An important part of any shape-up plan is maintenance. After working hard to attain your goals, you don’t want to slip back into bad habits that can sabotage the effort you put in. It’s true when you’re dieting and also true when you’re tending to your financial health.
In our four-part series on financial health, we’ve learned how to detox your budget, whip your credit into shape, and set financial goals. Now it’s time to learn how to establish good money management habits.
Use this financial checklist to stay on track moving forward to ensure the good money habits you’ve developed don’t fall by the wayside.
1. Pay Your Bills on Time
If you want to keep the good credit you’ve worked so hard to build up, you need to pay your bills on time every month. No exceptions. How can you make sure you don’t miss a payment? There are a number of ways you can use technology to assist you, such as:
- Set up automatic bill pay, which will pull the money from your linked checking account automatically each month. Usually, you can set up automatic payments for credit cards, mortgage payments and most utility companies.
- If you prefer to have a bit more control over when money comes out, set up calendar reminders on your smartphone to pop up a few days before the bills are due.
- Place a calendar or physical reminder board in an area you frequent with each of your bill’s due dates.
2. Use a Credit Card to Earn Rewards
Credit card rewards programs are a smart way to earn something for nothing. You’re going to be buying certain things anyway each month, such as groceries and gas. Why not be rewarded for it?
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Just be sure you’re paying off the credit card balance in full each month. Remember – you’re not gaining anything if you rack up big interest payments on debt you don’t pay off.
3. Monitor Accounts for Signs of Identity Theft
Identity theft can wipe out your financial health in just a few keystrokes. Get in the habit of looking over all your financial statements and questioning any expenses you don’t recognize. Also, request your free annual credit report to check for red flags that someone may be using your identity.
4. Keep a Budget
After going through a budget detox, you don’t want your budget to grow flabby again. Continue to keep it lean and focused by employing a budgeting worksheet, and update it to reflect any changes in your life, such as new children, a different marital status or a new job.
5. Be Proactive About Savings
Whether you’re saving up for college for your kids or retirement for you and your spouse, you should be putting money away for the future. Even during months when money is tight, trim an unneeded expense and put the money into savings instead. Maybe that means foregoing a happy hour with co-workers or watching a movie on TV rather than going to the theater. Those small sacrifices will be worth the reward as your savings grow.
At least 10% of your monthly income should go to a savings or retirement account. Learn more about saving money on our Six Step Formula for Successful Money Management infographic.
6. Shop Around for Everything
Have you been with the same car insurance provider for years? When was the last time you switched wireless service companies? It’s easy to become complacent about the services you’ve used for years. But often, when you shop around, you can find a better price that saves you money – and you may not even need to leave your current provider. Here’s how to do it:
- Research current rates and offerings.
- Request pricing for the services you need from other providers.
- Go back to your current provider and see if they’ll match the new price. If they will, stay put. If they won’t, make the switch.
7. Stay Informed and Active
An important step in preserving your financial health is remaining on top of things. You should know what’s happening with your money. If you see a fee coming out of your account each month and you aren’t sure what it is, ask! If you notice a charge on your credit card that you don’t recognize, pursue it. If you are no longer sure the retirement account you chose is the best one for you, consult a financial advisor.
You will advocate for your own financial health more effectively than anyone else, because it’s your money on the line.
Find more money management tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.