Are you one of the millions of Americans struggling to get out of debt? While there is plenty of advice out there about things you should do to become debt-free, learning what habits and practices to avoid may be just as important in your strategy to eliminate debt. Read on for a list of five things that people without debt never do so you can emulate their behaviors and be on your way to financial success.
1. Ignore their financial situation.
Although it may be tempting to hide under the covers when your bank statement or credit card bill arrives in the mail, this is not the best strategy. After all, how can you solve your problems if you don't have a clear picture of them in the first place? People who are debt free have a firm grasp of their finances, including an idea of how much they have in the bank at any given time. If you're having trouble keeping track of your spending, try out a money-tracking app like Mint, which syncs with your bank account and shows you exactly where your hard-earned cash is going.
2. Fall for gimmicks.
If you're already in debt, chances are you've been lured in by the perks of a particular credit card. Saving on travel, cash back and low or no-interest introductory rates can all make signing up for yet another credit card seem like a good idea. But if you're already struggling to make the minimum payment on your current cards, adding another is only going to exacerbate the problem, rewards or not. Another common trap is going for deferred interest cards. While the prospect of paying off your debt before interest accrues seems like a smart decision, if you don't pay off your purchase during the grace period, many of these cards come with interest rates way above standard cards. And, some of them retroactively charge you interest for the full amount after the grace period. It's always a good idea to read the fine print and know what you're really signing up for.
3. Pay bills late.
If you're strapped for cash, you may find yourself blowing off due dates on bills, but that's only going to hurt your wallet even more in the long run. Late fees mean you're going to end up owing more that the original charge. Additionally, your credit payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score, so putting off payments could have a major impact on your future ability to make a large purchase like a house or a car. If simply remembering to pay your bills on time is the problem, opt for automatic payments so you never miss one again.
4. Give away money they don't have.
When a friend asks for help out of a financial bind, you may offer up some cash to tide them over even though you really can't afford it. But if you help them make rent one month, and you come up with a costly car repair the next, you're going to find yourself empty-handed. Besides, research shows that you're unlikely to get your money back when you lend to a friend or relative, and it may negatively impact your relationship.
5. Shop til they drop.
Everyone likes a little retail therapy now and again, but if shopping always leads to overspending, you should consider other ways of getting a mood boost, like exercising or sharing a laugh with a friend. Snagging a new dress or splurging on an expensive piece of furniture may make you feel better in the short-term, but your bank account will thank if you refrain more often than not.