The word 'essential' has been used more over the past few months than ever before. I never thought I'd see the day when our government has taken it upon itself to deem some of us essential and some of us non-essential. These are indeed confusing and frustrating times. The financial struggle Americans face is very real, very sad and very scary.
When your world is upside down and tangled in knots it is important to first find an end of the rope that you can grab onto and start to begin untangling. Anyone that has had a long piece of rope or twine that has become completely knotted knows how difficult and maddening it can be to go through the untangling process. Often we want to just throw the darn thing away and start over with a new one. But this is your life and you can't throw it away so you need to suck it up, grab an end of the rope and start the process of removing all the knots. The reward at the end is amazing and you'll be sure not to do what you did before to get that rope tangled up again.
If you are currently in dire straits financially please remember that there is HOPE. Making smart money choices is critical right now and you need a plan to untie the knotted mess. You have to look at your entire financial situation. Even if you can not afford to cover all your monthly expenses you can still decide who to pay and what to pay. Remember YOU are in control of your money NOT your creditors.
Protecting your 4 Essentials is a must above all else. Food, Shelter, Clothing and Transportation. If you can't afford to pay all your bills, these get paid first!
*Food: Buy basic. Maybe you are used to eating out a lot, buying expensive brands at the grocery store or insisting on eating only organic. Buying basic right now is the smart choice. Shop at stores and buy brands and products you can afford. Check out your local food banks and coops. If you are a lover and supporter of eating organic, know that if you have to eat non-organic for the time being you will be okay. It's summer. If possible support your local farmers and growers. Head to the farmers markets. The product is typically more affordable, fresh, healthy and delicious. And stop eating out! This is so important. I know we all want to support our local businesses now more than ever, but you and your family come first. Just remember to shop at places and buy products you can afford.
*Shelter: You need a roof over your head. Pay your mortgage or rent and utilities. Utilities include electricity, water, gas. Not cable, internet, expensive smart phones and video games.
*Clothing: Buy basic. Shop at thrift stores and other more affordable stores. You can shop smart and still look good.
*Transportation: Do NOT take out a loan for a vehicle. Pay cash. If you have a vehicle you can not afford, sell it and buy an affordable one. Again, buy basic. Nothing fancy. There are a ton of reliable, used vehicles for sale right now and sellers are willing to negotiate on price. If it runs well, has no major issues and gets good gas mileage that's all you need. There are good buys out there. Be a smart buyer.
Protect your 4 Essentials first. You and your family come first. If there is money left over then you pay your creditors. If you are worried about your creditors remember that they can not garnish your wages without a court order. Creditors would have to sue you, go to court and then wait for the outcome. Typically you can negotiate with them before that happens. The exceptions to the wage garnishing rule are student loans and taxes. I'm not saying you should avoid your creditors. If you have debt you need to pay it. But you are in control of your money not them. And you need a plan to keep untangling that knotted mess. Get on a budget. Direct every penny. Every month.
Change can be terrifying and extremely uncomfortable. But difficult financial times call for difficult financial choices. Sacrifices. Learning to know the difference between a need vs. a want. And learning to be comfortable with paying for the needs and passing on the wants. Most importantly being able to implement smart money choices.
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