Sometimes the pressure of monthly bills can make you feel like you’re losing control of your personal financial situation.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released a comprehensive list of strategies and advice to help you prevent a catastrophic financial breakdown. Here’s a breakdown of those money-management tips.
Start with a plan. Make a list of all bills and due dates to help you visually assess your financial obligations.
To help get a total picture of your monthly bills, set up a calendar to identify the weeks you have the most money due. The CFPB has a template you can use.
Use the calendar to weigh the risks of falling behind on each different bill. While not ideal, this may prevent you from losing your car or house, having utilities shut off or getting into serious default on a loan.
Try calling your creditors if you think you’re going to miss a payment. If you’re in good standing, they may be willing to negotiate a repayment plan. Often, they will set up a reasonable schedule and forgive damaging late fees.
Keep in mind, ignoring bills can lead to repossession, foreclosure, negative marks on your credit score, higher interest rates and/or denial on future loans.
Track your spending for a month or two. With close attention, many homeowners discover the places they’re hemorrhaging money. Dining out, TV services and frequent specialty beverages are often the culprits. The CFPB has a budget worksheet and spending tracking tool to help you get started.
The average consumer pays $1,000 a year in credit card interest. Work hard to decrease and eliminate those high-interest debts.
Don’t borrow to pay off debt. Short-term payday loan services can create a vicious cycle of recurring debt, just making things worse.
Beware of any for-profit debt relief or settlement company that:
Promises to pay off your debts “for pennies on the dollar”
Charges fees before it settles your debts
Guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away
Tells you to stop communicating with a creditor
Staying in control when bills pile up can help you plan and make the best decisions.