The American Bankers Association Education Foundation offers the following suggestions for getting financially
fit in 2004:
- Order a copy of your credit report. Start off the New Year by reviewing your credit history for mistakes or signs of identity theft.
For a thorough review, check with all three credit reporting agencies since there may be some variations in each file. This should be done at least once a year.
- Pay yourself first. Determine in advance how much money you plan to keep on deposit each month. If you wait to see what's left over, you are less likely to save for the future.
- Set a realistic budget and goals. Keep monthly records of your spending and living expenses so you'll spot places where you can save.
Do you want to own a home? Save for retirement? Start a college fund for your kids? Write down your goals and create a plan to achieve them.
- Get organized. Keep ATM receipts, bills, and tax records organized in labeled files. This will help you stay on track with your budget and make it easier when it's time to pay bills.
- Understand the difference between needs and wants. It is easy to justify buying almost anything. Be honest with yourself. Do you really need that new TV or a new pair of shoes?
- Make a resolution to get out of debt. Pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first, while paying at least the minimum balance on low/no interest credit cards.
- Shop around. Compare prices and be selective to get the best prices, services, convenient locations and lowest fees for credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages and certificates of deposit (CDs).
- Protect yourself. Don't be a victim of fraud or identity theft.
Guard your credit card, PIN and account numbers. Buy a shredder so you can dispose of statements, receipts and bills properly.
- Pay your bills on time. Stay in control of your finances. It's important to maintain a good credit rating by paying your bills on or before the due date.
- Read your bills and statements each month. Pay attention. This helps you keep track of your spending and alerts you to any fraud or mistakes in your account.