Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Managing Debt for Financial Freedom

Financial Freedom – It’s All About Managing the Here-and-Now
By Barry Page

To help achieve financial freedom we need to manage how we spend our money. This may require us to make small shifts in our spending habits today in order to reap big rewards tomorrow.

One way to help secure bigger rewards over time is to control and manage the here-and-now. For those who find it difficult to pass up the corner gourmet coffee shop, read on.

I’m not professing to create a budget; I think budgets are limiting. Better yet, I think you should create a spending plan. Think of your money as a means to an end. What’s important to you and how can you get there. If you want the money to be there in the future, then you need to manage it today.

Think of the following items you may spend money on every day and how, by making “exchanges” in your spending, you may be able to save a little more for the future. It’s all about maximizing the “equation of exchange”.

1. Credit Cards: There is a lot that goes into determining the interest rate you pay on a credit card. The credit card rate you pay is determined by adding a “spread” to a “base rate”. The spread that is used to calculate your rate is usually determined by your credit history. A less than great credit history may result in a spread 2-3 percentage points higher than someone with a better credit history. So it’s important to maintain a good credit rating. Consider calling your credit card company and asking for a reduced rate; if need be, transfer your current balances to a lower rate card.

2. Phones: I’m not going to recommend you get rid of your cell phone, house phone or cable line. I do suggest you review your phone plans to ensure you have the best plan for your needs. For example, for cell phone users who use the same vendor, you may be able to call each other without being charged airtime or usage. Additionally, review your monthly phone bills to determine how many minutes you actually use; you may be better off reducing the number of minutes.

3. Mortgages and Auto Loans: Experts generally recommend if you can reduce your interest rate by 1 or 2 points on your auto or home loan, and recoup any related closing costs, you may be better off to refinance the loan at the lower rate. Another consideration is to make biweekly payments instead of monthly payments on your mortgage. The lender will receive the money faster and in the future, you should have the loan behind you.

4. Gourmet Coffee: Are you one of those folks who stand in line to order gourmet coffee. At a whopping cost of about $3.00 per cup, instead of buying 4 a day, reduce it to 2. This little spending reduction will save you over $2,000 in one year!

5. Charging vs. Paying Cash: Do you charge just about everything you buy? If you find yourself reaching for the plastic, stop and consider what that convenience is costing you. When making small purchases, pay cash. Paying cash helps with managing your expenditures and over time, becomes a way of life.

6. Student Loans: Are you still paying off student loans? Consider consolidating them into one manageable bill. While this will probably extend the payment period, you may lock in a lower rate. For example, if you’ve already graduated and consolidate your loans by July 1, 2006, you can lock in a 5.375% rate for the life of the loan. Additionally, graduates who consolidate during their grace period (the six months before you have to start making monthly payments) can lock in a rate as low as 4.75%.

Now that you’ve hopefully freed up some money, don’t go running to the closest gourmet coffee shop and purchase a latte with sprinkles. Save the money and take one step closer to financial freedom.

Barry Page is a financial consultant with Legacy Insurance Agency, PLLC
a subsidiary of the
Shield Financial Group
2600 Government Street
Ocean Springs, MS 39564
(228) 875-5545

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