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Financial Fitness: Kick Your Bad Money Habits

By James F. Brown, Jr.
President & CEO

Breaking a bad habit is often as easy as taming a crocodile on the Nile. You may think you have it under control, but then SNAP the jaws tighten and you're stuck. So if you have a few bad money habits you want to kick, try a few of our suggestions.

Aim for a goal
Articulate your goals, figure out how to achieve them and break each into smaller steps. Once you have a set destination and know how to get there, it becomes easier to stay focused and committed. Determining your financial goals often leads to other sound money management decisions.

Pay yourself first
Whether you're saving for retirement, an emergency fund or a dream vacation, put aside money for that goal first. Use automatic transfers and direct deposit to make saving an regular good habit that doesn't take any effort.

Keep saved money separate from spending money
Live off of the money in your spending account and forget your saved funds. You may want to establish separate accounts for long- and short-term goals as well. This way you won't overspend on a vacation and end up shortchanging the college fund.

Pay more than the minimum
With credit cards, the minimum payment may hardly make a dent in your overall balance and will just create more debt. Instead, funnel as much as you can toward the account and leave your credit cards at home so you can't use them. Once you've discharged the debt, only use credit cards for true emergencies or pay off the balance each month.

Use found money wisely
At certain times in your life, you may have additional money land in your lap. If you aren't accustomed to disciplined savings when you receive that surprise sum, it can be easy to spend it all. A better approach is to put a portion of unexpected income, such as a bonus, tax refund or inheritance, toward your financial goals. Then you can use the remainder however you want.

Get the highest rate for your savings
Although you may want to have a big cushion for emergencies, what you really want is for that money to work harder. Set aside a reasonable amount that you can't afford to lose in a safe account, such as a money market account. Then find suitable higher-yield options for the bulk of your savings.

Reward yourself
You don't want to sacrifice so much to achieve your goals that you feel deprived. Leave a little room in your budget for small treats.

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