Sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just getting started. Whether you’re planning to buy a new home, refinance your existing mortgage or stow away extra cash for retirement, having good financial habits in place can help but this requires budgeting wisely. In fact, only one out of every three Americans creates a formal budget every month.
Smart financial habits should include budgeting, managing your bills, keeping an eye on your credit score and more. Bad money habits can be a source of great frustration, harm, and can block the path to realizing dreams like owning a house or retiring.
The good news is that bad habits can be broken!
Are you looking to achieve some financial goals or get better at handling your money? These tips can help you get there.
Know where your money goes. Start by jotting down everything you think you spent money on last month. Next, locate recent bank and credit card statements to check out your purchases. Be sure to take note of the kinds of things you purchased and their costs. Include rent, car insurance, groceries, small purchases such as coffee or snacks, and fees from your bank or credit card. Once you can actually examine your spending habits, you will clearly see where your money goes and can plug a few of your leaks. Changing your spending habits can save you quite a few bucks.
Automate your savings. A classic saying in personal finance is “pay yourself first.” Before your paycheck hits your bank account, you should set up a plan to put some of that money into a retirement savings plan or cash savings account. You can’t spend it if you’ve already saved it. Most banks let you set up automatic deposits from your checking account to your savings account. You can make these deposits monthly and have them continue for a certain number of deposits or for as long as you want.
Pay all of your bills on time. Paying your bills on time is an important aspect of taking control of your financial life. Most of your regularly recurring bills—utilities, mortgage, car loan, etc.—provide you with the option of having the amount you owe automatically deducted from a designated bank account. Make it easy by making it automatic. Carve out time on your calendar to pay bills on a regular basis doing so will help you stay on track with them. Late payments could hurt your credit score considerably and can result in late fees.
Download a budgeting app. There are a variety of finance apps, and they can help you keep your spending and saving on track. Some even come with free credit monitoring alerts. A few to check out:
- Mint–Automatically updates and categorizes transactions, creating a picture of spending in real-time. Users can add their own categories, track bills, split transactions and set budgets that alert them when they’re exceeding their maximum spending threshold. The service also provides free credit scores and credit score monitoring. Free
- PocketGuard–Tells users how much money is available after accounting for bills, spending and savings goal contributions. All users can view how much money is left “in my pocket” for the day, week or month. Those who want to dial down farther can track certain categories of spending — like groceries, clothing or eating out. FREE
- You Need A Budget (YNAB)–Each dollar of your income is given a job, such as bill paying, saving, or investing. By accounting for every dollar each month, it helps you cut down on overspending. By keeping it simple, YNAB helps you avoid the stress and pain of building a full-blown budget. In addition, YNAB also helps you plan for unexpected or infrequent expenses. It helps you get ahead so you’re not living paycheck to paycheck while also teaching you to be resilient if you’re hit with an unexpected overage. YNAB also offers free online classes to help you learn about money management. FREE
Look for small ways to save. There are so many methods for saving. Maybe you’ll find success with coupons, cooking at home instead of eating out or turning off the lights and unplugging devices when they’re not in use. Look for ways to save on fixed monthly expenses like with cell phone and cable plans. You’d be surprised how little changes can add up.
Improving your finances doesn’t have to be rocket science. If you make small adjustments to your spending and saving habits now, you could reap the benefits for the long haul. Money won’t save itself if you keep telling yourself to start saving it tomorrow. Begin today!
Chandra Liggins is a Global Mortgage Senior Loan Officer based in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Visit Chandra’s Facebook business page if you are looking for advice from a seasoned mortgage professional.