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Managing Your Money

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Whether you’ve been carefully watching your spending for years or just beginning to see the value in putting a little something away every month, managing your money can be an ongoing challenge. Here are some ideas for smart money management.

Getting Started

If the thought of reading your credit union account statement is overwhelming, take a deep breath and read it anyway. The first thing you need to do is get organized so you know exactly how much you have, where it is, how much you owe, and what comes in and goes out of your accounts each month. With eStatements – it’s easy because you can view up to 18 months statement history online from anywhere. A budget is helpful because it puts your financial picture in a single snapshot while making it easy to make decisions about spending and saving. Without seeing that picture (what you pay for housing, food, clothing, utilities, insurance, etc.) it’s hard to know what you can save.

Pay Yourself First

Unless you’re already saving as much as ten percent of your income, there’s a good chance that nothing is left to save at the end of the month. Why? Because waiting until everything else is paid before putting something away for YOURSELF is a big mistake. Take your savings off the top. Then pay your bills and everything else with what’s left. Even if you start with two percent of your income, the act of putting money away will change the way you view your finances and you’ll feel wonderful watching your nest egg grow.

Make it Inconvenient

Although you want to have access to your money, make it difficult to touch your savings. Saving money in a savings account that is linked to your checking account makes it too easy to transfer money from savings (that you don’t want to touch) to checking. Instead, check out our rates for certificates, and other savings vehicles.

Make it Automatic

Set up your savings (and your debt payments if applicable) so they are automatically debited from your account when your paycheck comes in. Set it up once and you won’t have to think about it again.

Stop the Leaks

Is your morning coffee an expensive habit that could be replaced by coffee at work or brought from home, saving hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of dollars a year? Is your mortgage draining your paycheck, when you could possibly live in a smaller home, less expensive area, or rent out part of your home to generate income? Is retail therapy your favorite way to relax on a Saturday afternoon? In a moment of brutal honesty, ask yourself where the leaks are, and commit to replacing those habits with more productive ones.

Use Debt Wisely

Not all credit is evil (it’s close to impossible to buy a home or sometimes even a car, with cash) but watch your use of credit, especially credit cards, carefully. Organizing your finances will give you a complete picture of what you owe and to whom, but only responsible use of credit will keep you away from dangerously high levels of debt.

How many credit cards do you have? What are the interest rates? Do you carry a balance on them, or pay them off every month? It’s hard to beat the convenience of credit cards. But it’s also hard to resist the temptation of spending more than you have when there’s plastic in your pocket.

There’s nothing magical, or even difficult, about managing your money. With a little thought and planning, you can set up your finances so they reflect your personal values and have them under control so you’ll always have what you need and some money put away for a rainy day too.