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This one is for all the chicks wishing they ain’t have to strip just to pay tuition.

A thought that has crossed all of our minds at least once. Just know, I see your vision, mama.

To all the fellas, don’t even pretend you never considered doing something strange for a little change too, we’ve all been there.

We off that–this is your a crash course on how to get your money right. Today’s lesson is comprised of 5 simple tips to getting you back on track with your finances.

Some of us are in better shape than others, but these five tips can either help you get right or at the very least stay on the straight and narrow. This is not a guide on how to get rich (soon come) and it is most certainly not going to end all your financial woes, but what we can do is get you on track. So, let’s get started:

  1.   Write out your bills and due dates. Make note of monthly payments and balances. Organization is imperative. For consistent bills such as utilities, phone, or cable, just make note of the monthly payment and brainstorm ways to decrease the bills.

    This is solely at your discretion as some people can’t or won’t compromise on their phone bill plan, cable package/Netflix or hulu subscriptions, etc. But if you’re like me, you want to make sure you’re paying the absolute least and not getting waxed by unnecessary fees and add ons.

    What I like to do is call my cellphone provider and tell them that I have been a loyal customer for years and lately my bill has been out of control. They usually are quick to troubleshoot, applying all kinds of discounts I never knew existed.

    The name of the game is to never take bills at face value. There is usually a loophole to wiggle through and in the long run, it can add up to significant savings. This method does require a person who is a bit more stubborn and willing to push the envelope.

    If you are more passive, another way to relieve some tension on bill pay day is to stretch it out. So instead of paying the grand total of the monthly bill at once, pay half on one pay day and half on the next. This helped me a lot on bills that were making it impossible to eat, put gas in my car and pay a bill every first of the month.

    This method only works when you pay the bill early and then again on pay day. DO NOT pay bills late unless you absolutely have to. If this is the case, and you are worried about it damaging your credit, just know you have 15-30 days after a bill’s due date to pay before it can be reported to a collection agency and effect your credit.

    This is not a hall pass, though. You can still incur crazy interest rates and late fees by making late payments, so it is best to avoid late payments at all costs.

  2.   Know your credit score. There are three general types of credit, here they are ranked from worst to best: no credit, bad credit, and good credit. That’s right, having no credit is worse than having bad credit.

    A common misconception is that all credit is debt and bad for you. But avoiding credit can do more harm than good. With no credit history it is nearly impossible to get a home, a car, or any major life purchases and even some smaller ones!

    Establishing credit history is important and necessary. Living debt free is everyone’s preferred life but buying a car and a house in cash up front is not everyone’s reality. You need credit, but it does not necessarily mean you must live in debt.

    Knowing your credit score is important, having a credit score is important, credit is important!

    If you don’t have credit and would like to establish good credit, the best way is with a secured credit card (stay tuned for an article dedicated to credit cards). If you have bad credit, the best way is to look at your credit report (not score) and see what is the biggest impact on your score.

    For example, one way to have a bad credit score is by having a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and you have already charged $800 to it. That’s 80% of your credit being used. If you would like to raise your credit score, the best bet would be to get the balance to $300 or less or in other words, 30%.

    This may take a few months, but after you get your credit usage to 30%, keep it there for 6 months or more and you will see your credit score rise.

    Always remember: Building and repairing credit takes time, it will take anywhere from 3-9 months to see a change in your score. The longer you keep up the good habits, the better you will be in the long run so just keep at it!

  3.   Try the envelope budget! This helped me a lot when I was getting my finances back on track. After I got paid, I would immediately withdraw $500 from my account and put it in an envelope.

    (I prefer this over savings accounts because I don’t want to be penalized for using my money if I need to. BUT savings accounts collect interest, envelopes don’t, decide what is important to you)

    I would tuck away the $500 in an envelope marked savings and then withdraw $200 and divide it up amongst other envelopes. One would be marked food, the other would be gas, and the other would be miscellaneous. The rest of my paycheck was dedicated to bills.

    I could only spend the money in the envelopes and once it was gone, it was gone! This helped me in major ways because I always had control and never had to wait for transactions to clear or worry about overdraft.

    I also used any money I had left over to buy visa gift cards of $25 or put it in my Paypal or Cashapp account for a rainy broke day when I was in need, this way I never had to touch my savings. Another great budget tip: before I started the envelope budget, I spent the month prior just writing down every single transaction I made. In order to budget the right way you MUST know where your money is going.

    During this month, I didn’t budget or attempt to save money, I spent exactly how I would if I didn’t have a care in the world and recorded all of it. At the end of the month, I categorized my transactions for the past 4 weeks. After I saw where my money was going, I could decide where I could make adjustments and where I could not and it made my budget realistic, still challenging, but a lot more realistic.

    For example: I have a 30 minute commute to work every day, I can’t set my gas budget at $20 for the month if I am inevitably on the road for a minimum of 1 hour every single day, so, to increase my gas budget, I had to cut down somewhere else and I kept making tweaks and adjustments until I decided on numbers that made the most sense to me and my situation.

    The only way a budget can work is if you are realistic about your goals, obligations, and responsibilities.

  4.   Find your means, live there. The only thing retail therapy doesn’t cure is brokenness. It absolutely sucks, but you can live without new shoes, new clothes, alcohol, etc.

    Going broke just to look like you got it is probably the single handed worst thing a person can do, it is financial suicide. Cutting out those bad spending habits are a quick fix to an old problem. Instead of going out, paying a cover charge, paying for alcohol, paying an Uber, or paying for the late night Waffle House; stay in, invite friends over for a movie night or game night.

    Hosting has so many perks! You don’t have to drive, so you save gas, you can make it a potluck or BYOB, as host, you don’t have to cook and you can drink all night for free, no cover charge, no parking, no dress code, and just as much fun (if you’re any fun).

    There is always a budget friendly alternative, you just have to be creative, willing and open minded. Food budget stressing you out? Not big on buying groceries? Find deals, and coupons!

    Usually you can get freebies by downloading apps for some popular fast food places and if you’re a fan of the finesse, multiple email accounts can get you pretty far. Or if you like more of the finer dining, check out places that serve family portions and go as a group! Dine like a king and only spend $5-$8. There is always a way to save money, challenge yourself!

  5. No matter what, keep going. Financial empowerment is a journey with no destination. It is a lifestyle with no limit. Frugality pays off, budgeting pays off, credit monitoring pays off. But none of it will work if you don’t.

    Seeing that first significant difference can take months but once you get there, be careful not to forget your humble beginnings.

    Bad financial decisions can happen in an instant and can have a severe impact on your credit and finances overall and even take months or years to repair so be vigilant, be mindful, be responsible and be resilient with your goals.

    This is just the beginning! We can talk saving up for trips, major purchases, and credit cards another day, until then, “make that money, don’t let it make you!”

In conclusion, the most important thing to remember is that getting your finances together is hard but it is not impossible. You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel when you start, but the effort goes a long way and you will succeed!

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