5 tips for getting your financial situation under control

Both dating and money are still borderline taboo topics, though they shouldn’t be. It can be uncomfortable to admit when you’re struggling or frustrated with either, and it’s easy to assume that everyone but you has their situation figured out.

The two topic areas combined on this week’s episode of The Margarita Confessionals as we chatted with Bernadette Maulion, owner of Dressed Charlotte.

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Bernadette got her MBA in April, but with that accomplishment she also landed $70,000 in student loans. Yikes. It’s a relatable situation, as many people leave school with a significant amount of debt. Here’s where it gets cool though: seven months later and Bernadette has whittled that debt down to just $7,000.

Crazy, right?

Yes, she’s working a full-time job, she also has her own business, and she has support from her husband, but Bernadette has made some serious life changes that enabled her to put a major dent in that figure. When you talk to her about the adjustments she made, you realize they’re actually do-able. Whether you’re looking to knock out student loan or credit card debt, or want to start saving for a big purchase like a house, here are some tips for getting your financial situation figured out. And yes, you can still treat yo self!

(1) Focus on your personal priorities, not a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

For some people this means giving up weekly manicures or bringing lunch to work each day. For Bernadette it started with selling her car and cutting down on unnecessary makeup purchases. The most important thing is to be intentional with your finances, Bernadette urges. If you’re spending your money, know where it’s going. Be sure that this purchase is actually worth it.

(2) Use cash when you can.

When you’re spending $4 on a latte every day, the purchase can feel like nothing. Yet over time those small expenses add up and detract from your ability to pay off your loans or save up for a big-ticket item. Instead, pay cash whenever possible, suggests Bernadette. It makes the purchase feel real.

(3) Find someone to confide in.

Whether it’s your significant other, your best friend, or your parents, you need someone who will hold you accountable and let you be honest about your financial situation. They can keep you on track if they notice your spending is getting excessive and can provide encouragement when your end goal feels unattainable.

(4) Set smaller milestones.

If your ultimate financial dream is a big one, focusing only on that bottom-line figure will leave you feeling bummed. Instead, give your attention to bite-sized goals, explains Bernadette. When you break it down into manageable bits, it makes it easier to zero in on where you financial priorities lie, how much you need to put towards this goal each month based on what you’re bringing in, and what a reasonable time frame might be to achieve the larger goal. Also, when you start hitting smaller milestones it’s easy to keep the momentum going.

(5) Use resources available to you.

Bernadette is a big fan of the site everydollar.com for setting monthly budgets, and likes the blog Mr. Money Mustache for articles that are informative yet packed with personality.