If you struggle with staying on top of your finances and managing your debts, you are not alone. Whether you need to dig yourself out of extreme debt or you simply want to become more financially responsible, you should consider implementing these seven tips to help you stay on top of your finances.
Automate Your Savings
Saving money is one of the most difficult challenges people face. When that direct deposit reaches your checking account, it can be tempting to spend more than you should.
For this reason, you should set up automatic monthly transfers to your savings account. Consider how a percentage of your paycheck is automatically deducted for taxes. You don’t miss this money because you never saw or touched it. Automating your savings has the same effect—you will be far less tempted to spend money that never shows up in your checking account.
Some financial apps, like Chime, make this even easier by allowing you to automatically transfer a percentage of each deposit directly to your savings account.
Create an Emergency Fund
Life can be full of surprises—some worse than others. If your home is damaged by something not covered by your insurance, you get into a car accident, you have an unexpected medical emergency or any number of other incidents, you could end up in serious financial trouble.
As a result, it’s never a bad idea to set up an emergency fund to help cover unexpected expenses. A good rule of thumb is to try to save up at least three months’ worth of living expenses. Once this money has been set aside, be sure not to touch it for anything other than an emergency, no matter how tempting it might be.
Stick to a Realistic Budget
The most important aspect of developing healthy financial habits is to create and stick to a realistic budget.
You should be sure to:
- Calculate your income
- Quantify your necessary expenses
- Make a plan for your leftover money
- Cut out unnecessary spending
Consider using apps like Mint or PocketGuard to help create a reasonable budget.
Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses
Nearly everyone can trim their monthly expenses by identifying and cutting out unnecessary expenses. Especially if you are using credit cards or personal loan companies, like Affirm, to pay for things you can’t afford, you should take a look at those expenses and cut them out. This could include a variety of spending categories, such as:
- Streaming services that you do not use regularly (i.e., Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc.)
- Eating out
- Overspending on groceries and clothes
- Gym memberships
These expenses, among others, can add up to well over $100 per month that would be better off being put toward your debts.
Invest in a Retirement Fund
Investing in a retirement fund is one of the best things you can do while you’re still working. This is another habit that many young professionals avoid, as they would rather hang onto their money. However, you will surely be glad you decided to invest in yourself once you grow older.
There are several retirement plans to choose from, so be sure to do your research and find which one best suits your needs. Additionally, you should talk to your employer about retirement options, as many companies offer 401(k) matching.
Pay Off Credit Cards Every Month
Credit cards should be used with the intention of paying off the balance before interest accrues. However, many Americans will leave a balance on their credit cards for several months to several years. What makes this worse is that credit card companies typically charge very high interest rates.
Credit cards do not need to be avoided altogether, though, as many of them offer incredible benefits such as cash rewards and airline miles. However, one of the most basic principles of financial responsibility is to pay off your credit card balance in full every month.
Make a Plan to Pay Off Your Debt
A good rule is to treat your credit cards the same way as a debit card. Only spend money that is currently available to you unless it is an absolute emergency.
Once you have established good financial habits to help you avoid accumulating additional debt, you should create a plan to pay off your existing debts.
One common method is the snowball method. The snowball method suggests that you should pay off your smallest debts first before moving on to larger ones. This tends to motivate you to continue paying off your debts as you feel satisfaction from getting rid of your smaller balances.
Another option is to target your high-interest debts. This can help you save the most money in the long-run and is ideal for individuals who don’t need the additional motivation provided by the snowball method. Others use a debt consolidation loan to lower their interest rate and pay less on the debt over time.
Whichever method you choose, be sure that you can stick to it for the longterm.
Managing your finances can be quite difficult and stressful. These seven financial literacy tips are great options to help you trim your debts and stay on top of your finances.