In this economy—and especially during this time of year—many of us are facing our very own fiscal cliff. While we may not be able to raise revenue as easily as the federal government can, these five steps may help you reach solvency and put savings in the bank, financial planners say.
- Get organized. Put due dates for bills on an electronic calendar and you’ll get email reminders to avoid late fees. A good filing system will help when tax time rolls around and will be useful in the next step below.
- Get a budget. There’s a ton of free online resources for this, including mint.com and budgettracker.com. Some even track your bills.
- Get a debit card—and some scissors for your credit cards. Better yet, pay cash whenever possible. It’s a fact that most people spend more when using a credit card. And if you use a credit card, pay the full amount owed each month. Servicing that debt will only get you deeper into debt.
- Get a handle on your credit score. The first three steps will help with this. A higher credit score can help you get a better interest rate if you’re looking to lower your home mortgage by refinancing, or help you get lower credit rates in general.
- Get professional help. Nonprofits like Money Management International offer assistance at no charge. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University has helped many people become debt and financial-worry free. Ramsey’s service isn’t free, but you can get a one-week free trial to test whether it fits your needs.
Once you’re free of debt and ready to grow your savings, you can look to financial services companies for investment advice, including banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others), insurers (State Farm, Allianz and others) and brokers (Edward Jones, for example).