Many people made commitments to get their financial lives in order in the New Year. It likely involved some combination of spending less, saving more, and keeping a closer eye on exactly where your money is going.
But with 2014 in full swing as the calendar almost turns to Valentine's Day, with the realities and demands of life in full force, that New Year's resolution may be waning.
But there are three simple and easy things you can do today to get your personal finances in order.
1. Set up automatic bill payment
Automatic bill payment can be a scary proposition, but it doesn't have to be. Many banks, like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) have payment systems that allow individuals to select an amount they want to send each month, and when they want it delivered. Then each and every month the bank will create the check (or do it electronically) and send it off.
Not only does this save on postage -- banks will often do this entirely for free -- but it also eliminates any potential to end up with a late payment fee simply as a result of forgetfulness. For things like mortgages, rent, insurance, car, cable, or a host of other things that are the same amount each and every month, automatic bill pay can be a great way to both simplify your life by not having to worry about writing checks or setting up online payments, and also ensure you're never hit with late fees.
2. Start saving each and every month
Wealth and financial security is accumulated over a lifetime, not a matter of a few years. Just as you pay your bills automatically, "pay" your future self automatically by setting up an automatic withdrawal into a savings account for an emergency fund (if you don't have one) or a retirement account.
For the retirement account, feel free to save some for buying individual stocks, but don't hesitate to set up automatic purchases of index funds. Individuals are historically lousy timers when it comes to figuring out if the market is going up or down, and it has been proven the best retirement strategy often involves simply putting a set amount of money into an index fund each and every month.
3. Use available online tools
It's critical to set a personal budget to evaluate where you want your money to go each and every month. That involves being honest about setting outlays for food, housing, and other necessities, but also things like setting a budget to allow you to save for vacations and things of that sort.
Thanks to technology, budgeting is easier than ever. Just like the bill payment systems, banks now offer easy ways to outline your personal budget and keep track of it for you automatically. In addition to the tools provided by banks, apps Mint, Saver, and others can allow you to see exactly where your money has gone relative to where you'd like it to go.
Not only can those tools send emails when a large transaction posts or an odd charge is made to protect you from fraud, but they can also let you know -- through an email, text, or push notification -- if you've gone over your budget for eating out on the 26th day of the month, which means you'd be sure to enjoy the final few meals of the month at home.
Certainly there are a lot of other things you can do to help you take control of your personal finances, and these are three great ones that will let you feel secure when it comes to your money.