It was way past midnight and I sat on my living floor staring at the now categorized piles of bills and expenses. It was the very first time I would look at my financial situation entirely.
I remember asking myself how did this all happen? What did I do wrong? What did I even buy with these credit cards? I finally had the realization that I had lost control.
I was living way above my means.
I remember feeling lightheaded. My palms began to sweat and I felt ready to pass out. I kept digging through the stack of bills and notices. And now beads of sweat were trickling down my forehead. I could feel my heart racing and with each beat, the sound got louder.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to calm myself down.
It was at that moment I acknowledged my role in my personal financial disaster. And also accepted my role in getting myself out of it.
Since that time, I’ve been on a mission to live financially well and to share the journey with others.
In my book, You Only Live Once, I shared the concept of being “In the know.” It’s a concept that reinforces my belief that financial ignorance isn’t bliss. The less you know the more you pay.
The first step to prevent a personal financial disaster is to accept an active role in managing your money.
How to Prevent Another Personal Financial Disaster
When it comes to preventing a personal financial disaster, it’s best to focus on tracking and monitoring your finances, reducing your overall living expenses, and having multiple and diversified income streams.
1. Use financial tracking apps.
Allocate enough time to properly audit your finances (income and expenses). This process is typically known as budgeting. List your sources of income and all your bills. Understand where your money is going and how it’s being spent. This process helps you acknowledge your current finances. You can use a simple spreadsheet or a financial management tool. Apps such as Mint.com or Empower Assistant can help you track your finances. Check the financial marketplace for the right financial tracking tool for your situation.
2. Monitor your credit.
Stay on top of your credit by requesting your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com and by using a credit report monitoring service. You want to be aware of how credit works and various ways to fix your report and improve your score. A higher score can mean better rates and terms when financing, borrowing and consolidating. Using free credit report monitoring services can help you stay on top of key changes to your report.
3. Audit your financial relationships.
Ask yourself if your current financial relationships are serving your best interest. List all your financial relationships and research the accounts you have with them, the fees you’ve paid, and the additional services they offer. It may be time to switch and take advantage of better rates, lower fees, newer technology, and greater customer service.
4. Negotiate your monthly bills.
The best way to lower the amount of money you need is to reduce the number of bills you have. List and call every single service provider. Request a review of your account and inquire about ways to reduce your monthly bill. You can enlist the help of artificial-intelligent apps that negotiate your bills.
5. Shop for new services and cancel old subscriptions.
If you’re not successful in negotiating, then shop around for new services with promotional offers. This includes shopping around for quotes for your auto insurance or cellphone service. You may also cancel old subscriptions. There are financial assistant apps that can help you find old subscriptions that have skirted your sight and cancel them for you.
6. Consolidate debt and lower interest payments.
High-interest rate debt can leave a sizeable impact on your monthly cash flow. Consider consolidating your multiple high-interest credit card debts into one new loan. Contact your primary bank or credit union about your loan options. But also look at alternative lenders that may have more favorable terms. With student loans, calculate if refinancing can help save you money.
7. Sell unused or low-use items.
Start by cleaning your home of items you no longer use. Turn that stuff into cash to help you start or build up the emergency fund. You can sell your stuff online or with apps. There are many options that connect you to buyers ready to give you cash for your stuff. Check out the financial marketplace for ideas on how to sell your stuff for money.
8. Join the gig economy.
Make money by offering your skills and providing services. You can use your car to make deliveries or drive people. Why not offer your professional skills in freelancer marketplaces for those seeking writers, designers, and programmers. And you could also help people complete tasks such as cleaning a garage or putting furniture together. Read creative ways to supplement your income.
9. Start a business.
There are people who may want a product you created or need a skill you possess. Consider offering these products and skills to potential customers. You might also consider starting a blog to make money sharing your interests. When it comes to businesses start small and take it one step at a time. Don’t spend money you don’t have. A good rule of thumb is to get your first paying customer or client before you spend money on business cards.