For more information on Southern's ADA Compliance efforts, please visit our Accessibility Page

By: Charlestien Harris

When most people think of falling in love, they usually think of it as another person. In this case, during February, let yourself fall in love with your money all over again.

We often miss the opportunity to fall in love with our money. The experience can be like two ships passing in the night. One example of this is when we get a lump sum refund during the tax season, and we decide to splurge on items we want, but don’t necessarily need. Throughout this month, I will be writing a series of articles that addresses how you can rekindle your romance with your money and begin to love it all over again.

To understand your decision-making process, you must first understand your relationship with money, how you feel about money, and how having it or not having it makes you feel. Feelings are a big part of developing a healthy relationship, whether romantically or financially. Your value system, family upbringing, social circles, and media exposure are just a few factors that can influence how you feel about your money. 

Once you have figured out your feelings and how they can influence how you deal with your money, you can begin to reimagine how you move toward your goal of financial freedom. Here are just a few tips to consider when you receive that tax refund this year.

 Tip #1- Start an emergency fund

Nothing feels quite like the comfort of knowing you have some financial security. One significant expense can send you on a downward spiral toward financial disaster without an emergency fund. Nothing beats knowing you are covered if something unexpected happens. A good rule of thumb is to save six to eight months’ worth of income. Saving up that much money can take quite a while, so using your tax refund is a great way to get there faster.

Tip #2- Focus on paying off high-interest debt 

 After establishing an emergency fund, the next best thing you can do with your tax refund is to pay down high-interest debt. This includes credit card balances, title loans, student loans, and any money you still owe on your vehicle.The common name of this debt elimination method is avalanche. This method encourages you to put any extra money (your tax refund) toward a debt that carries the highest interest—getting rid of that debt as fast as you are able can ultimately reduce the amount of money you pay for it over the long term.

Tip #3- Open a savings account

One of the statements I hear the most as a counselor is, I do not have any money to save. Every penny I have is already spent. The IRS allows you to split your refund in up to three accounts if you use direct deposit. This is the perfect opportunity to deposit some funds in a savings account that is inconvenient for you to access. That way you will have it when you need it. 

Tip #4-Work on building or rebuilding your credit

Having a good credit score is essential because your credit can affect many areas of your life. Good credit can make it easier to qualify for loans and credit cards, allowing you to finance large purchases with low-interest rates. The less you pay in interest, the sooner you will pay off the debt, and the more money you will have for other expenses.

The benefits of a good credit score go beyond debt. Bad credit can affect your housing applications, insurance premiums and security deposits, adding roadblocks to enjoying many of life’s everyday necessities and pleasures. This tip can certainly free your money up, so you will have more of it to experience the loving financial freedom you have been seeking.

Achieving financial freedom can be a very touching act of love not only for you but for your family as well. Falling in love is an essential part of life, and developing relationships is necessary to establish a healthy lifestyle. Understanding your decision-making process can go a long way to help you achieve that financial freedom that often seems to escape our best efforts. 

February is the month of love; why not consider falling in love with your money all over again? Or why not let your money return the love you have shown by using it to achieve the goals you have set! Next week I will address tip number two, which is debt elimination.

Until next week—Stay financially fit!