Have you ever spent sleepless nights worrying about your finances? Between battling debt, working to pay off a mortgage and planning for retirement, there is plenty to think about. But don’t let these worries keep you up at night — take action. Check out some money decisions that will help you rest easy.
1. Track Your Spending & Create a Budget
Examine your recent bank and credit card statements. Be sure your current expenses are less than your income and make changes if you are spending more than you earn. Formulate a budget that covers all of life’s essentials without being so stringent that you cannot follow it. By creating a plan that will work for you and tracking your spending with a budget program (or even simply on an Excel spreadsheet) in the future you can quickly assess if you are veering off course.
2. Plan Your Retirement
It can seem overwhelming thinking so far into the future, but we all know that the key to retiring is saving your money smartly and investing well (or winning the lottery!). It’s a good idea to determine how much you need to save for retirement and decide how you plan to get there, through a 401(k), some type of individual retirement account or both. The sooner you think about the future, the better prepared you will be when it comes.
3. Create a Path to Zero Debt
It may get you down paying off your debt in small amounts each month. You may feel like you’re not making much progress. Getting organized and making a course toward financial freedom can help you make smarter payment decisions. You can pay down your debts in a number of different ways including smallest to largest or highest interest to lowest interest. Paying off your smallest debt can give you some momentum on your debt journey, but paying off your highest interest debt first can save you money in the long term. Whatever your strategy, it’s important to form a plan and get started.
4. Establish an Emergency Fund
No matter what keeps you tossing and turning at night, there is always the chance that an unexpected expense is waiting around the corner. Growing an emergency fund of three to 12 months’ expenses will help you tackle whatever comes up in your life. It’s a good idea to keep this money separate and do not use it for home buying, travel or education — those savings should be established in a different place.
5. Monitor Your Credit
If you have a credit report — or even if you don’t think you do — it’s important to check your free annual credit reports (you are entitled to at least one per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies). Anything that looks unfamiliar is worth investigating. It could tip you off to possible identity theft. If, like most of us, you do use credit, you’ll want to keep yours in good shape because higher credit scores often mean lower interest rates. (You can see your credit scores for free on Credit.com, as well as get an action plan for improving or maintaining them.)
6. Communicate Your Plan
It could be your family, your significant other, your parents or even a close friend — telling another person about your plan can help keep you honest. Financial stress can originate or worsen when you are trying to hide the truth from other people in your life. Sharing your plan and budget will help you stick to it and help others know how to be a positive influence.
Whether you are doing some late night calculations, meet with a specialist by day or work slowly to get your finances in order, a few changes can make a big difference. Going to bed each night knowing you are taking the necessary steps for your finances means you can rest easier.
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