If you’ve been putting off the inevitable with your money — finally getting your finances in order — now’s your chance. Take advantage of that next paycheck coming in, and make these smart money moves.
1. Increase your savings and debt repayment, even by a little
Ideally you’ve been portioning out your paychecks to cover your monthly expenses, throw a little into savings, and pay down whatever consumer debt you’ve racked up. On your next payday, it’s a smart move to increase (even by a small amount) the percentage you allocate toward savings and debt repayment. Every little bit will help provide you with more of a rainy-day cushion and chip away at nagging debt.
If you have credit card debt, focus on your highest-interest card first, and go from there. This strategy, also known as the avalanche method, will save you the most money in the long run on interest payments.
You may have to cut a discretionary item from your budget — like a night out with your pals — to afford this responsible increase. You’re an adult, and it’s time to start managing your money like one.
2. Investigate your life insurance options
There are plenty of cases to make for taking out a life insurance policy, but the most important one is so your spouse and children can get through the first few years after your untimely death. This is not a fun subject to think about, but it’s a necessity. If you should suddenly pass away, you will want to leave your family as well taken care of as possible.
If you’re single without a mortgage, life insurance probably doesn’t need to be a priority when you can put your money somewhere more useful — like a 401(k). But heads of households absolutely need to have this money move on their radar, if not at the top of their list.
3. Set up new accounts for automated savings
In all likelihood, you have a single savings account — but if you have a hard time managing your money, perhaps one isn’t enough. In fact, Kevin, creator of Financial Panther, goes so far as to suggest multiple accounts to which you can automate your savings. By putting this concept into practice, he was able to pay off $87,000 of student loan debt in two and a half years.
“If people have a matching 401(k) for work, they should try to put as much as they can into that right off the bat, and try to increase it little by little each paycheck,” Kevin says. “From there, I like to set up multiple accounts where I can send my money to. I have accounts for short-term savings goals, long-term, and a Roth IRA, which I contribute money to since I max out my 401(k) each year. I also have micro-savings apps working for me, which take out extra money from my checking account based on algorithms they have … and stores that money in a separate account.”
The money Kevin is left with is what he considers his “true” income. His multiple savings account method creates barriers for him to access his money, in turn making it harder to spend on frivolous things.
4. Invest in self-improvement
Fact: You can earn more money in your career when you have more relevant skills. Thus, investing in yourself is just as important as saving or paying off debt. The return on investment can be exponential if what you’re learning is valuable and you put it to work for you. This can be as simple as brushing up on networking, or taking continuing education courses at your local community college.
5. Get that emergency fund back on track
Maybe you’ve recently had a crisis and you needed to pull money from your emergency fund. Or, maybe you’ve just had more important and costly bills to pay in the meantime that have disrupted your savings. Whatever the case, start building this fund again, even if it’s just small contributions here and there. You owe it to yourself to be prepared for the unexpected, and you don’t want to have to reach for a high-interest credit card to bail yourself out of a problem.
6. Switch banks if yours isn’t the best place for your money
One of the worst financial habits is sticking with the same bank, even if it’s not the best choice for your money. If you’ve been contemplating switching institutions recently, use your next paycheck to give the move serious thought. Maybe your savings can earn more elsewhere, and if you’re lucky, you can find a high-yield checking account and other incentives — like a couple hundred dollars in free money — just for making the move.
7. Make a move to get ahead
If you’re lamenting on a regular basis that you never have enough money for this or that, sit down next payday and consider your options. How can you increase your income? How can you bump up your savings and retirement contributions? If this isn’t possible with your current take-home pay, it’s probably time to weigh your options.
Should you start looking for a new, higher-paying job? Should you go back to school to learn a new skill? Do you have time to add a side-gig to your schedule, like driving for Uber or Lyft, or pet sitting via Rover.com? These are all options you have; you just have to want them bad enough. (See also: 14 Best Side Jobs for Fast Cash)