When you feel like everyday is a struggle and your financial situation has never looked worse. Remember you are not alone. There are so many people out there that can relate to your financial struggles. Many choose not to talk about their money problems out of fear or shame. Because of where I have been and because i want to help others struggling just as I am to pay down debt, I choose to be honest and speak out. My husband and I still struggle at times with our finances because it is easy to fall back into our old ways. In all honesty though I can definitely say that I have come a long way from where I was back in my college days.

What caused the financial strain I have dealt with since college?

I was alone in my financial struggles as a young confused college student. I believe that I am not the only one who is experiencing or has experienced this same financial struggle after college. I know that the debt issues and college money mistakes at the beginning of my own money story, are far more common than anyone wants to admit. I can relate to not being able to afford food, not being able to afford my bills and nights spent crying alone as I tried so hard to handle the mess I had created. So this is why I want to encourage others who are in that same place to keep believing in a brighter future and keep working hard towards your goals.

If you have more bills than money to cover your bills, then you can understand the pain that I felt trying to cope. Credit cards became a way of life for me as I began to cope with not having the money to fund a life on my own. I want to make sure young people understand that this is not a good option, and that credit card usage is dangerous and tricky. Knowing when and how to use a credit card is a skill to be learned and should be a lesson taught prior to any credit card being issued. I wish financial education was more important today than it is, and I wish more high school and college aged students would be reached with this message before it is too late.

Whether we are young or old most of us are not strangers to financial struggles. Very few of us are born into money, and most of us do not have a lot to of experience in handling money. My best advice for each of us in dealing with our finances is to create a personalized budget, work hard where you are right now and save, save, save. Financial management is not easy and this is why it is far less common to be good at managing their finances. It is much easier to spend than it is to save in our world which is driven by advertising and consumerism. Saying no to things we want is not natural and is often hard to do. To begin to make a difference in your financial situation, you must start today to make a plan and change your mindset.

Six important things you need to start today

1. You need to make a personal budget and stick to it. You need to account for every dollar coming in and every dollar going out and make your money work for you.
2. Decrease your expenses and eliminate unnecessary spending. You can do this in various ways but start by looking at your overall budget and find the areas that you can decrease.

3. You may need to make unpopular lifestyle changes. This may mean turning down dinner with a friend, canceling your cable, decreasing your phone data plan and not using it is much, declining invites to things that will cost you money you cannot afford. Each of our situations are different but these are just examples of some ways that you may need to make these changes.

4. Do not expect an easy way out because getting out of debt is hard work. Plain and simple it will be difficult at times and sometimes you will fail and sometimes you will argue with yourself and make excuses. Stand firm and keep working towards your goal.

5. The reality is that you may need to work more hours, pick up a second job or money making hobby. If this is an option it definitely is a good idea to start increasing your income in some way big or small. Each person has a different situation and a second job may not always fit into everyone’s schedule. Be creative if this is the case and look for other ways to increase income. Ask for a raise, pick up some overtime when you can, find some babysitting/ dog sitting/ house sitting side jobs, look for something you are good at that can become a side hustle and start that.

6. Begin to build your savings account / emergency fund. This is so important and I can honestly say this from experience. When I was young I never had any savings and I was constantly using credit cards when money ran out. What I did not realize is although I never had extra money it was my money management that was mainly responsible. I spent on things that were not helpful like buying dinner at work when I could have packed a lunch. I also made the mistake of not paying attention to my phone minutes and roaming charges and my phone bill would frequently be out of control. These were missed opportunities to get ahead and all because I failed to plan. My best advice for beginners to start a savings account or emergency fund is from my own experience. 4 years ago I started a savings challenge for the first time and that was the first time that I was ever able to save a significant amount and not spend it. Why did this challenge work for me when nothing else had? It was slow and steady and helped making saving money fun for me. The challenge I started with was the 52 week money challenge but you could do any money challenge just to jump start your savings. Start with the one that is the most comfortable and challenge yourself more as you go along. Commit to not touching this money no matter what comes along during that first year.

Keep in mind that you did not get into the debt you put yourself in over night and you will not get out of debt overnight either. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to deal with the mistakes you made. Begin to work hard developing a game plan for paying off your debt and building up your savings account. Creating a budget and beginning to monitor your spending more closely are very important in beginning to get your finances on track. The tips I have given above should help you to start out with the basics of beginning to get your financial situation under control.