Down to the Penny

De-cluttering your finances.

by Amanda LeBlanc

It’s tax time, which causes anxiety and stress for many. We always promise ourselves that next year we will be better organized. I always say, “Financial disorganization is the worst disorganization.” If you are looking for a place to start organizing your life, look at your finances first. Debt, late fees, and not knowing where your money is being spent can cause an anxiety like no other.

Why do people get into debt? Business, medical emergencies, and (the biggest reason) we want something that we can’t afford.

Everyday people pull out a credit card and buy something they just have to have, but can’t afford. We can only blame ourselves for this debt, but we live in a materialistic society. The pressure to buy more and more is very real. No one is trying to keep up with the Jones anymore, everyone is trying to be the Jones. I see more parents sacrificing their financial freedom and stability to care for their kids. We all want the best for our children, whether it is to give them a good home, top-notch education or other opportunities. Sometimes in an effort to provide, we spend money we know we don’t have. It seems so easy to swipe a card and worry about it later. The problem is, debt snowballs. If you don’t have the money now, how will you pay the credit card companies as the bills begin to trickle in?

Over the past 10 years, I have helped many families organize their finances. I look at their income and expenses to see where the disconnect is, then we create a plan to help them gain financial freedom.

I once worked with a lady to get her finances in order and asked her, “How much debt are you comfortable with?” The answer was very telling. She was comfortable with $9,000 and not a penny more. Then, we went through all of her bills and statements. At the end of the meeting, I asked her, “Are you comfortable with $27,000 of credit card debt?” She gasped, “Never!” Her debt included three credit cards, each with a balance of $9,000, which led to such an eye opening experience for her. Circumstances like this are not uncommon.

Everyone needs to know that there is a way out and a better way of living. Imagine for a moment that you have your home paid for at 40 and never have to worry about someone taking that away from you. The rewards of financial organization far outweigh the momentary happiness of buying a dress or a car or whatever else it is that cause you to go into debt. So, how do we get organized?

1. Stop the spending.

2. Get a grasp on your monthly income and expenses.

3. Create a budget .

4. Learn to say no! Even to those sweet babies who we want to give the world to. You will do them a bigger favor by teaching them about money.

5. Stick with the plan. Getting out of debt is not quick, nor easy, but if you stick with it, the rewards will be great.

I have been very open with my kids about money. It’s important for kids to know that you make a finite amount of money each month and have to prioritize how it is spent. I have given my kids insight on the family grocery budget. I take them to the store and let them help choose what we need to spend it on. I have also put them in the position of seeing that when you reach the budget there are decisions to be made, including putting something back. My kids are 7 and 9. They get it, sometimes more than adults do. But you have to be honest with them and with yourself.

If you feel like you can’t stick with your budget or get a handle on your debt, then get help! If you were drowning, would you not ask for a lifesaver? There are apps and computer programs, as well as professional organizers and financial planners that can help you get back on your feet and hold you accountable to make the changes you need to make. Good Luck!•

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