Start to deal with money stress by thoroughly understanding the ins and outs of your financial situation. If this is a daunting prospect, consider meeting with a fee-only financial advisor. You want someone who can look at your situation objectively and set up a specific money plan to help you achieve long-term goals, says money expert Laura D. Adams. Sites like GarrettPlanningNetwork.com can point you toward someone you can trust.
If you don't know how to figure out your long-term goals, a financial life coach might be able to help. These advisors work with you to identify your values and dreams, and then get them in line with your resources. A coach can also help you earn more money or stick to a budget. Coaching is not regulated, so choose carefully.
Web sites like Mint.com are an effective and safe way of getting a good picture of your finances. It takes about five minutes to sign up on Mint.com and input your account information, and then you can track your spending for free. The site automatically pulls information from your accounts, then charts it into easy-to-understand tables. From there, you can visualize your spending habits and set clear goals. Updates about your progress can even be sent to your phone.
Prefer jotting things down? Bill organizers will help keep your bills and receipts together in one easy-to-carry notebook. Never miss a due date or overdraw your account because you got your numbers mixed up.
As depicted by a new tax-law change, taxpayers claiming deductions must wait until mid to late February to file this year in order to allow the IRS enough time to reprogram its processing systems. And there’s a new deadline: April 18th (Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls on April 15th).
Use direct deposit to automatically divide your income amongst your checking and savings accounts. Set up alerts to be sent to your phone when you dip below a certain limit and easily transfer money in a single text message.
By co-signing a card, you are responsible for that person’s debt even if she dies. Avoid this by assigning authorized users to your card instead. While you’re still responsible for a user’s charges, you can set her credit limit or drop her from your account at any time.
Adams describes the difference between good debt and bad debt in her book, Money Girl'sSmart Moves to Grow Rich. Good debt, like a home mortgage, allows you to make money over time, while bad debt (like an auto loan) causes you to lose money. Prioritize eliminating bad debt based on interest rates and the length of the loan.
A cash emergency fund will help you avoid turning to expensive credit cards in times of financial crisis, like needing to pay a bigger-than-expected medical bill. Adams suggests maintaining at least six months to a year’s worth of expenses (depending on your job stability and family situation) in a fully liquid, FDIC-insured account.