finance tips

There’s a lot of wisdom in the old adage, watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.

Sometimes we feel like we have to make big, drastic changes to improve our personal finances and make our bank accounts more robust and healthy, but small changes can and do make a big difference!

Here are a few little changes you can make to help get your finances on the right footing.

1. Set up an automatic savings account.

Whether weekly, monthly, or biweekly, each pay period has a set amount deducted from your check and put aside into a savings account. Money removed before you have a chance to see (and know) it’s there for spending can add up, plus you won’t even notice that it’s missing. If it’s done automatically, you won’t be able to forget to make the transfer or find a reason to keep it out of the rainy day fund.

2. Pay a little extra on a bill or two.

Even just a few dollars over the amount you owe on certain bills can help reduce balances even faster. It also helps cut down the amount of interest applicable to the bill because everything you pay over the minimum due goes directly to the principle, reducing interest over time. This works for everything: credit cards, loans, house payments, cars, etc.

3. Make a few different choices.

Instead of going out to a restaurant, make a favorite takeout dish from an online recipe at home. Instead of going out to a movie, make some fresh popcorn at home and watch a new release on demand. See if your favorite coffee shop sells bags of either beans or freshly ground coffee and brew at home instead of stopping on the way to work every day. This isn’t to say cut out these little treats altogether, indulge a little less often.

4. Swap plastic for paper.

We’re so used to using our credit and bank cards to pay for everything, we forget what it feels like to hand over cash. But when we use cash, we’re more acutely aware of what we’re spending and how much we’re actually taking home for the dollars we spend. Try to use paper currency a little more often and see how that changes your purchasing decisions.

5. Track everything.

Remember checkbooks? They came with paper ledgers in which to write down all your transactions. Most of us rely on our bank apps and online bank account dashboards these days. But writing everything down, purchase and expense after purchase and expense, will really shine a bright light on how you’re spending your money. Itemizing everything, and maybe adding a note about what each purchase was and whether it was a “need” or a “want,” can help you see where you’re spending money you don’t realize.

Some of these changes are easy and of the “set it and forget it” variety; others will take a little work to become habits. But each dollar you don’t save today is one you have set aside for tomorrow. And they’ll add up!

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