you’ll add in the credit card bills and car insurance, but what about the extras that you tend to overlook.

You have your cable and phone bill, right? That should be part of your budget without question, but what about when you order a few movies every month or go over your allotted data plan for the cell phone. You have to keep in mind that the $160 flat rate for the cable and another $100 for the phone could change to $220 and $150 pretty easily, and that’s $110 per month you’re not figuring into your budget, roughly a little more than $1,300 per year. You can’t overlook those types of expenses; they’re too significant and go well beyond the aforementioned pack of gum.

What this does, your specificity to your budget is two fold.

Not only do you have a better handle on what you’re spending but you can learn to budget in way that doesn’t restrict you to much. The problem with a budget is that those who have it down to a science forget that they’re a person who needs to have some income to do things they enjoy.

By making it a point to include all that you are spending, you can begin to cut expenses that make room for vacations, shopping and other things you enjoy doing with your money. Making a budget too restrictive is counter productive, and will lead to overspending and forgetting about the budget entirely.

Making sure your budget stays true to your day to day life only is going to serve to totally get the big picture about your finances but lead to more saving when you have your spending down to a science.

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