The “plastic zone” is a scary place. But you’re not alone. There are millions of people today living the same mysterious life in the plastic zone. Remember green money? You know,It’s elementary My Dear Watson Articles that green paper with presidents proudly displayed on them. They have virtually disappeared from the “plastic zone.” Is real Money a foreign object to you? Is the balance of your checking account mysteriously stuck at Zero? It’s time to solve the mystery.
You don’t have to be a financial wizard to solve this mystery. And you certainly don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes. You see it really is an elementary concept. If you ask any elementary school student they’ll tell you that you can’t take 10 from 5.
There can be no negative integers in this equation. Simply put, you can’t spend more than you have! You have to fit your “living” within your “means.”
For most of us living in the plastic zone, this means making some serious changes in our spending habits. It seems an impossible feat to reduce debt while still building a foundation for your financial security and independence. It Can Be Done! And it is “elementary my dear Watson!”
KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES!
~The first step is to realize where your money goes. How are you spending it? This requires a little recording keeping but is not difficult. Simply write down every purchase you make, that is not a monthly bill, for at least a week. This includes every check, debit, credit card, and cash transaction made (if married, your spouse must do this also). When finished sort these into appropriate categories to plug into your budget later. For example; dining out, lunch at work, groceries, coffee, gasoline, snacks, well you get the idea.
~Second lets tackle that debt. The monkey on your back will always insist on being fed until you take control of your money and say NO MORE! Make a commitment to stop using the credit. You must make a decision to invest in yourself from now on. Not the credit card companies. Take control by knowing what you owe , what you’re paying, and how much it is costing you. Make a list. Include Creditors Name, Amount Owed, Interest Rate, Current Minimum Monthly Payment.
Add up all of your current minimum monthly payments. This is your monthly debt reduction payment for the life of the debt. You will pay this consistent amount each month until the debt is paid in full. Roll down freed up monies from one creditor to the next as accounts are paid. For example: your list of payments include a visa you must currently pay $80 per month. You will make that $80 payment regardless of the minimum due (unless for some reason the payment goes up) until the debt is paid. When it is paid you will take that $80 and apply to another creditors monthly payment. This is the secret to paying them off before you die! And, still have time to enjoy a debt free lifestyle.
~Next, you have to write down regular monthly expenses. Things like the mortgage, cable, phone, electric, car payment,. Any expense that you pay every month. Insurance payments can be included if you pay monthly payments instead of a lump sum. Some of these expenses may not be the same each month ( like the electric bill). You should figure an average monthly amount for these. If your provider offers a budget plan where your payment can be a consistent amount each month, this makes budgeting these bills much easier. So do it!
~Now figure in the variable expenses. These are things like car maintenance, home maintenance, property taxes, income taxes, insurance’s that are not paid monthly, pet care (vet bills, and medicines), your family’s medical expenses (physician co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions (or prescription co-pays). Go through your financial records and write down every expense you can find that did not occur on a regular monthly basis. When you’re done, add the total amounts for the year, divide by twelve, and this will give you an estimate of what you should be setting aside each month to budget these expenses. This is a variable expense monthly allowance to be included in your budget as a monthly expense. You set aside this amount each month (maybe in a savings or second checking account).