February 5, 2016 1:33 am
To achieve that stability, a realistic financial plan is in order, says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).
“For the past 25 years we have helped tens of thousands of individuals by providing credit counseling and other financial education resources, “says Trumble. “We hear from so many consumers who are facing a variety of financial challenges, and who are looking for ways to improve their lives financially. We have created a list of our top financial suggestions as a guide to help consumers get on the right track.”
Trumble’s guide lays out 25 money-smart tips:
1. Create a budget. Know your budget, make it non-negotiable, and then save enough to afford that budget.
2. Set financial goals early. Start each New Year by setting your financial goals and give those goals a purpose. Write these goals down and review them throughout the year to track your progress.
3. Reduce energy costs. Assess your home’s insulation and seal any holes to reduce your heating and cooling costs through the winter and summer months.
4. Plan for the future. Review your budget and make sure your money will last as you plan for retirement. If you have access to a 401(k) through work, then set it up to automatically deduct a percentage from each pay check.
5. Pay off debt. Review your outstanding debts and try to get any and all credit cards and loans paid off as quickly as possible.
6. Practice smart spending. Cut back on unnecessary spending and find better alternatives to get the most value out of your money.
7. Avoid online scams. Ticketing websites are easy ways to buy and sell, but be aware of possible fraud. Never wire money in advance and try to meet in person to exchange purchase for cash.
8. Improve financial literacy. Make sure you understand the basic concepts of saving and investing in order to build wealth over time.
9. Cook more meals at home. Plan out your meals for the week to minimize waste. Cooking at home and cooking freezer-friendly meals are some of the best ways to trim back on food cost.
10. Create a rainy day fund. Set aside a small rainy day fund to prepare for unexpected car repairs or broken appliances. This fund can also be used for last-minute traveling should you need to visit a sick relative or attend an event out of town.
11. Compare credit cards for best perks. Make sure you have the best credit card that fulfills all of your needs. Compare the pros and cons of each card before making your decision, paying attention to extra perks.
12. Start using coupons. Coupons are great money savers that can cut your bill by a significant amount.
13. Utilize workplace benefits. Make sure you know about all retirement accounts, flexible spending accounts and wellness support that may be available to you through your workplace.
14. Prioritize expenses. Determine what your essential expenses are, such as rent, food, car payments, gas and utilities. Add up these expenses and then subtract from your budget to see what your discretionary spending can be on a monthly basis.
15. Activate password protection on mobile devices. Mobile devices contain a lot of important information, such as access to bank accounts and email, which is why it is imperative to add a password.
16. Prepare for potential disasters. Starting an emergency fund is imperative. You never know when a financial disaster could strike and it is important to be as prepared as possible. Take a look at your budget and come up with a plan to save for at least 6-9 months of expenses.
17. Shop for deals. Do your research before heading to the stores. Study advertisements and compare prices at several different stores to ensure you are getting the best deal.
18. Consider paying in cash. Consumers tend to spend less money when it involves using cash over swiping a credit card. Watching the cash leave your hand can reduce your chances of overspending.
19. Protect against identity theft. Be sure to look over your monthly statement for unfamiliar charges on your credit card to make sure identity theft has not taken place.
20. Check your credit score. It is easy to check your credit score for free once a year through a variety of commercial websites.
21. Improve your credit score. Earn a better interest rate by improving your credit score. Start by paying off debt and making all payments on time.
22. Cut unnecessary spending. Take a look at your discretionary expenses and decipher between personal wants and needs. Cut back by reducing the number of personal services you pay for such as manicures or takeout.
23. Use money-saving apps. Apps can help you track your spending to ensure you are sticking to your budget.
24. Consider alternative modes of transportation. Save on gas and parking by utilizing public transportation or carpooling.
25. Treat yourself every so often! Keep yourself on track by occasionally spending money on something that may not be a necessity.
Published with permission from RISMedia.