5 Steps to Becoming Financially Fit

If you’re someone who has always had trouble keeping track of you expenses, or you don’t know how to start saving, here are five tips to becoming a responsible spender:

  • Balance your checkbook. It’s not as hard as it seems, and it’s crucial in avoiding banking overdraft fees. It’s also a highly effective strategy to avoid overspending and impulse buying. You don’t have to be a math genius – you can use a calculator, and if you’re on the go, most phones have a calculator app. Writing down everything that you spend in a checkbook register will allow you to know exactly how much money you have to spend, and you will be less likely to spend money on unnecessary items. If you don’t want to use a checkbook register, track your spending with an Excel spreadsheet (that way you can use the addition and subtract functions to do your calculating for you), or use a balance sheet like this one from FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
  • Create a spending plan. Don’t think of it as a budget that limits you. Think of it as a tool that is helping you to set a goal and make a plan. You will be able to identify what you’re spending money on and where you need to cut back so that you can spend smarter the next time. Be as accurate as possible when creating your plan, and when you pay for something not in your budget, add it to your current spending plan as an “unplanned expense,” so you know how much money is going to things you may not have planned for.
  • Save your receipts. Saving your receipts might seem tedious, but it can be very helpful in tracking your expenses. Carry an envelope in your purse or keep one in a junk drawer at home (we all have one). At the end of each month, divide the receipts into categories (groceries, eating out, entertainment, household staples, etc.). This will help you identify where your money is going, and can determine where you need to cut back.
  • Review your monthly bank statement. When I began doing this, I was surprised at the amount of money I was spending on eating out for lunch.Afterward, I set a weekly limit for myself and was much more aware of where my money was going. Pay attention to where you are spending money most, then set a spending limit and stick to it!
  • Automatically deposit money into a savings account with every paycheck. Saving automatically is the easiest and most successful way to save, which is why Military Saves promotes it as an effective savings strategy, and encourages servicemembers to consider it when taking the Military Saves pledge. By putting a portion of your earnings into savings, you will spend less on impulse purchases, and you will accrue savings that can supply funds for emergencies, home or car repairs, school tuition, or even retirement. Servicemembers can save automatically using an allotment with myPay. Just use one (or more) of your six discretionary allotments to automatically transfer funds monthly into a savings account. The best part? Once you start doing it, you’ll forget the money transferred is there, and what you don't see, you probably won’t miss! 

To take control of your finances, you must take notice of where you’re spending money. Using the strategies above can be your starting point to becoming a responsible spender. Having a financial strategy will also give you better peace of mind, help you feel more in control of your debt, and most importantly get you on your way to becoming financially fit. So get started today!

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