Getting your personal finances in order and keeping them that way is an important skill – perhaps a more important one now than ever. Between the high-powered financial options anyone can take advantage of and the time-saving shortcuts anyone can abuse, it is all too easy to lose control of your money. Here are some basic tips about hanging on to your personal financial reins.
Banks offer two different types of loans: fixed and variable interest rate loans. Try to avoid variable interest rate loans at any cost as they can turn into a disaster. Fixed rate loans will have the same interest rate throughout the loan’s life. The interest rate of the variable rate loans and their monthly payments change either by following the fluctuations of the market or the contract between the bank and the borrower. The monthly payment can easily reach a level the borrower can’t afford.
Even in a world of online bank accounts, you should still be balancing your checkbook. It is so easy for things to get lost, or to not really know how much you have spent in any one month. Use your online checking information as a tool to sit down once a month and add up all your debits and credits the old fashioned way. You can catch errors and mistakes that are in your favor, as well as protect yourself from fraudulent charges and identity theft.
If you need more income, start your own business. It can be small and on the side. Do what you do well at work, but for other people or business. If you can type, offer to do administrative work for small home offices, if you are good at customer service, consider being an online or over the phone customer service rep. You can make good money in your spare time, and boost your savings account and monthly budget.
When it comes to maintaining your financial health, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is establish an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid sliding into debt in the event you or your spouse loses your job, needs medical care or has to face an unexpected crisis. Setting up an emergency fund is not hard to do, but requires some discipline. Figure out what your monthly expenses are and set a goal to save 6-8 months of funds in an account you can easily access if needed. Plan to save a full 12 months of funds if you are self-employed.
To improve your personal finance habits, pay off your debt as soon as it is possible. The amount of interest on loans is very high, and the longer you take to pay them off, the more you pay in interest. Additionally, you should always pay more than the minimum that is due on your loan or credit card.
Every time you get a raise, set aside at least half of the new, after-tax increase for saving more each month. You will still enjoy a higher income and will never miss the extra money which you were never used to spending. It is even better if you set up your paycheck or checking account to transfer the money to savings automatically.
To make your savings account earn money while you sit back and watch, invest in a long term fixed rate. These accounts offer a higher, fixed interest rate for a longer period of time. Most banks offer high interest to get your money, then cut the rate after a few months. Long term fixed rate accounts will have your money making money while it is in the bank.
If you have managed your finances well enough to own a home and have a retirement account, don’t jeopardize those by borrowing against them later. If you borrow against your home and can’t repay it, you could lose your home; the same is true for your retirement fund. Borrow against them only in dire situations.
Gaining control of your finances is not just economically prudent. It can be a source of great personal satisfaction and even pride. Using methods like those outlined above, you can keep a tight leash on your personal finances and bring your money to heel. Personal finance is all about making your money behave the way you want it to.