Learn how to control your finances

I’ve seen statistics and articles about how, prior to the recession, we were spending more and saving less than ever before in our history. The recession made us (as private individuals, not our government) pull back on our personal spending. That started me thinking about what we could do to help control our personal finances in these still trying times.

An essential place to begin is with your checkbook. These rules can help you manage your checkbook to avoid overdraft fees and other problems:

• Record transactions. Keep a record of both deposits and spending, including checks, account fees, ATM withdrawals, and debit transactions.
• Check your balance through your monthly statements, online banking system or telephone banking system.
• Open your statement promptly and scan it for unusual fees or unfamiliar transactions. As soon as possible, balance your account.
• If problems occur, call your credit union/financial institution to ask questions about discrepancies. Acting promptly is especially important to spot identity theft or other forms of fraud.

In addition to controlling your checkbook, learn self control. The sooner you learn this, the better off you’ll be (in more ways than strictly financial).
• Learn to delay purchases until you can afford them.
• Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’. I know them and they’re not all that great.
• Learn the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’.
• Take control of your own financial future. There are plenty of web sites that will give you ideas on how to budget and how to best utilize your financial assets, for example, http://hffo.cuna.org/018287/front/018287/html.
• Pay your bills on time – avoid paying late fees and unnecessary interest. This will also avoid adverse effects on your credit score.
• Know where your money is going. Tracking your spending habits can be a real eye opener and give you better ideas for those times when you have to reduce spending.
• Begin saving something, even if it’s a small amount each payday. It will accumulate faster than you think.
• Set financial goals.

UKFCU has an Advice & Education center devoted to financial education that is free to members.

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