From big emergencies to minor setbacks, learning how to deal with money crises is a key aspect of healthy financial management. Losses are a part of life, and while planning and preparing for them can help, you can’t always stop fiscal setbacks from occurring.
When faced with financial hardship, individuals need to adapt their money plans to deal with present challenges. After all, your normal fiscal approach isn’t going to work when times are tough. For advice on facing financial challenges, GOBankingRates has turned to the best money minds out there: the finalists of the 2015 Best Money Expert competition, presented in collaboration with Ally. Here are eight tips designed to help limit the damage of financial problems and get you and your money back on track.
1. Calm Emotions and Stay Smart
The stress that results from financial setbacks can lead individuals to make foolish mistakes with regard to money.
“Setbacks often leave us reeling, since they’re often unexpected and can involve high emotion, and when emotion goes up… intelligence goes down,” said Robert T. Kiyosaki, author of No. 1 personal finance book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” Kiyosaki went on to advise people to stay rational about the choices ahead.
According to Kiyosaki, a financial crisis represents an opportunity to learn more about money and improve your financial habits.
“Financial education and getting smarter with your money is always a great way to prepare for the future — whatever it holds, good and bad — and hedge against all the unexpected speed bumps (and potholes, and road black and detours) on the road to financial freedom,” Kiyosaki said.
2. Adopt a Problem-Solving Mentality
When faced with financial hardship, savvy individuals face their problems head on.
Kyle Taylor, founder of the popular personal finance blog, ThePennyHoarder.com, said, “When going through a financial setback, it’s important to develop a problem-solver mentality. After all, setbacks are merely a setup for a comeback.”
While money problems might seem insurmountable, it’s important to look for ways to address financial issues proactively.
“Regroup and re-strategize when things go awry,” said Taylor. “You may need to adjust your budget and figure out additional income streams.”
3. Make a Plan
While adopting a positive, forward-thinking attitude is essential, individuals must also create specific plans to deal with their new circumstances.
“We all have financial setbacks, but it’s how we handle these setbacks that often separates those who win with money from those who don’t,” said Chris Hogan, a retirement expert with the Dave Ramsey team. “Create a plan to help you overcome the obstacle, whether [it’s] a job loss, costly emergency or simply regretting a large purchase.”
When crafting your plan, one of the aims is to modify your spending behavior and use the extra money to tackle your financial setback.
“That may mean cutting back on your expenses until you’re able to build your emergency fund back up, or you may need to start budgeting so you can avoid overspending,” Hogan said. “Remember, your past doesn’t determine your financial future.”
Everyone has the power to change fiscal habits and do better moving forward.
4. Get a Money Mentor
When you’re in the middle of a monetary crisis, it can feel like there’s no way out. To combat feelings of hopelessness, money experts recommend seeking out people who have been in situations like yours (or worse ones!) and determining how they dug themselves out of the hole.
“Get a mentor/coach to help… someone that has been there,” said Josh Felber, an entrepreneur and business coach.
This person can provide individualized advice about how to improve your situation, give you encouragement when you’re feeling down and keep you accountable to ensure you stay on track.
5. Start Saving Right Away
While finances might be tight right now, that doesn’t mean you should abandon important money habits like saving. Even in the midst of a financial crisis, business experts like Whitney Johnson recommend that saving habits be maintained.
According to the author of the bestselling book, “Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work,” individuals should strive to save each month, “no matter how small the amount … even before you think you can.”
The truth is, you can’t afford not to save, especially while your finances are still recovering.
Related: 8 Simple Ways to Stretch a Dollar
6. Give Yourself a Raise
If you need to secure some extra money to tackle a big financial issue, you might be able to find it by lowering your expenses.
According to Pavini, individuals might also need to sacrifice extra luxuries while recovering from a financial setback.
“Get rid of the $150 a month cable bill, and it’s like giving yourself an $1,800 after-tax raise,” Pavini said, adding that financial stress can be detrimental to mental health and overall wellness. However, she suggested that simplifying one’s life can have positive consequences as well.
Said Pavini, “You may even find that when you simplify and learn to live without, your life becomes rich in so many other ways.”
7. Keep Your Credit On Track
While a financial crisis can feel overwhelming, money experts recommend keeping credit ratings on track. Clark Howard, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, “The Clark Howard Show,” advised consumers to keep an eye on their credit scores during financial setbacks and take steps to improve them.
Said Howard, “If you’re suffering from poor credit, there are several surefire ways to get your credit healthy again.” He recommends that individuals take the following steps to start:
- “Always pay your bills on time and pay down the total amount you owe. If you forget all else after reading this, remember this one! This is the single most important rule for having a good credit score.”
- “Keep a low credit utilization rate.” This means keeping credit card balances low and resisting the urge to charge more to accounts.
- “When you pay off a credit card, don’t close the account. Doing so only reduces your available credit and drives your score down.” He also recommends keeping four to six lines of credit open, using each twice a year and paying them off right away. “That will keep them active in your credit mix.”
8. Target Credit Card Debt
Paying off credit card debt is a key part of recovering from financial hardship. Author of the bestseller, “Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together…Finally,” Nicole Lapin notes that charging purchases is all too easy and cautions individuals against getting behind on debt.
After factoring in interest, Lapin said, “you may end up paying $50 for a pair of socks before you’re through paying off your cards.” With that in mind, she advises individuals to “double-time” their credit card debt and strive to pay off balances monthly. Lapin went on to acknowledge that people in the midst of a financial setback might not be in the position to pay off credit card debt immediately.
“Instead, try to curb enough of your other expenses (take from your ‘fun money’ category first) to double-down on your payments each month,” said Lapin.
The money expert also recommended that those with debt get an early start on their taxes and use any refund checks to pay down credit card bills. Not anticipating a refund this year? If you racked up credit card debt with too many purchases, you can always put your loot to use in paying off the balance.
“Pull out the clothes, appliances and household items that you haven’t used in a while, or don’t want anymore,” Lapin said. “You can auction them off on eBay, or post [them] on your local Craigslist, and then use this ‘free-money’ to pay down [debt].”
Financial setbacks are inevitable, but you don’t have to stay in debt long term. By following the expert tips above, you can get back on the road to fiscal health.