If you often feel worried about money, or you tend to wing it from one month to the next without much of a plan in place, you might benefit from taking a few steps to improve your financial health and habits.
While being financially healthy means different things to different people, it generally refers to a state in which you can meet your monthly financial obligations, are on track to achieve your financial goals, and have enough cash in the bank to be able to absorb a financial setback.
You might feel that achieving optimal financial health is a long way off. The good news, however, is that implementing just a few good financial habits–such as tracking your spending and saving at least something each month–can boost your financial well-being right away, and even more so over time.
Here are some simple strategies that can feel calmer and more in control of your money.
1. Making a Monthly Budget
When it comes to money in and money out each month, many of us leave it to chance–and hope that the numbers work out.
Taking some time to actually crunch the numbers, however, can help ensure that you are living within your means, spending in line with your priorities, and working towards a healthy financial future.
2. Paying Off Debt
Credit cards and similar high-interest consumer loans can drag down your financial health by making it harder to meet your monthly expenses–and even harder to save for future goals.
There’s no one right way to pay down high-interest debt, but these are two popular strategies that could help eliminate debt faster.
3. Putting a Stop to Overspending
When spending money is as simple as tapping a card or your smartphone, it can be all too easy to overdo it.
And while a couple of lattes or convenience store trips don’t feel expensive at the point of sale, they can add up over time. Prime orders make it easy to drop $20 here and $40 there, without even leaving the comfort of home.
4. Automating Savings
Tackling financial health can feel overwhelming, and it’s not likely something you want to be thinking about all the time.
Fortunately, it’s easy to put one of the best financial health-boosters–saving at least something each month–on autopilot.
This simply entails setting up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account on the same day each month. And, if you set it to happen right after your paycheck clears, you won’t even have a chance to spend that money. Chances are, you won’t even miss it.
And, it’s perfectly fine to start small. Saving a little is better than saving nothing at all, and if the transfer is happening every single month no matter what, those small deposits will add up over time.
5. Paying Bills on Time
Thirty-five percent of a person’s credit score is based on payment history, according to FICO . In fact, it’s weighted more than any other factor.
When it comes to improving your financial health, paying bills on time can have a pretty significant impact. Being prompt with your payments can also save you money by helping you avoid late fees and interest.
One way to help ensure timely payments is to add bill due dates to your personal digital or paper calendar. Another option is to automate the process by setting up automatic bill payment through your checking account or the service provider’s website.
Even if you can’t afford to pay a bill in full, you may want to set it up so that you pay the minimum amount due each month to avoid steep penalty fees.