5 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances

Taking control of your finances

The average credit card debt as of January 2013, is approximately $8,700 per person, according to Mint.com data.  This may seem overwhelming, but money management does not have to be as hard as you think.  The start of a new year is the perfect time to get organized and start fresh with financial resolutions.

Before you get started, it’s important to get a clear picture of your financial accounts, make a budget, and set specific goals. With a few simple tactics and tips, you can set up yourself up for success and make your financial goals last throughout the year.

Here are five helpful tips to get you started:

1. Reduce Your Credit Card Debt. As you start to rethink what you want versus what you need, prioritize your credit card bills and the amounts you owe. If you have more than one credit card, pay off credit accounts with the highest interest rates first, since the higher a debt’s interest rate, the more it will cost you in the long term.

2. Save More & Spend Less. Cut out those purchases that are spontaneous or impulsive.  There are free sites that can help give you a snap shot of accounts’ activity and categorize your purchases so you can easily maintain a budget. You can also save money automatically by setting up a small, ongoing transfer into your savings account each month. Overtime, you’ll see this money grow and won’t be tempted to spend it if it’s already in your savings

3. Boost Your Credit Score. It’s important to try to pay your bills on time (which accounts for 35 percent of your credit score) and pay down other debts such as student loans or mortgages. Keeping credit card spending in control is another way to help boost your score. A good rule of thumb is to utilize no more than 30 percent of your available credit. Low credits cores can make it difficult to get a loan, rent an apartment, or purchase a home.

4. Start an Emergency Account. You need a cushion for your finances in case of an emergency. Try to save at least a few months’ worth of salary to set aside in an accessible account. This way you’ll have a backup plan in case you need to cover unexpected expenses or replace interrupted income.

5. Get Serious About Retirement. First, get an idea of what you need to live comfortably in your retirement and identify the small steps you can take now to get there. Utilize employer-sponsored contribution plans and take advantage of company matches. Stick to your budget, and look at your spending habits to identify where you can afford to cut back. It’s never too soon to start saving and planning now.