One of the largest problems that Americans face is the fact that our priorities have changed. We’ve evolved into a group of people that can’t seperate want from need. Another problem is easy credit. It is astounding to see how much credit card debt so many people are in. And I’m not talking about having a small $100 or $200 balance – I’m talking about tens of thousands in the hole. I also feel that we’re not giving all that much incentive to save our money. Interest rates have plummeted, you can’t get a good CD rate anymore, and you’re taxed on the interest you make anyway!
I have many suggestions which can hopefully help others out.
1) credit card debt – if you have multiple credit cards, select your highest interest card and start making it a priority to pay it off. The more times that balance rolls over at that rate, the more overwhelming that debt is going to be. Try an experiment: don’t use your credit card or debit card for a month; pay by cash only. I’ll bet that once you have to physically shell out the money for something, you’ll be more careful about purchases, and will start asking yourself if you really need that item.
2) Set priorities – this goes hand in hand with #1. What is more important: making $100 principle payment towards credit card (or other) debt, or having your nails done? Do you really need to be making that $250 a month payment on that new SUV? Couldn’t an economy car have sufficed? Etc..
3) Shopping – Don’t be afraid to use coupons! If the manufacture wants to have you take $0.50 off an item, let them! Don’t be afraid of generics, most of the time they’re as good as the products that they are resembling. No one should have to pay $6 just to have a box of cereal with the Post logo on it. Be careful of the x amount for x $. Do the math on some of the deals, oftentimes, it doesn’t work out to be such a great deal after all, and you could have bought twice the amount of generic for the same or less cost.
4) Never, ever pull money out of your 401k or IRA before you’re eligible. The taxes, fees, and penalties aren’t worth it. It would probably be cheaper to get a small loan from the bank than it would be to cash out all or even part of your retirement.
Lastly, good old fashion common sense. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Read the fine print, and make sure you understand every last word before making financial decisions. Get second opinions if necessary to make sure you’re getting the correct information.