Now that we’ve reached November, you’re hopefully right on schedule with your debt repayment and looking forward to ringing in 2017 debt-free. Congratulations on all your hard work! Because you’re about to pay off your debt in full, you might expect 2017 to be a stress-free year when it comes to your finances. You won’t have to worry so much about money or spend the majority of your time and energy scrimping and saving. But before you start planning how you’re going to spend all the cash that you had previously been putting towards paying off your debt, I have a few suggestions to help you prepare for your debt-free life.
You’ve worked hard to pay off your debt so it’s crucial that you take the time to celebrate. Start planning something special to help you mark your final debt repayment. Maybe you want to burn your final credit card statement, go out for a special dinner or invite friends, family and neighbours to a debt payoff party. Do something that will be memorable and make you feel good about your achievements, and it’s okay to splurge a little! After being careful about your money for so long, it will feel good to spend on yourself.
2. Create a Post-Debt Budget
Just because you will have more disposable income doesn’t mean you should spend it all every month. Now’s the time to think through your next financial goals and create a plan. Consider meeting with a financial adviser to guide you in the right direction. The first thing that you’ll want to do is save for an emergency fund. This will provide a cushion in case you experience an emergency in the future, making you less likely to have to resort to credit cards to cover unexpected expenses again. Experts suggest you save at least three to six months’ worth of your salary. Once you have an emergency fund saved, you might want to put some money away each month for your retirement or for large purchases. Thinking about buying a home in a few years? Use the momentum that you have created in 2016 to start saving aggressively for a down payment. You should also put some of your disposable income towards indulgences that you resisted over the past year. Did you neglect to update your wardrobe? Budget a monthly clothing allowance. Did you skip your annual vacation? Put enough cash aside so that you can go on one this year. You should be able to enjoy the fact that you’ve paid off your debt!
3. Build Your Credit
Getting into credit card debt can do a number on your credit score. If you haven’t already, it’s critical that you start thinking about rebuilding your credit. The first step is getting your credit score (it might not be as low as you fear it will be). Once you know what you’re working with, you can start making credit choices that will help you in the long run. It’s best to learn about how your credit score is calculated in order to help you understand how to improve your score. According to FICO, 30% of your score is calculated based on your payment history. This might not harm you if you’ve carried debt. Provided you made your payments on time because as long as you’ve made your payments on time, this portion of your score will likely be in good standing. And if you’re currently debt-free, then you also shouldn’t have any problems with the 30% of your score that is calculated based on the amount of your debt. So where can you improve? Concentrate on maintaining a long credit history on your credit report by not cancelling any of your oldest credit cards – even if you’ve paid them off – because the length of your credit history makes up 15% of your score. You might also decide to get different forms of credit such as a line of credit, an installment loan, or a department store credit card since they’re worth up to 10%of your score. If your score had previously dropped due to your debt, it’s critical that you work to get it up again. A higher score makes it less likely that you’ll be turned down for a loan or have to pay a high-interest rate the next time you need to borrow a large amount of money.
A Great Start!
If you’re able to do these three things, you will have made a great start on having a healthy post-debt financial life. Be proud of yourself for doing the hard work that’s necessary for getting out of debt and getting back on track financially.
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