Managing Your Debt

by Andrea Lalen-Kasten, MMC Donor-Member

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This topic is a little harder to write about, as everyone has a different level of debt and what they are doing about it varies. I know we have been through a few years of working very hard to pay it off and then some other years of well, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon…let’s just make minimum payments to those credit cards...

Every New Year comes with new goals (part of me hates resolutions; they almost always seem doomed to fail). Goals are something to strive for; you can “fall off the wagon, but start again at any time.” In our house we don’t aspire to pay off all of our debt by the end of the year (seriously that isn’t realistic), but we do aspire to set one financial goal to accomplish by the end of the year.

So, I ask what is your financial goal is for this year? Is it to pay down some debt? If so, how much? 5%? A credit card? A car? These are questions you need to ask yourself and your spouse. So you have set your goal, if it is a credit card, pick the one with the highest interest rate...Determine how much you owe and divide by 12 months, can you pay this off in a year? Can you dedicate a little milk money to reducing this debt?

We have all heard if we are going to manage debt we have to stop spending. Well this is 100% true! How do we realistically do this? Create a budget with your spouse. Yes, it can be painful to look at the hard numbers! But we have to in order to know where our money goes and how we can truly cut back…

Take your credit cards and place them in a safe, no one uses them unless it is agreed upon with your partner. Some basic budgeting tools are available online http://www.womensmoney.org/. This website is also a great tool to provide you support in reaching your financial goals.

adamr.jpgI personally have an excel spreadsheet with the next 12 months’ worth of hard expenses, variables and savings goals. Does everyone need to do this? Absolutely not. I personally just love numbers and by having this I can foresee bills throughout the year, factor in for others, and make changes as needed.

After you have set your goal, remember do not close the account! As your account needs to remain open to positively reflect upon your credit report. Have you heard of www.creditkarma.com? If not, check it out and guess what? It’s completely FREE - no credit card needed! You can use the simulator tools to determine how your credit will change by paying off that credit card!

When determining what you should pay off first, I like to look at the various sources of debt, cars, credit cards, store cards, etc. Ask yourself: What are my interest rates? How long does it take and how much is my monthly payment? What could free up the largest amount of resources in case of emergency?

Store credit cards are pretty much useless, interest rates are high, and you can’t use them in a medical emergency, etc. A few years ago we strived to pay these off first, after 1 year they were. I still have 1 open, in case I want to buy a few gift cards for Christmas, etc. and get the points, but I never spend more than what I can pay in full the next month.

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Car payments are typically around for quite a while and draw the largest payment in regards to credit cards. If you added $50-100 a month more on your payment, how many months/years could you reduce your payments and interest? If you don’t want to increase on car, how about credit card?

Getting those reduced/paid off do wonders for you, your family and your financial stability. By having a credit card that is available just for emergencies, medical needs, new tires, major car repair, etc. you can have a little more financial freedom and less worry that if something happens you family will be in ruins.

Empower yourself and your family to get out from these hard bills and have a little more freedom to live a little - imagine a nice dinner instead of a credit card payment!


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Hi! I am Andrea Lalen-Kasten. I am 27, wife and mommy of one rambunctious red headed 4 year old, Maxine. My husband and I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary; I have my degree in Human Services Management, I have been working in social services for 9 years with a variety of focuses from elderly, children with special health care needs, substance abuse and currently working with my local United Way.

I love every minute of dedicating my profession to helping others and through the years, I have learned some tricks that I think all mommies should know on how to live for financial stability in your household. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth; I actually came from parents who suffer from substance abuse, domestic violence and left home when I was 16. But it's life experiences that allow me to show the world that I do not have to be a statistic and neither does anyone else. We can all reach our goals and I am happy to share some of my experiences in the hopes it will help you reach your goals.


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