If you find yourself struggling to get on top of your bills or slowly adding to your mound of debt each month, then it might be time for an intervention. These 10 ideas will help you proactively take control of your money so you feel like you’re making steady progress toward greater financial security.
1. CHOOSE A BETTER BANK
Are you constantly paying fees for using out-of-network ATMs or running out of cash when you’re on the road? Now is the time to find a bank that better fits your needs. Comparison information on sites such as FindABetterBank.com or Bankrate.com can make it easy to compare options and interest rates. Larger banks tend to offer more ATMs for frequent travelers while smaller banks and credit unions might be less convenient but offer lower fees. If you have a large amount in cash, then you might want to consider a tool like MaxMyInterest.com, which helps users optimize the returns that they earn through FDIC-insured bank accounts.
2. UPGRADE YOUR CREDIT CARD
Many people use credit cards that aren’t matched to their needs, which means they pay too much in fees or miss out on rewards. If you carry debt, you’ll want to find a card with the lowest fee possible, but those without debt can maximize their rewards. Comparison sites such as IndexCreditCards.com and CreditCards.com make it easy to search for the right fit.
3. CONQUER PAPERWORK
If you’re drowning in bank statements, retirement account paperwork and health insurance forms, consider moving as much paperwork as possible online, and creating a three-ring binder and filing system for the rest. Having a shredder on hand to quickly and safely transfer personal documents to the trash can also help. You can also go digital by scanning the essential documents and then storing them in a safe location.
4. STOP PAYING FOR CABLE
Many television shows are available online for free; viewers need only watch a short commercial beforehand. Hulu.com, iTunes and network websites make it easy. If you’re looking for a specific show, try a simple Web search; just be sure to avoid the spam sites that pop up.
5. TAKE A FREE VACATION
A combination of credit card rewards, airline miles and hotel membership programs can generate enough rewards to fund a getaway for two around the world. Keep track of all paperwork and look for opportunities to layer deals and giveaways on top of each other. And don’t forget to read the fine print, especially when it relates to expiration dates and other restrictions.
6. SPEND LESS ON FOOD
Cooking more at home, keeping an organized fridge and shopping more frequently, but buying less, can help cut down on food waste. Even restaurant trips can become more efficient if you bring your own doggie bag and ask the server to hold the bread if you don’t plan to eat it. If you have a green thumb, consider growing some of your own veggies, too.
7. FIND YOUR NUMBER
Most Americans haven’t yet calculated just how much they’ll need to save for retirement, but free online calculators make it easy. By filling out a few numbers, including the age you plan to retire and current savings, you can project how much you need to save each month now to have a healthy nest egg when it’s time to leave the workforce for good.
8. CELEBRATE FRUGALLY
Successful parties don’t need to break the bank. Consider taking a DIY approach to decorations and host a potluck. When choosing a gift for a special occasion, consider making it more meaningful and less expensive with the gift of time, like a coffee date.
9. GET FAMOUS
If people recognize your name, you can charge more for your services, whether you’re an office worker, pet sitter or consultant. To get started, choose your specialty, connect with others through social media and start building your brand. If you’re new to a social media tool like Twitter, start by creating an account, uploading your photo so you look like a real person and following people who share similar interests to you.
10. PROTECT YOURSELF ONLINE
If your password is a common name or phrase, a hacker could guess it. Make your online accounts more secure by using different passwords for multiple sites and sticking with longer, hard-to-guess words or sentences.
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