A successful bankruptcy is as much about post-bankruptcy decision making as it is about making the initial decision to file. A lot needs to go into each spending choice, every credit consideration and your personal financial management goals.
Multiple bankruptcies are common. However, if you feel you may be getting close to having to file again and the reason is not the direct result of an uncontrollable emergency, there may be some broader, underlying personal issues that were not addressed the first time around. At the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt, we take pride in preparing our clients for a life outside of bankruptcy as well. While we very much appreciate your business, we hope we only have to help you file one time.
We've compiled in this post a few strategies to help keep you on track after you are back on your feet:
- Pay bills on time. Sounds easy, right? Hardly. For even those people who have never even sniffed a financial difficulty, staying on top of a pile of monthly bills takes very sound organization skills. Like most people who begin to have trouble making ends meet, dates become critical. All kinds of dates: due dates, late charge dates, power bill dates, mortgage payment dates and so on, all start to come together into a menagerie of calendar markings and PDA notifications. One way to ensure everything gets paid on time is to use a completely separate calendar for bill dates. And, mark each one due five days before their actual due date. This way, you can avoid hundreds of annual dollars in late fees and prevent nasty marks on your credit report. Be careful with online bill pay services as well. While they offer convenience and scheduling, make doubly sure they are paying on time and that there isn't some sort of delay that leaves your money dangling in cyberspace.
- Choose expenses carefully. This involves reminding yourself daily about the things you really need. Lifestyle items are for the "old you." Remember, you don't need what your co-worker or neighbor has. This is also about paying for things in cash and keeping the new credit card for emergencies, like car repairs or house damage. The reward from knowing you saved up and purchased something cleanly is well worth the wait. Try it and see.
- Balance your checkbook. Seems like another obvious tip, doesn't it? You would be surprised. Today, banks are tacking on very high fees for bounced checks, overdue settlements of overdrawn accounts and service charges. Not only can you not afford to know exactly what is in your checking account, it's a poor financial habit to get into. With simple addition and subtraction, you can be sure of how much money is coming in and going out every month. This helps in budgeting and uncovers places where you can save each month. Pay attention to the balance daily as well. Every morning, use the Internet or automated phone lines to get an update on your account. Even if you think you know, it's always smart to really know.
- Handle setbacks as soon as they occur. Don't let a disputed expense fester in your monthly balance, where it can gain interest or get lost in the administrative shuffle. And don't take every little mistake you make as a sign of collapse or failure. Address every question or complication head on and be assertive.
Your financial solvency is a key part of your well-being. Try to stay on top of your finances after bankruptcy and truly take advantage of your fresh start.