Financial Resource Center

Money Management

Ten Steps to Fiscal Fitness

by Rena Crispin, CUDE, CCUFC / March 4th, 2022

Many Americans are having a difficult time keeping their debt under control. By the end of 2021, consumer debt totaled $15.6 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve’s New York district. Most of debt was from mortgages, followed by student loans, auto loans, and credit card debt.

If you want to get better control of your debt and improve your fiscal fitness, here are 10 tips that can help:

  1. Shop for bargains all year and don't be afraid to negotiate for discounts.  Many retailers offer price-matching for in-store purchases, so look online for the best price and ask your local retailer to match it. Also, think before you buy. Do you really need it? Could you borrow it instead?
  2. Discuss money with your partner. Agree on spending and saving priorities so you are both working toward the same goals.
  3. Pay down debt.  Pay more than the minimum payment for the bills with the highest interest rate, and make sure the payment is always on time to avoid late fees.
  4. Control discretionary spending. These are non-essential expenses, like entertainment and dining out. Cook meals at home. Watch movies and concerts on streaming services instead of in theaters.
  5. Use less gas. In addition to looking for the lowest priced gas station near you, also lighten your vehicle by removing heavy items from the trunk. Inflate your tires to the proper levels and replace clogged air filters to improve mileage. Take public transportation, bike, or walk when you can.
  6. Find a better credit card. If yours has high rates or fees, shop for a better deal. Credit unions typically offer better terms. If you have a card with rewards points, make sure you use the points.
  7. Earn more. Ask for a raise. Think about taking on a side gig or starting a new business. Talk to your financial adviser first to make sure you have a sound business model.
  8. Ensure you're saving enough for retirement. Use one of the many online calculators to estimate how much you'll need and determine if you should bump up your 401(k) or other retirement account contributions. Examine how your money is invested and adjust the mix if needed.
  9. Talk to your kids about money. You play a significant role in how your children handle money and make financial decisions, so share your wisdom with them. Involve them in family decision-making and talk about saving, spending, giving and borrowing.
  10. Find a better financial institution. If yours provides poor service and charges high fees, then switch. Nonprofit, member-owned credit unions exist to improve your financial life, so consider joining one if you're not already a member.

These are just a few money-wise tips. If you examine your goals and daily activities, you'll likely find many more.

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