by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
It's upon me again — my official new year. Rather than start my resolutions or measure my success when the calendar gets a year older, I take on that task during the month of my birth. Finance was the theme for my last year as I am sure it was for most everyone else. Searching for creative ways to work on my personal economic situation uncovered some workable ideas and even a success or two worth sharing.
We have all seen the ad sporting scissors and the credit card — an approach flaunted and recommended by experts and well–meaning friends. Yet, many of us rely on the dreaded charge card as a means to making a living. Without the card, hotel rooms are difficult to reserve (they deduct more than the cost as a security if you use a debit card), plane tickets are almost impossible to purchase, and tracking receipts is infinitely more time–consuming. For me, there had to be another answer to eliminating the credit card balances intruding on my comfort. Realizing this is not a strictly dental topic, it is a subject that affects most, if not all, of us at some level.
So many story lines and news teasers flash across the computer screen as we attempt to log in to access e–mail each day, most of them undoubtedly ignored or unnoticed. One such tagline involved a somewhat novel approach to eliminating credit card debt and didn't require me to give up my twice–weekly extra hot–hot chocolate with whip. While not an entirely new idea, the approach is somewhat unique — at least to me.
The author suggested starting a file system with different colored folders. My aversion to killing more trees or cluttering another drawer led to my method of simply using my computer and online bill pay. For this plan to work, you must be in a position to make at least the minimum payment on each of your cards every month and be willing to live on a budget. Visit the Web site for each card with a balance and set up automatic payments for the minimum due each month. I found only one site that would not allow this type of payment option. For that card I simply sign in on the first day of each month and set up the payment. Now pick one card to pay off and make a note of it either in your financial book or somewhere accessible on your computer. I use my calendar.
Next, select a date each month when you know all of your bills will have been deducted and your household expenses are taken care of for that month. On this date each month look at your bank account and see how much money is available to “pay down” the balance on the chosen card. Make the additional payment on the same day each month and be certain it is in addition to the minimum amount.
How you choose which card to pay off first, second, and so forth is up to you. Some people make the determination by interest rate; others pay off the largest balance first. My method was to pay off the oldest balances first and then limit myself to owning two cards, which are paid in full every month. The goal is in reach and the process is surprisingly enjoyable.
Lowering debt won't help you find a job in this tough economy, but it can help bring peace of mind. It is difficult to focus on job–hunting, interviewing, or career advancement when the cloud of debt is hanging overhead. A friend who is following this same approach shared with me her belief that lowering her credit card balances has improved her outlook on life, her patience with her family, and even her demeanor at work. Maybe the secret to a satisfying professional life is a balanced and debt–controlled personal existence.
Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a company dedicated to the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.