Managing budgets, particularly during COVID, can be a challenge, particularly if you have lost a job and/or are dealing with unexpected expenses. Adding loans and other debt to the mix, and it can be helpful to reach out for help. While we don't offer debt management services per se, here are some ideas to consider based on your own situation.
Debt Counselor and/or Debt Consolidation:
Debt counseling can be beneficial in certain circumstances. By working with a debt counseling service, you can receive insights on budgetting, strategies for handling credit card debt, as well as support in negotiating lower payments and in some cases to settle with the credit card company to wipe out debt.
We are most familiar with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and one of its offshoots Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Here is the link: https://credit.org/cccs/
Tools and budgeting solutions:
These low cost or free options might be a nice supplement to debt consolidation or negotiating lower payments.
Mint.com is a free online website where you link your accounts and can build a budget based on your historical spending patterns. You can set up alerts and also spending, savings, and debt reduction goals. If you can see past all their ads, it can be a nice tool. to make it work for you, you'll need to categorize all your spending and this can be a bit time consuming. Consider setting aside 15 or 20 minutes per week to "curate" your transactions to get the most out of Mint.com.
You Need a Budget (YNAB):
The web-based software program You Need A Budget, works in the opposite way of the Mint.com tools, where you are setting aspirational spending goals and working from there.
Here's a link to their website: https://www.youneedabudget.com/ They offer a free 34-day trial and then are $11.99/month after that. This might help you plan out your spending rather than be tracking what you’ve already spent. Sort of the different between a rear-view mirror approach compared to a forward view of where you want to go.
YNAB helps you give your money a job. That’s lesson #1. They also offer free workshops and video courses. In addition, they apparently have a book that you can buy on Amazon cleverly titled “You Need a Budget” by Jesse Mecham. And the ratings seem to suggest that readers have found it helpful. Though other reviewers pointed out that all the information is free on the website. To each their own.
Debtors Anonymous is a world wide peer to peer support group modeled around Alcoholics Anonymous. Debtors Anonymous can provide you with a community of support and accountability, if that’s appealing to you. They can help you form the habit of tracking your spending and provide education on budgeting and money management. There is a lot of undue shame attached to debt and spending struggles, and this group can help with that aspect as well. I have personally had very positive experiences with Debtors Anonymous and I think it could be valuable for others. I believe this is worth exploring.
I particularly like the Pressure Relief Groups (this is peer to peer mentoring and support), Record Keeping (literally a manual way to record every penny you earn and spend), and Spending Plan (another way to do budgeting and that you’d share with your peer group during a pressure relief meeting). I found this group to be emotionally uplifting and such a relief to find others who I could connect to about some of my challenges. At the time I was dealing with underearning, student loan debts, spending issues, and a feeling of disconnect between what I spent and what I had to spend. While I also liked the spiritual component, that part is not for everyone and you don’t have to incorporate the concept of a higher power into your own program.
Here’s a link to the DC area website: https://debtorsanonymousdc.org/ and attached is an order form for some of their literature.
Books that I found helpful include:
How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously by Jerrold Mundis – he’s a big DA proponent
Earn What You Deserve also by Mundis
A Currency of Hope by DA
Also, I recently listened to Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny. This was interesting though not as pivotal to me as Jerrold Mundis’ books (though there also was 30 years between my reading his books and hers).