Whether it’s your BFF’s new blouse or boots, chances are, you’ve done some borrowing in your life. Now, you might know the rules when it comes to stealing her swag (staining a shirt = getting it dry-cleaned), but do you know the do’s and don’ts of borrowing money from the bank?
Whether you need to borrow money for school or a car, there are some rules you’ve got to stick to if you want to be the best borrower you can be.
Do still save
Even if you’re still trying to pay down that debt (get it, girl!), you’ve gotta still save if you want to stay in good financial shape. If you don’t have an emergency fund established, and something happens that you need to pay off STAT, you’ll get stuck having to borrow even more. Around and around we go.
Make sure you have a solid savings cushion (I’m talking enough to cover four to seven months of expenses, people), while actively paying down debt. Don’t get stuck in a bad cycle.
Do look for the best interest rate
I know, I know … doing research and sifting through all the different interest rates out there might seem like a total time-suck. But getting a good rate can ultimately make a pretty big difference in your payments. The difference between a 7-percent and a 10-percent rate might not seem like a lot, but it will add up.
For example, if you’re making a $250 monthly payment on a $10,000 credit card balance, your interest rate will determine how fast you’ll free yourself from that debt. With a 4.9-percent interest rate on that card, it’ll take you 44 months to pay it off. With an 18-percent rate, though, it’ll take you a whopping 62 months to pay it off. Ouch.
Ready to tackle that debt? Calculate how long it could take you to pay off below:
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Do read the fine print
I’m all about that Skimm life, but when you’re borrowing your money, you’re going to need to read the terms and conditions of your loan very closely. You don’t want to be caught off-guard by any contingencies (like a default clause buried in that credit card contract or a prepayment penalty on a loan) that could be derail your future financial plans.
Read the fine print and know what you’re getting into. If you can’t cut through all that jargon (and TBH, who can?) hire someone who is able to do so.
Do pay on time, every time
Procrastinating on paying your bills? You’ll quite literally pay the price.
An avalanche of awful things can happen if you’re constantly paying your creditors late: It can wreck your credit score and result in high interest rates and even higher fees. Do yourself (and your financial future) a favor by making sure those creditors get paid on time, every time.
Do realize borrowed money is not free money
If you’re borrowing money, which is sometimes super essential, you have to understand that not only is it costing you money in fees and interest rates, but also it can limit what you might be able to do financially in the future. Instead of investing, for example, you might be doubling down your efforts on paying down that borrowed money debt.
Accepting this will help you limit, and re-evaluate, the type of debt you take out—and if you really need it. As beautiful as that BMW might look at the dealership, is it worth sacrificing your financial future? Prob not.
Don’t borrow frivolously
Be smart and selective about how much you borrow and what you’re borrowing it for. Borrowing to finance things like your education or a home is totally acceptable; these are purchases that will likely pay off in the long run. But borrowing to finance something silly, like an extravagant vacation, will make you seem as irresponsible as a teenager who decides that bingeing “Gossip Girl” is more important than studying for the big history test.
If following your heart requires taking on a little bit of debt, don’t forget to bring your head with you. Try to borrow within your budget.
Don’t fall victim to bad loan products
Just like bad-for-you love interests, there are also bad loan products you need to steer clear of.
High-interest, short-term loans can ultimately cost you way more than you initially borrow. Standout offenders include payday loans and car title loans (they just sound sketchy, don’t they?). Borrowing money through bad products will seriously bang up your bank account.
Don’t carry a balance
In most cases, if you have the opportunity to pay down a loan (like on a car or home) faster, do so! And carrying around revolving debt—like credit card debt—is no bueno. It’s like an added weight on your shoulders. Paying debts off regularly on time, every time will help lighten your financial load and boost your credit score.
The best ways to use credit cards are to only use them as convenience or to build rewards, and with the knowledge that you’ll be able to pay them off in full the second that direct deposit hits. Cha-ching.
Don’t extend loans for too long
If you can’t see past this month’s meetings scheduled out in your G-Cal, you’re likely not alone. But not looking too far out into the future when borrowing money is a major mistake, and if you don’t consider the full length of your loan, you’ll have regrets later on.
I know it can be tempting to just focus on the monthly payments, especially if it seems like those payments won’t pummel your paychecks too much. However, while $250 a month might sound like a great deal, the reality is you could be paying that $250 every month for the next six years. *Sigh.*
Now that you know all the rules when it comes to borrowing, start saving so you can pay it back in a pinch! Check out the rates below for some sweet savings accounts.
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