4 Signs You Have a Spending Problem and How to Fix It

Cracking piggybank

One in five Americans spent more than what they earned in the last 12 months, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey. Some might be relying on credit or dipping into savings to cover their spending because they are having trouble making ends meet. And, some might be simply living beyond their means.

Regardless of the reason your spending exceeds your income – your overspending might be making it hard to pay bills, have money for emergencies, and save for the future. It could also lead to serious consequences, such as bankruptcy.

Here are five warning signs that indicate you are spending too much, how your overspending can hurt you, and how to get your spending under control:

1. You max out your credit cards and pay only the minimum.

If you’re maxing out your credit cards and can’t pay off your balances every month, it’s a sign that you’re relying on credit to supplement your income. Not only can this hurt your credit score, but it can also leave you in debt longer than necessary.

If a high percentage of your available credit is used — in other words, most of your cards are maxed out — the credit scoring agencies consider this to be a sign that you are overextended and will likely lower your credit score. A lower score will make it harder for you to get additional credit and might force you to pay higher rates on that credit.

Paying the minimum on your credit card won’t necessarily hurt your score, but it could take you a long time to pay off your debt and cost you extra money in interest. For example, if you had a $1,000 balance on a card with a 16% APR and made a minimum monthly payment of $25 on your balance, it would take nearly five years to pay off your debt. And, you’d pay about $440 in interest too.

2. You pay bills late.

About one out of 20 people with a credit file are at least 30 days late on a credit card or a non-mortgage account payment, according to an Urban Institute report.

Paying bills late because you don’t have the cash to cover them is a sign that you’re overspending. And it sends a red flag to your credit issuers, which could hike your interest rates or lower your credit limit, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. You’ll also be hit with fees — which can add up quickly — and several late payments will hurt your credit score.

If you’re more than 180 days late on a payment, your debt typically is assigned to a collection agency or debt collector. Having debt in collections can lower your credit score and will remain on your credit report for seven years, according to myFICO.com. What’s worse is that your creditors or debt collectors could potentially sue you and be allowed to garnish you wages to pay the debt you owe.

3. You raid your retirement account.

You might think there’s no harm in borrowing from your retirement account because it’s your money. About 20% of 401(k) plan participants have taken a loan from their account, according to the Pencil Research Council Working Paper. You can borrow up to half of your 401(k) balance, up to a maximum of $50,000, but rarely is this a good idea.

If you borrow from your retirement account, you will have to pay yourself back with interest — which can be lower than the rate of return you would’ve gotten if you had left the money in the account. So really, you’re just shortchanging your retirement savings.

4. You borrow from friends and family.

If you have to turn to friends and family for money, it’s a sign that your overspending has left you financially strapped. You might think it’s a good way to get an interest-free loan, but being unable to pay back the loan can lead to tension and can affect your relationship.

How to Stop the Overspending Habit

If you’ve realized that you have an overspending problem, rest assured — there are different ways you can get your spending under control and create healthy spending habits.

1. Create a budget.

The first step to getting your spending under control is to create a budget. Take a close look at what you’re spending money on and ways to cut back.

2. Rely on cash.

By living on a cash or debit-only budget, you can curb the impulse to overspend. Set a budget for each shopping trip and only bring that much cash with you to avoid making impulse purchases.

3. Get help.

If you’re buried in debt and can’t curb your spending, your best option might be to get professional help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling provides free and affordable debt counseling and other money management services. You can find an agency in your area through NFCC.org.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/5-signs-spending-problem/

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