Are you struggling under a mountain of debt? Is your budget strained to the breaking point? Do you worry about retirement and paying for your kids’ college education?
The average American adult has more than $60,000 worth of debt. That includes mortgages, credit cards, and student loans.
We could all stand to be smarter about money, so take a minute and read this article. We’ll address the most common money questions.
1. I Need to Create an Emergency Fund!
An emergency fund is extra money that you put aside for unexpected expenses. Funeral costs for a loved one, sudden car repairs, and unemployment are all situations where you would need to have some money saved up.
It’s not difficult to create an emergency fund but you may need to make some small sacrifices. Check your budget for places where you can save a few dollars at a time: we promise, your savings will add up.
Do you get coffee to go? That’s $4 per cup times 30 days in a month or $120 per month. If you make your own coffee at home you’ll be spending less than $0.50 per cup.
Do you smoke cigarettes? If you spend $8 per pack, that’s $240 per month. If you quit smoking or decide to roll your own cigarettes, you’ll be saving at least $200 per month.
In general, you should have three months’ worth of expenses saved in a high-yield savings account. Experts sometimes recommend having six months’ worth put aside, but that’s up to you.
2. My Kid is Going to College Soon!
You may be feeling the pressure to send your son or daughter to an expensive, out-of-state college. You want the best for them, after all.
The price of college, however, can be more than $40,000 per year – and that’s before books and housing! Ask National Debt Relief has some great tips on consolidating your debt and finessing your budget. You might also want to get a part-time job or look into work-study options for your child.
The good news about college is that there are often low-cost options in your own backyard. Community colleges charge a fraction of the price that liberal arts colleges do: your son or daughter can transfer their credits after a year or two.
Scholarships are also an option. Internet searches for college scholarships are worthwhile: you might turn up some unexpected leads.
Don’t feel like you have to shoulder the entire cost of college. Your child will have money questions, and the answer might be that they have to find a job and go to school part-time. They will build character and their degree will mean more to them.
3. I Want to Own a Home!
Are you really ready to own a home? There are some benefits to renting, and many Millennials are choosing to rent rather than buy.
You may want to own a home, but what if your job transfers you to another city? You could be stuck with a home that’s hard to sell, trying to make connections from hundreds of miles away.
Homes often appreciate in value, but what if you need to put a lot of money into repairing your home? If you rent, the landlord is going to have to foot those bills.
Renting an apartment or house is a lot like leasing a car. When you lease a car, you have a monthly payment, but every three years you get a brand new car. You never pay for upkeep because it’s always covered by your warranty.
When you rent, you’re not responsible for any repairs. You can move whenever you want, so if you find an apartment closer to your work you can just pick up and go.
If you’re not ready for the financial impact of owning a home, take your time and rent for a few years. Put together the money for a deposit so you’ll have a smaller home loan when the time arrives.
4. I Need a Loan to Pay My Bills!
If you find that your bills are larger than your income, it may be the time to get another job. Find a job that you can do for 10 to 15 hours per week, preferably from home. You may find that a local company needs to have a few blogs written per week, or that you can get paid for taking care of a family member.
Whatever you do, don’t get drawn in to the payday loan cycle. You could end up paying more than $850 on a $375 loan. You don’t want to do anything to reinforce the cycle of poverty: you want to break it.
If you’re behind on your rent, see if you can break up the back payment into smaller amounts. Pay the full amount of rent every month, plus a $50 back payment. Your landlord may not go for it, but you’ll never know unless you ask.
Downsizing is always an option. If you’re in a house, think about going to an apartment. If you drive, can you take public transportation?
You might be surprised to find that you can get clothing at deeply discounted rates at your local thrift store, and that books can also be found used online.
More Money Questions
Learning to save money can be tough, but once you’ve established your emergency fund you’ll be able to invest in your retirement.
It’s vital to have money put aside for retirement, and the earlier you start, the better. If you’re in your 40s and haven’t started saving yet, you might want to meet with a debt counselor to answer all your money questions.
If downsizing isn’t an option, then you’ll probably have to get another job. There are dozens of free classes online that can prepare you for popular jobs: computer programming, writing, and advertising.
Should I invest in the stock market? Should I invest in real estate? Should I buy a house? Should I buy a new car or a used one? These are all valid questions, but the answer depends on what you think is best.