If you have recently found yourself in more debt, your bank account overdrawn, or your financial goals otherwise derailed after a job loss, illness, or just a bad streak of luck, there are several strategies that can help you right the course. You just need some smart steps to follow. To help, we suggest these tried and true tips to get you back on track toward financial success.
Set a Budget
Whether you know the basics of setting a budget or have no idea where to start, it’s important to consider all of your expenses, especially those which are often overlooked. These less frequent expenses are typically forgotten in the initial budget planning, and can pop up when you least expect them, ruining your budget and leave you reeling months later:
Personal property taxes
Unexpected medical bills
Children’s extracurricular activities
Insurance rate increases
The key is to anticipate these expenses and factor them into your budget. You can calculate an annual amount for all of them and divide by 12 so that you are budgeting for part of these expenses each month.
Track Your Spending
While there isn’t much you can do about some of the line items in your budget, such as your mortgage or utility bills, you do have direct control over your spending. While it may seem tedious to track every dollar you spend, it can provide useful insight into where your money is going—and whether you are actually sticking to your financial plan.
Tracking and categorizing every purchase you make in a month may help reveal that you eat out more than you thought or that you overspend your clothing budget on a regular basis. With this knowledge, you can make category limits or find habits where you can make cuts. There are various methods available to help you track your spending, from mobile apps and software programs to spreadsheets or the old pen and paper technique. Teachers members can easily track their spending habits within online banking by clicking on “Money Management.”
Automate Your Savings
Building up an emergency fund is vital to your financial wellbeing. We all have unforeseen financial emergencies from time to time. Having money to cover these expenses will give you peace of mind.
The Federal Reserve reported in 2019 that 39% of Americans could not handle an unexpected $400 expense with the cash they had on hand, and 40% of these adults say they would have to go into debt or borrow from friends or family to cover such an expense. To avoid this, consider trimming your spending as much as possible to build up your emergency savings. Then, automate your savings.
Automating your savings entails setting up a recurring transfer from your checking account to your savings account on the date you receive your paycheck. By placing the allotted funds into a savings account automatically, you’ll learn to live on less without ever noticing it and build a cushion to withstand an emergency with little effort on your part.
Take Out a Personal Loan
It is hard to consider saving money if you are currently paying high-interest-rate debt. One way to tackle this problem is to take out a personal loan. Credit unions like Teachers are a good choice for this because they often offer low-rate personal loans. Depending on the amount of debt you have and the interest rate you are currently paying, you may be able to shave thousands of dollars off your debt by using this one simple method.
Set Up a 401(K)
To get on the right track and achieve your long-term financial goals, you not only need to focus on the present, but think about the future as well.
If you don’t already have a retirement plan, one of the most attractive options for employees is a 401(k) plan in which your employer matches a certain percentage of your contributions. The money that your employer contributes basically serves as extra retirement savings for you. You can often set up your 401(k) easily with your employer and make automatic contributions directly from each paycheck. In little time, you may begin to significantly increase your retirement savings.
Negotiate Your Bills
One money-saving option that many people overlook is to negotiate their “fixed” bills, such as their phone service, insurance, or utilities. Oftentimes, you may be able to slash these expenses, and you can use the money you save to get back on track to meet your financial goals. Further examples of implementing this option are:
Contact other insurance, phone or cable providers and get a quote for a new service. Use this offer to negotiate a better rate with your existing provider, or to switch altogether to a more affordable option.
Scale back on current services you are not using, such as movie packages or cable. Opt for a cheaper alternative, such as a streaming service instead.
Cancel expensive gym memberships in favor of free or cheaper options, like going to the park or a local community center.
Contact the retention department of your providers, whose sole job is to keep your business. They may be able to offer you better rates than regular customer service representatives.
Contact your utility providers and inquire about any free energy efficiency services. Some companies may come into your home for free and install energy-saving materials that help reduce your utility bills.
Speak With a Financial Services Representative
If you feel that you have done all you can to get back on track, you may consider talking with one of our financial services representatives who can look at your individual situation. Our team can help make recommendations on how you can cut your expenses, increase your income, and increase your savings.
By taking some smart financial steps, you’ll immediately feel the relief of building towards financial stability even in uncertain times. And the longer you keep at it, each day you’ll see your financial goals getting closer.