Am I Headed for Financial Ruin?

Signs that you are headed for financial ruin are as obvious as the signs on the highway, but many people get distracted when it comes to paying attention to them.

When I was in my early twenties I made an impulsive cross-country move that left me without a steady income for about six months. I tried to ignore the signs that we were headed for financial ruin, but eventually the bills became impossible to ignore.

I have friends who have declared bankruptcy and others who have simply walked away from their bills until they disappeared from their credit records. It’s possible to go from being in thousands of dollars of debt to having wealth, but it takes daily discipline and willingness to take financial responsibility. Here are some of the telltale signs that you are headed down the road of financial ruin and how to make a major U-Turn and prevent bankruptcy:

Buying groceries on credit

money burningIf you don’t have enough money in your checking account to purchase food and have to use credit, then you are in financial trouble. If you just use a credit card because it’s convenient, and then pay it off, that’s a different situation. I knew were had trouble when I had to use credit cards for pizza delivery instead of being able to pull out a $20. To avoid bankruptcy, start working on a cash only basis for a while. Make a special envelope for food money. Clip coupons as well or share extreme couponing tips with friends.

Making less income than housing expenses

If you don’t have enough income coming in to pay even the cost of your rent or mortgage and utilities, consider that a sign of financial desperation. Find other ways to make extra income. Mow lawns for neighbors if you have to. Consider renting a less expensive apartment. If you own a home, refinance or opt for a short sale so you can downsize to a more affordable living situation. Otherwise, you will be facing foreclosure.

Not being able to pay credit card minimum

When your minimum payment becomes so high you can’t afford to pay it, you need to consider your options. Credit cards are unsecured debt which means some people have no problem walking away from the bills. It’s better to take responsibility and pay off your credit cards with the debt snowball plan. To avoid bankruptcy, you need to find a way to pay the minimum payments or call the credit card companies to work out a temporary situation.

Being overdrawn on your checking account

Some banks will allow you to be overdrawn on your checking account up to a certain amount. But being overdrawn is always a red flag that you are not living within your means. Make a commitment to have at least $500 in your checking account that is there for a cushion. Start making sacrifices each day to save money. It’s fine to think about your monthly bills and budget, but I had to start looking at my finances daily to really reach my final debt-free destination.

To avoid bankruptcy and prevent foreclosure on your home, make financial sacrifices early and often. Don’t wait until you see the signs of financial desperation. I have a friend who is renting out a room to ease her financial burdens. Another relative is renting out his Florida winter home. There’s no shame is being a multi-generational household to save money on living expenses. It’s easier to navigate around the financial “pothole.”