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Creating a Plan to Take Control of Your Personal Finances

If your personal finances are out of control, the first thing to do is to create an actionable plan according to this expert.

Personal finance expert Patrice Washington encourages women who are living paycheck to paycheck to dig into the numbers and know what money is coming in and what’s going out. Women need to know how much money they need to close their financial gaps, or they won’t be able to set money goals.

“If you don’t get clarity around it, you can’t create the plan,” she says. “The first step is having that hard, honest conversation with yourself because avoiding it is only kind of perpetuating the problem.”

Washington says in today’s economy, there are many opportunities to make extra money, such as driving for a rideshare company or delivering groceries. Working those side hustles could bring in significant money to pay debts and plan for the future.

Visualize success and focus

Washington cautions women to avoid mindless expenses. She uses apps to track her budget and spending habits, explaining the apps hold you accountable. You can see money habits in real time and identify spending triggers, such as shopping after a stressful day at work.

“Once you’re aware of your triggers, the more that you start to control your spending,” says Washington.

She wants women to visualize what they want for the future. For example, one of her clients in New York City loved buying beauty products, but also wanted to move to Paris. To visualize her need, the client placed a picture of the Eiffel Tower on her credit card. Every time she wanted to make a purchase, she was reminded of her goal. That visualization helped keep her focused.

Negotiate

Make the most of your money by negotiating. Washington says everything can be negotiated and advises women to ask for what they want. For example, she negotiated her own car purchase. The secret is knowing your budget and your bottom line.

“The more I equipped myself by just knowing what my non-negotiables were and knowing what the things were that were important to me, I just would not allow the salesperson to sway me or to try to tap into those emotional things,” she says.

Next, train yourself to say no more often, which can help you save money. “I always tell women to start preparing for negotiations, you should start saying no to a lot of stuff earlier, like basic things, because it trains that muscle,” she says.

Discipline, not deprivation

Washington says if you do the budgeting process right, you should be able to pay your expenses and have some money left over. If not, you’ll need to start cutting things from your budget.

“I don’t believe in deprivation, but I do believe in discipline,” she says, explaining you may have to makes some sacrifices for six months, a year, or longer to get on track.

The finance expert encourages her clients to both save money and pay debts simultaneously. After expenses are paid, save 40 to 45 percent of what’s left over and pay off debts with the other 40 to 45 percent. Use the rest of the money for discretionary spending.

Washington says paying off debts — whether car payments, student loans, or credit card debts — should be systematic and intentional.

She reminds her clients that the best debt is the debt that you don’t owe anymore. “For me, the more debt you pay off sooner, the closer you are to that freedom and flexibility that you really desire.”

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