They're basic, but true. Avoid making these 10 mistakes that could be killing your financial standing.
1. No emergency fund
You should aim to have six months to a year's worth of living expenses saved up in case of an emergency, such as unplanned medical expenses, a natural disaster, or an unexpected layoff. While you hope you never have to use the fund, it's better to be prepared now than sorry later.
2. Paying the minimum balance on your student loans
The average student debt load is worth $27,253, a 58% increase since 2005, according to FICO. If you borrowed money to fund your education, work to pay it off as quickly as possible by paying more than the monthly minimum amount due, because it will help you save money in interest over the long term. If you can only afford to make the minimum payments, make sure your payments are on time so you avoid lowering your credit score and getting hit with late fees. Another way to put more money toward your loans each month is to enroll in Upromise by Sallie Mae, a rewards program from which you can earn cash back on purchases and apply the money directly toward your student loan balance.
3. Paying late fees
Many people fail to pay their bills on time, not because they don't have the money, but because they simply forget. Avoid paying late fees by signing up for an account management and bill reminder service, such as Manilla.com, which will send you automatic bill pay reminders via text or email.
4. No credit (or credit monitoring)
It's important to have some debt because it allows you to build credit, which helps you when it comes time to buy a home, buy a car, rent an apartment, get a job, and other major life events. Build credit the right way by using a credit card for your necessary expenses and paying it off each month. Also, make sure to check your credit report at least once every six months to check for identity theft, fraud, or any errors that may be affecting your score.
5. Not paying bills on time
Failing to pay your bills on time can hurt your credit score big time. The occasional 30- to 60-day late payment won't hurt you too much -- you may get hit with a penalty fee or two, but your credit won't really suffer. The most damage is done when you pay 90 days late. Just one 90-day late payment can damage your credit score for up to seven years, according to Credit.com.
6. No retirement savings
It's essential to save as much as you can as early as you can so when it comes time to exit the workforce, you can leave feeling financially secure. If you're employed and work at a company that offers a 401(k) and retirement plan, take advantage and contribute as much as possible so you can maximize your employer contributions.
7. Overspending on bills
While you should always avoid overspending on food, clothing, entertainment, and other luxuries, there are ways you can avoid spending too much on your bills, too. Check with your service providers on what types of promotions they're offering seasonally. DIRECTV, for example, is currently offering huge discounts on regular and NFL packages now that football season is starting. AT&T just launched a new international plan for students and teachers who are studying abroad. The deals are out there, so sometimes all you have to do is ask.
8. No insurance
Protect yourself and your stuff. The added security will leave you feeling more in control of your life, and it could save you financially in the case of an emergency or tragedy.
9. No budget
Creating a budget helps you avoid spending more than the amount you have coming in. To make it simple and hassle free, follow an extremely basic budgeting formula: Subtract your necessary monthly expenses (e.g., your rent or mortgage, utility bills, loans, etc.) from your monthly income. The difference is how much you have to spend on everything else each month. Make sure to incorporate your savings and debt payments into your budget.
10. No urgency to stop racking up debt
If you're using credit cards with no intention of paying off the balance in full each month, stop using credit cards completely. Credit card use should be solely for improving your credit, which can't happen if you rack up debt and don't pay it off. Try to pay off your balance in full each month, and if it's too late for that, at least pay more than the minimum amount due.
Sarah Kaufman is the editor-in-chief of The Manilla Folder at Manilla.com, the leading, free and secure service that helps consumers simplify and organize all of their bills and household accounts in one place online or via the 4+ star customer-rated mobile apps. Sarah is also a regular contributor to Yahoo! Finance, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Redbook, The Jane Dough and other sites. For more tips on financial tracking & budgeting, visit Manilla.com.
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