If you regularly spend more money than you make, you have company. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data, Americans’ total household debt rose $193 billion to a record $13.15 trillion at the end of 2017. Among the contributors: credit card balances shot up 3.2% for the year.
Start with a Budget
If you are in debt, overspending is likely one of the causes. Make a few small- to medium-sized purchases here and there without a plan and it’s easy to see how debt accumulates. To stop this trend, start with a budget. Chronicle every penny that goes out for one month and compare it to what comes in — your income. Use this information to establish a budget, cutting enough expenses to make what goes out match what comes in.
Next, develop a plan to tame your credit card spending. If you don’t carry your cards, you can’t use them when entering a store or restaurant. Is online spending your problem? No problem, if you put your cards in a safe place that is out of reach when the impulse-spending urge strikes. If credit cards are the main culprit of your overspending and you carry large balances, paying down these cards can pay off in the form of lower interest rates as your credit score improves.
In an Emergency
Unexpected and expensive vehicle repairs happen. So do home repairs, healthcare bills and even unemployment. To help defray most or all of your unexpected expenses, create an emergency fund, preferably one that covers six to 12 months of everyday expenses. But even a smaller fund is better than none. Put something away and don’t forget to budget for it, contributing to the fund at least as often as you would pay a monthly utility bill.