Did you know that April has been designated Financial Literacy Month? It’s a great time to get your financial house in order. Being sure your finances are in hand now can make you better armed should a money problem strike in the future. Tomorrow is always uncertain–being prepared will allow you to sleep better.
Today let’s review some ideas for getting your financial house in order.
First, open your bills the day they arrive. This may seem like common sense, but every week clients walk into my office with grocery bags filled with unopened bills. Ignoring the problem won’t change anything, but facing the facts and developing a plan will.
Second, review your monthly billing statements thoroughly. Consumers not only need to be aware of the amount they owe and payment due date, but should check their statements for unauthorized charges which could indicate ID theft, rate changes, credit limit changes, and any additional fees that might have been added on. Contact the issuer immediately if you observe anything out of the ordinary on your statement, or if the terms have changed. Creditors have been known to add phantom charges which they will remove, but only if you call to demand it.
Third, pay your bills on time. Late fees can be in the $40 range, and one late payment can ding your credit score by as much as 100 points. If you’re a procrastinator, travel, or are just plain unorganized, set up automatic bill paying through your bank account to make sure you’re never late with a payment.
Fourth, record each check you write, along with any ATM withdrawals. Non-sufficient Fund fees can be as high as credit card late fees. And returned checks can damage your financial reputation. Even if your bank allows you to exceed your balance, you’ll pay a hefty price for that courtesy. NSF fees can quickly escalate to hundreds of dollars if not cleared immediately. So record all transactions and know where you stand at all times.
Fifth, do not max out your credit card limits. Utilizing all of your available credit will likely backfire on you. Creditors like to see people responsibly manage their credit by using only 30 percent or less of what’s available. Maxing out your cards could indicate that you’re in financial distress and move you over into the risk category in the creditor’s eyes. That could mean higher interest rates and lower credit lines moving forward.
Last for today, track your spending and know where your money goes. You are relinquishing control of your financial future unless you have a keen awareness of your spending habits. Many people feel that having a budget would restrict them, but in reality a spending plan frees you to use your hard-earned money exactly as you deem best. Track your spending for 30 days, organizing the results by category. Once you see your spending in black and white, it will put you in the financial driver’s seat where you belong.
For additional tips and answers to your financial questions, join me for my free educational series, Sip, Savor & Learn. We’ll next be meeting on Thursday, April 28 at 5:30 pm at my Salinas office, 217 West Alisal, across from the Main Fire Station. We’ll get together, nibble some snacks, share a glass of wine, and learn how to avoid those credit traps that can lead to financial disaster. Joining me will be will be loan professional, Oscar Mora of Treehouse Mortgage—we’ll be discussing protecting your home in bankruptcy, and obtaining a mortgage after bankruptcy. There’s no charge, but call for a reservation, 424-1764.
In the meantime, if you have questions about getting control of your finances, or about bankruptcy, visit my website, clarkmiller.com, where you can access my complete archive of Friday Financial Focus shows. Or call me for a personal consultation at 424-1764, that’s 424-1764. Initial visits are always free.
So please join me every Friday here on radio KRML in the 7:00 am and 4:00 pm hours for your Friday Financial Tip. This is Salinas Bankruptcy lawyer Clark Miller saying go have a great day.
Categorised in: Saving Money
This post was written by clarkmiller