Lower your monthly spending
Many Squid Game contestants, including Gi-hun, Sang-woo and the gangster Deok-su, wound up on the remote island by spending more money than they had.
Instead of stealing from family members and business associates, these strategies will help you cut down on your spending.
Improve your financial well-being
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Shop smarter, not harder
Planning ahead and shopping around could have saved Gi-hun some money on a birthday gift for his daughter, and the crane game. Plus he could have found a much better gift.
When shopping online, it can be hard to know if you’re getting a good price. Free browser add-ons can help you by automatically scouring the internet for lower prices and coupons before you hit checkout.
With grocery prices higher than ever, it's a good time to explore options to trim your food budget, like meal planning, using up leftovers and cutting back on expensive ingredients.
Cut your insurance bills
If you haven’t shopped around for better rates on your car insurance in a while, you could be overpaying by as much as $500 a year. The same method will work for your home insurance policy. Experts recommend revisiting your insurance bills at least once a year to make sure you're still getting a good deal.
Your insurance provider may also offer discounts for bundling policies together. Plus, having your bills all in one place will help you keep track of them.
Just don’t cut or reduce health insurance for an extended period of time. Gi-hun cancelled his mother’s policy for cash, which left him helpless when his mother got sick. While provincial health care covers many emergency situations, things like dental issues or expensive medications for an unexpected illness can be expensive.
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Consider refinancing your mortgage
Mortgage rates are on the rise as the Bank of Canada has been forced to increase its overnight interest rate in response to sky-high inflation.
But if you’re buried in credit card debt — in the range of tens of thousands of dollars — you could consider consolidating that balance with your mortgage.
There will likely be a sizable fee upfront, so make sure you plan to stay in your home long enough to make the move worthwhile.
Size up your adversary
Gi-hun lets instinct and emotion lead his actions. If only he would stop, think and plan ahead. But as the season moves along, he realizes that knowing your competition is a big advantage.
Gather up all your bills, debts and bank balances and look at them together. This includes all debts big and small, like credit cards, student loans, car loans, and your mortgage.
If it helps visualize it, create a spreadsheet with a column for each debt’s outstanding balance, interest rate and monthly minimum payment. The final list may look imposing, but the breakdown will help you decide which debts to tackle first.
Choose the best strategy for you
Just like there’s more than one way to cut out an umbrella-shaped cookie, there’s more than one way to approach debt. The “avalanche” method is a popular one that saves you the most money in the long run, but some folks find it a challenge.
With this method, you attack your highest-interest debt first, even if it has the biggest balance, while making minimum payments on all your other bills.
If you aren’t up for it, you can try the “snowball” approach instead. Throw your money at the bills with the smallest balances first, getting them out of the way and providing the confidence boost you need to tackle your bigger debts.
There is one more factor to consider, if you’re unable to keep on top of your payments. Some debts, like mortgages and car loans, are “secured” — meaning you agree to surrender your home or car if you can’t pay your bills.
Part of what made failed investor Cho Sang-woo so desperate is that he (somehow) used his mother’s home and business as collateral. You may decide there are some assets you can’t afford to lose, too.
Bring down your targets
One popular way to crush high interest debt from credit cards and payday loans is to consolidate it. How you do it is quite simple. Take out a new loan at a lower interest rate and use that to pay off the higher balances. That leaves you with only one bill to worry about, and you’ll be able to put more money toward paying down the balance instead of interest fees.
Some Squid Game players would have struggled to employ this strategy, because you’ll need to first get a new loan. Gi-hun’s gambling addiction likely sunk his credit score, the number that tells the lender how reliable you are.
After taking a look at your own score and maybe taking some steps to improve it, you can consider a few different options for consolidation:
- Transfer your credit card balances. Take advantage of limited time low or no interest rates by transferring your higher rate balances to a new card. This will buy you time to pay down the debt, but some cards charge a fee to transfer your balance. Be sure to do the math and make sure it is worthwhile. And be sure to pay off the total amount ahead of the promotional period ending.
- A personal loan can come from banks, credit unions and online banks. Check the interest rates as you’ll be asked to pay back these unsecured loans in equal installments over a set period of time.
- Home equity line of credit. If you own a home and have built up enough equity, this will be one of your cheapest options. A word of caution, though — you’ll be using your home as collateral, so if you don't make your payments, you could lose it.
Increase your income
Not every Squid Game contestant buried themselves in debt through their own mistakes.
North Korean defector Sae-byeok needed a huge sum of cash to smuggle her mother to safety, and factory worker Ali Abdul wasn’t earning a cent from his corrupt employer.
While both characters may have struggled to find new work, depending on their skills and immigration status, you may be able to find work in unexpected places. And we’re not talking about accepting a challenge from a stranger at the subway.
Online gig marketplaces can help you pick up extra work to do from home, whether your talents lie in writing, voice acting, graphic design or something else. Just be sure to do your due diligence before accepting a job online. Employment scams are becoming more and more common, especially as remote work continues to remain popular. Learn how to protect yourself and avoid common scams by regularly checking the government of Canada website.
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