If you’re looking to save money and start improving your economic life, you need real, concrete advice. That’s why this post won’t be full of fluffy suggestions, like “be determined” and “don’t accept failure.”
Whether you’re a hippy or a Wall Street banker, your life’s ambitions require good financial habits if their going to be achieved. Below are 10 easy-to-follow, easy-to-implement habits to help you get your finances on track.
Organize your financial records.
Keeping things organized can also save you from throwing money down the toilet in the form of overdraft fees and late bills. If you’re totally unorganized, as many of us are, start small. Dedicate one folder for your:
- Bank statements
- Tax records
- Loan information
- Bills and receipts
Tax payment date only comes around once a year, but wouldn’t it be nice to avoid stress during tax season.
Once you’ve gotten in the habit of storing everything in one folder, go back in and make a separate folder for each of the documents listed in the bulleted list above.
Follow a budget
Being organized is only the first step. Once you’ve got your papers all in once place, you can really start to make a difference by creating a budget. Take your total income for the month, subtracting things like rent, cell phone, cable, and utility bills and grocery expenses from the total. Now you’ll know how much spare cash you can spend and how much to put in savings.
Direct deposit your check
Nearly all places of employment offer direct deposits of you paycheck. Join the 21st Century and save yourself from trips to the bank by having your money deposited directly into your account.
Automatically transfer money into savings
Set aside a portion of your monthly earnings to be transferred directly into your savings account. If you lack self control, this is an easy way to stay one step ahead of yourself. Arrange for automatic transfers with your bank or employer.
Track your net worth
This can be as simple as a word document. Keep track of your savings, updating it periodically. Watching that number grow can be huge motivation to save more and spend less.
Sign up for online banking
If you haven’t done this already, do it today. Online banking gives you 24/7 access to your account. Most online banking programs feature mobile alerts, which notify you of important information in your account. Great for parents who share accounts with their children.
Pay all your bills online
Remember the folder we created in step 1? Taking care of your regular monthly payments online can keep your physical records from getting chaotic. Its a convenient way, once again, to save yourself from unnecessary fines and late fees when you can’t get a check in the mail.
Pay the maximum on your credit card
Most people have credit cards and most people use them incorrectly. Interest fees can build up to insurmountable debts if you’re not careful. Use your debit card for everyday purchases, and save your credit card for big investments.
Make sure to include interest when you calculate how much you’re spending on your credit card.
Credit card statements should also be filed in your brand new financial folder.
Make a low-risk investment
Talk with a financial planner about making a safe and affordable investment. Low risk means low returns, but some returns is better than none at all. Savings accounts are the most basic form of long-term investment, but you can also look into:
- U.S. savings bonds
- Bank certificates of deposit (CDs)
- Money market funds, which are pools of CDs designed to accrue more interest.
- U.S. Treasury bills, notes, or bonds
Make a small, high-risk investment
Use a portion of the throw-away money you’ve allocated with your budget and invest it in a sensible stock or mutual fund.The key word here is small.
High-risk investments, like stocks, are high-risk and high reward. Talk with your financial planner before making any decisions.
Go through the list above one item at a time and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more stress-free life.