Manage your money. Your money is a enormous part of your life.
Thoroughly review every paystub or notice of pay. If your employer directly deposits your pay into your bank account, you might need to request the notice (for example, by logging into your payroll system).Make sure deductions from your pay are correct, and report any problems to your employer immediately. If you have questions, meet with a Human Resources representative and discuss your employer’s benefits.
Determine your income. Figure your available income (the amount of your take-home, or net, pay). Do not include overtime pay, because you shouldn’t rely on that as regular income.
Determine your expenses. Review your checkbook register, credit card statements, store receipts, and more. Where is your money really going? "Fixed expenses," such as a rent, auto, or student loan payments, are easy to determine. "Flexible expenses," such as food, clothing, and entertainment, vary from month to month. Don't forget about expenses, such as taxes or insurance, that are billed quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly. Look into personal finance software programs that offer a budgeting feature to help you track these expenses.
Create your budget. Think of your budget as a “spending plan,” a way to be aware of how much money you have, where it needs to go, and how much, if any, is left over. Your budget should meet your "needs" first, then the “wants” that you can afford. Your expenses should be less than or equal to your total income. If your income is not enough to cover your expenses, adjust your budget (and your spending!) by deciding which expenses can be reduced. Pay yourself first! Saving is a very important part of protecting yourself financially. Save as much as you can every month. Even a small amount can make a big difference if you keep it up. Check out our savings calculator to learn more. A great goal is to establish an emergency savings fund large enough to cover three to six months of your living expenses. After you have an emergency fund, your savings can go toward meeting your goals.
Even our early advice was often right on the money. Some tips that are truly ageless: "An ounce of originality is worth a pound of swank." "...it is so easy to be extravagant and buy recklessly when one can say, 'Charge it.'" (September 1890) Children "should learn to appreciate the fact that the greatest happiness does not always come with the greatest wealth. Give them a suitable allowance when they have reached what may be called years of discretion." (September 1899) "It is oftener the trifling outlays frequently repeated that prove ruinous than any conspicuous extravagance." (January 1900) Having a small garden can be profitable: vegetables and fruit can be produced from 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of buying them. (May 1903) "Shoes soon lose their shape and appearance of newness. If two or three pairs are worn interchangeably, all look fresher, as well as wear longer." (March 1908) Buy furniture "just as it comes from the factory — unsanded, unpainted, and unstained" — to save money. (The chairs featured in the article cost 65 cents each!) (February 1909) "Stocks, even good stocks, are speculative; they always have been and the always will be." (November 1929)
Stop buying bottled water: At $1.50 per 20-ounce bottle, a family of four that goes through 20 bottles a week could save about $1,560 annually. The equivalent water from the faucet? Maybe $1. And it takes just seconds to fill a glass or a reusable water bottle. Drain away phantom power: The electrical draw of appliances when they are plugged in but turned off accounts for 5 to 10 percent of a home's electricity bill. Plugging occasionally used printers, DVD players, and stereos into power strips and turning the strips off when not in use could save at least $50 per year — and maybe as much as $240. (Setup: 15 minutes. Flipping power strips off: a nanosecond.) Hang your laundry to dry: The dryer is the second most energy-sucking appliance in the home behind the fridge. Run your dryer half as frequently and line-dry those loads, for a savings of $32 per year. (Bonus: Line-dried clothes won't look worn or pill as quickly, and are unlikely to shrink.) Nab a Great Deal Learn the sales cycle at your fave stores (every six weeks? every Wednesday?). The easy way: Ask a salesclerk. Shop liquidation sales — but wait until the last days for the best deals. Pay with plastic: If the item turns out to be broken, the Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute charges for items that were not delivered as agreed. Hit the swankiest neighborhoods for top bargains on thrift-store goods. Ask what day they put out newly donated items, or stop by early in the week (most people drop off duds on the weekend, and it can take a day or two for them to hit the racks). Dollar stores can help you save big, but be wary of time-sensitive products like over-the-counter medicines and food. Look for the Good Housekeeping Seal. If you buy a Seal-backed product that proves defective, we'll replace the item or refund your money.
Beyond Coupon Clipping Stock up on grocery staples right after Thanksgiving. It's prime time: More food coupons are issued in November and December than in any other season. Beware of eye-level impulse buys: Grocers often place overpriced items at eye level on the right-hand sides of the aisles. Don't buy premixed: You can pay up to 50 percent more for foods with sugar, spices, or sauces already mixed in. Juice in cartons can cost a hefty 60 percent more than frozen concentrate. Check drugstores, warehouse stores, clubs, and dollar stores for great deals on milk, granola bars, cereal, and juice. Try amazon.com for nonperishables. Its "Subscribe & Save Program" typically gives 15 percent discounts (plus free shipping) on items such as paper towels.