Learn to organize, track, and prioritize your bills and expenses.
Introduction “To stay financially healthy, you should spend less than you earn.”
This simple rule may work for many people, but it isn’t very helpful if you can’t afford to pay all of your bills and living expenses.
For some, balancing personal priorities and family expectations can sometimes be a challenge.
And if your work is seasonal or irregular, you may be able to cover everything when you’re working, but struggle to cover expenses in the months or weeks when you’re not.
Planning for bills
The more you can prepare for the bills you know are coming, the better you can save for them.
Having a plan and system in place for paying bills can make them easier to pay and help reduce stress.
Before you can make a plan you have to first know how much income is coming in, how much spending is going out, and what bills are due when.
It’s impossible to know if you’re going to be able to afford all your bills unless you’re familiar with how much you’re expected to pay each month.
Make sure you know what bills are due, how much they usually are, and what time of the month they’re due.
Tracking your spending is another good way to plan for bills.
When you categorize and write down how you’re spending your money, it makes it easier to know where you might be able to cut back.
It also helps you think about how much of your spending is on needs versus wants.
For example, before you make a purchase you can stop and ask yourself if it’s something you need or want.
You can also think about if making that purchase is going to make it harder for you to pay all your bills this month.
Wants versus needs
Separating needs, obligations, and wants can empower you to set priorities and understand more clearly where you can make changes if you decide your spending isn’t matching your priorities.
Needs are the things you must have to live.
These include shelter and utilities, food, medication, clothing, and transportation. Even with needs, deciding what you can afford, maintain, and are able to pay for can be a challenge.
Obligations include debts you owe and payments you’ve been ordered to make, such as child support, spousal support, and other judgments.
Wants are the things you would like to have but can survive without.
For example, a reliable car to get to work is a need.
A new car might be more of a want.
But it’s not always so clear-cut.
One person may view something as a want, and another person may see it as a need.
Protecting your information on digital money apps
It’s becoming more popular to use mobile apps to keep track of your bills and other spending or a digital wallet to make payments.
While they can be convenient, there are some things to keep in mind about protecting your money and information when using these types of digital tools.
First, find out if there’s a fee to use them.
Some apps that appear to be free may have fees when you try to use them to send money or take a percentage of money that’s sent to you.
It’s also important to safeguard your personal information.
Some financial apps require you to enter the information that you want the app to use, like billing address or credit card information.
Others pull information automatically from your financial accounts, but only after you give permission for the app to do that.
• Don’t conduct financial transactions on public Wi-Fi.
• Password-protect your mobile device and any financial accounts you have access to.
Don’t save your passwords to financial accounts on your mobile device.
• If it’s offered, use two-factor authentication to help protect accounts.
This allows the account provider to send you a text or email when you’re trying to log in, to make sure it’s really you.
• Find out about your device’s remote locator, locking, and erasing features.
If they’re already pre-loaded onto your device, activate them.
Make a note of the make, model number, serial number, and unique device identification number for your device.
If it’s lost or stolen, the police may need this information. When you get a new mobile device, write all of this information down and keep it in a safe place.
If your device is lost or stolen, contact your wireless carrier and the financial institutions that issued the cards in your digital wallet or the app where you saved your user ID or password information on the device.
For service provider contact information, visit fcc.gov/stolen-phones-contact-numbers.