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7 Tips for Setting Your Finances Up for Success
Solid financial management is nothing to sleep on. So if you’ve been hitting snooze on your financial to-do list, now’s the time to wake up.
Years of ignoring your finances can stunt more than just your monthly budget. Financial mismanagement over time can have you missing key milestones like homeownership, retirement investments, and even once-in-a-lifetime vacations. Start making headway toward a solid financial future by taking these financial management tips to heart.
1. Acknowledge Your Financial Bad Habits and Create a Plan to Manage Them
A quick trip to Target for shampoo can easily transition into a $200 binge on home organization ephemera. And your takeout budget is practically destined to balloon with the convenience of app-based delivery services. If impulse spending driven by convenience is a sore spot, take note and make adjustments to your habits.
People who ignore or make light of their free-spending ways will have trouble with basic money management for life. Instead, shop using a list, limit trips to retail stores, or order curbside pickup to reduce impulse spending. This requires additional planning, but the savings opportunity is worth the effort.
2. Find a Budget Style That You Can Stick To
Budgeting is one of those adulting tasks that easily becomes a drag. But living without a budget will cause more headaches than the hassle of creating one. People who spend loosely often struggle to have the money they need for emergencies or fun spending like vacations.
Consider using budgeting apps and set alerts for categories that easily top out like shopping, dining out, and groceries. Integrate your budget style to your life so you can adhere to it over time.
3. Put Your Savings on Autopilot
According to Due, automatic transfers are your best friend when it comes to creating a savings habit. Set up a transfer to move cash on your payday to accounts set up for both long and short-term savings goals. Home, medical, and auto expenses can easily drain your accounts, so set up funds for them.
Put aside money each month for larger goals like vacations, using your expected spending to calculate your monthly savings allotment. Treat this transfer like a bill commitment, and you’ll hit your goal before you know it. Tap into this fund only for its intended purpose (or, God forbid, an emergency).
4. Put the Squeeze on Inflation-Linked Expenses
Rising prices in commodities like gas and groceries impact everyone. And while a hunger strike isn’t advisable, the rising cost of food does warrant a look at how and what you buy. As for gas, review your usual travel patterns to see if you can run errands efficiently to reduce fuel usage.
Consider meal planning that uses the same ingredients, making your grocery list streamlined. Eat seasonally, go meatless once a week, and stick to whole foods instead of processed ones to reduce your grocery bill. Shop discount grocers to get quality food on the cheap — and possibly a faster shopping trip. Discount stores are smaller and offer fewer distracting offers, saving you time and the temptation offered by other stores.
5. Manage Subscriptions With a Watchful Eye
Just 10 years ago, the idea of multiple monthly subscriptions would have been laughable. Now, most consumers are spending an average of $273 per month on subscriptions. Some may be unavoidable, like data storage or word processing software. But others are true luxury spends, like multiple video streaming services, photo editing, graphic design, and music streaming apps.
Review your subscriptions commitments and trim them down to align with your actual needs. Check into your subscription fees quarterly and assess your usage. If your costs are too high, call your providers to see whether you can get a reduced rate. A good way of seeing whether you’re using your service is to see if your app access is cloud-download only. If you’ve not touched it in a while, cut it and save the cash.
6. Make Headway on Your Credit Score Each Month
Your credit score is your financial calling card; it tells lenders how responsible of a borrower you are. Pay your bills on time every month and try to use no more than 30% of your available credit. These two actions drive over half of your score, so keep that in mind when you swipe. New credit, credit mix, and account age also contribute to your score. While their weights toward your score are lower, they’re also important.
Apply for new credit only when you need it, and make a practice of reviewing your full credit report annually. Aim for a score in the 700s to be seen as a desirable borrower and credit-worthy customer. When you keep your score high, you also keep your options open when it’s time to shop for a loan.
7. Get All the Free Money You Can
Everyone likes to get something for free, and free money is the ultimate perk. Where does this free money come from, you might ask? From a familiar source — your employer. Review your employer’s contributions toward retirement, health savings, fitness programs, and professional development. Strive to get the maximum value from your employment benefits package, making the necessary employee contributions to get any matching funds.
Leave nothing on the table, and you’ll gain the benefit of a healthy retirement account and a potentially lower tax obligation. In addition, many employers will reimburse the cost of further education or even front the cost for you. Taking advantage of this offer can increase your earning power, which will pay dividends for life.
Consider Yourself in the Business of You
No one cares about your finances but you. The harsh but true reality is that everyone is too preoccupied with their own priorities to worry about yours. That’s why it’s all the more important that you champion yourself and your finances every step of the way. Think of your financial standing as the foundation of “Corporation You,” of which you are the chairperson.
Make every move in the best interest of yourself and your family, making both long- and short-term plays. Daily budget management can lead to lifelong prosperity. Consistent, life-long savings toward strategic investments can support your retirement dreams. But the bright future you yearn for starts with mindful financial management practices and your commitment to sticking to them. Implement some or all of these tips, and the sky’s the limit.