Does it always feel like your finances are spinning out of control? If you have a hard time keeping up with your bills each month or just can’t stick to your budget (tip: check out our guide), it may be time for a quick financial cleanup. Even if budgeting isn’t your strong point, there are several things you can do to keep yourself in the green in the money department. Taking small steps to improve your money management skills will pay off in the long run.
Here are six things you can do to take control of your finances right now:
#1: Schedule monthly bill payments. Whether it’s the electric bill or credit card payments, stay ahead of your bills by scheduling bill payments online and set up automatic payments whenever possible. Automating bill payments can prevent late payment fees and protect your credit score. Just make sure to update your monthly budget with the payment amount so that you have an accurate idea of how much cash you have on hand in any given month.
#2: Build your cushion. Even if it’s $5 a week or $100 a month, make contributions to an emergency savings account every single month. Even small deposits will add up over time and you may be surprised how much you will have stashed away within a few months. Be deliberate about making contributions to this fund every week or every couple of weeks to build up that cushion with minimal effort.
#3: Get friendly with a budgeting app. We’ve recommended several budgeting apps and online tools for keeping track of expenses and putting together a realistic budget in previous posts. Take some time to learn the ins and outs of your app of choice so that you are comfortable using it regularly. Whether you decide to log every expense or just want a bird’s eye view of your cash flow situation at any given time, learn about the app’s different features so you get the most benefits out of the habit.
#4: Organize your bank accounts. Do you have more checking and savings accounts set up at different banks? Having multiple accounts only makes sense when the bank can offer you attractive rates and low fees on different banking products. If you are having a hard time figuring out exactly how much you have in savings or available to spend, consolidate accounts to one bank and consider setting up sub-savings accounts to organize your finances. Maintaining just one good banking relationship may be all you need to get a better handle on your finances.
#5: Get chatty with creditors. If credit card debt is one of your biggest financial concerns, give your creditors a call to negotiate interest rates and review your account. Some can do this without running a credit check and may be open to lowering your rate if you’ve been a longtime card holder and are in good standing. It never hurts to ask and this simple step could help you whittle down that debt load faster.
#6: Accept the budget. Budgeting isn’t always fun but you need one to better manage your finances. We’ve been sharing tips for putting together a healthy household budget these past few weeks and now is a great time to get started. Even if it’s something as simple as a spreadsheet or something more complex like a software program (we’re big fans of You Need a Budget), accept the fact that you need some type of budget to map out your finances. Accept it. Embrace it. Enjoy some peace of mind.