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5 Ways to Get in Control of Your Finances

5 Ways to Get in Control of Your Finances

It’s easy to lose track of your finances, especially if you’re a busy person or if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. However, personal finance is a major factor is securing a comfortable life for yourself. It’s important that you understand where your money is going and how it’s being saved. With the proper know-how and techniques, you can save the most efficiently.

Money shouldn’t be a stressor for you. In fact, it can be quite interesting and a little fun to keep track of your income and expenses! Once you see how your money comes in and out, you’ll feel more reassured when spending your money. Here are five ways to get in control of your finances:

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Get Educated on Personal Finance

Personal finance is something that we should all know as adults, but sadly, we’re not always taught it in schools. Or if we are, we easily forget the minor deals that could save us a lot of money in the long run. If you feel that you’re unclear on managing money, whether it’s the basics or a specific aspect, you should brush up on your personal finance knowledge. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go back to school. The good news is that these days, knowledge is free and readily available online. And with video tutorials, eBooks, and podcasts, knowledge is in the medium of your choice! Find some highly-rated tutorials online and get started.

Use Budgeting Software

Once you are more familiar with the ideas behind personal finance, you should put that knowledge in to practice. Nowadays, there are tons of different programs and apps to help you keep track of what you’re saving and spending. They all have different features, so do a little research before you dive in. Or, try using two alongside each other to see which you prefer. Budgeting is important because it keeps your goals in black-and-white, giving you less of a chance to slip back into bad habits. Even if you aren’t good with computers, you can go the old-fashioned route: a pencil and paper!

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Pay Down Your Debt

It seems everyone has an opinion on personal finance, and even the professionals are all going to have different ideas about how best to save your money. But most will agree that your first priority when getting in control of your finances should be to pay down any outstanding debt you might have. This is because debt accumulates interest, which is compounded, meaning that the longer you wait to pay off your debt, the faster it grows, and the harder it will be to pay off.

Choose a Bank and Credit Card That Work Best for You

While there aren’t many huge differences between banks, each bank will have slightly different features than the other. Perhaps one bank has more ATMs around the city you live in, or perhaps another has a good online banking system and app for your phone. Keep in mind, also, that different banks may offer different interest rates for your bank accounts. Choosing a credit card will offer the same kinds of decisions for you. Some credit cards offer cash back or frequent flyer miles in return for you using their card. Read up on on the different banks and credit cards to find out what best fits your interests.

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Be Frugal

Frugal, despite common belief, does not mean “poor.” It means spending your money as wisely as possible. Experts will tell you that you should always live below your means. How you choose to be frugal is up to you. Perhaps that means living in a home that has a cheaper rent or mortgage. Or perhaps you should aim to spend less on entertainment each month. If you have a budget and are keeping track of how you spend your money, you should be able to figure out where you can best cut your spending. Additionally, online coupons and vouchers can help you save on your monthly expenses.

Personal finance isn’t always easy, and there will be times when something doesn’t make sense. Don’t give up! The result will make all the trouble worth it. And if you follow these tips, you’ll have a solid foundation for getting back on your financial feet.

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Featured photo credit: 20 Best Personal Finance Books You Should Read Now via lifehack.org

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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