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Money Blog

Dec 9, 2011
07:55 AM

Rededicate Yourself to Financial Health

During the holiday season, carve out time to strengthen your financial situation

Rededicate Yourself to Financial Health

B.L.A.C. Reader:  If I didn’t meet my financial goals this year, what should I do differently next year to be more successful?

Bridgforth: Whether or not you achieved your New Year’s resolutions in 2011, you likely became more knowledgeable about your financial life. Recognize, assess and use this year’s experiences as a step toward reaching a higher level of wisdom and financial standing in 2012.

December is traditionally a time for exuberant holiday spirit—shopping and more shopping, get-togethers with friends and family, consumption of delectable food and drinks. And, yes, more shopping!

As a money coach, it is also the time when I encourage my clients to do a year-end financial assessment. It’s a time to evaluate how far they’ve progressed on goals and resolutions set in January, and to figure out what should be focused on in the coming year.

No doubt, an assessment can make a person feel anxious. Who wants to think about financial solvency and strategy in the midst of holiday festivities? But we need benchmarks to stay on track throughout the year. A financial checkup can be the wake up call needed to make positive changes.

During this month, I suggest that you:

  • Assess your total debt by listing all loan balances, credit limits, monthly payments and interest rates.
  • Compare these numbers to where they were when the year began.

Some people have more opportunity than others to reduce expenses and grow their income based on the type of job they hold or business they own. Whatever your circumstance, explore your options and think holistically. We all have talents and God-given gifts that can be used to improve our financial situations. Whether or not we use them is a choice.

As part of your assessment, ask yourself how well you used your talents over the course of the year. And evaluate if you did a good job of managing your time as well as your money.

Maybe you reduced your debt by 25 percent. If so, that’s fantastic. If you experienced improvements not readily apparent from looking about your bank statement, were they spiritual? Did you increase your faith in financial favor? Or perhaps they were emotional. Did you end a personal relationship that was blocking your financial success?

Whatever the results of your year-end assessment are, get ready to start fresh in 2012. Begin with these actions:

  • Be aware of your current financial standing.
  • Be willing to admit the need for guidance and direction.
  • Seek the necessary resources that can help you achieve your dreams and desires.

Even if your current financial circumstance feels dire, daunting and deficient, there is help. Others have overcome whatever you are going through and you can, too.

How to Get Rid of Debt

  1. Become clear about why you want to get out of debt. Choose something that will motivate you to stay disciplined, such as the desire for a new home or to start a business.
  2. Pay your bills on time. This will increase your credit score, which will lower your interest rates, so more of your payment will go toward principal and pay off debt sooner.
  3. Stop creating new debt. Commit to buying things only if you have enough cash available to cover the price. Ask your creditors to lower your interest rates, which will reduce your expenses.
  4. Make minimum payments on all credit cards, except the one with the lowest balance. Pay as much as you can toward that account each month until the balance is paid off. Then use all the money you would have paid on that credit card bill to pay higher-than-minimum payments monthly on your next largest credit card debt.
  5. Increase your income by working overtime, getting a part-time job or start a home-based business. Apply all extra income to your debt.

GLINDA BRIDGFORTH IS THE AUTHOR OF “GIRL, GET YOUR CREDIT STRAIGHT!” AND FOUNDER OF BRIDGFORTH FINANCIAL AND ASSOCIATES, LLC.

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