Follow these basic guidelines and you'll never worry about money again!
1. ASSESS WHAT YOU'VE GOT. Know where your money goes each month and you'll feel instantly on top of things. The quickest way to do it? Sign up for a free site like mint.com. You'll enter information for each credit card, bank account, retirement plan, loan, and investment; your account updates with every transaction to give you the latest picture of your finances in a colorful, easy-to-read format.
2. MAKE A BUDGET. Throw out that calculator. All you need now for a simple budget is your iPhone and one of the scores of low-cost apps that will keep you in the smart-spending zone. Try Spend ($.99), which displays what you can blow for the day, week, or month; Expenditure ($1.99), which has a currency converter for vacation money management; or iXpenseIt ($4.99), which lets you store receipts digitally and even alerts you to upcoming bills before they're due.
3. MAXIMIZE YOUR PAYCHECK. Take pretax dollars from your salary to ensure you have funds for things you need. A flexible spending account (FSA) lets you pay for health expenses like contact lenses or acupuncture (a woman making $50,000 a year who puts $2,500 in her FSA could get a tax savings of $625); a transportation-benefit account earmarks several hundred bucks a month for commuting; a 401(k) invests a portion of your salary for retirement.
4. DITCH CREDIT-CARD DEBT. If you carry a balance - $10,000 or even $1,000 - paying it off is a priority, says Alexa Von Tobel, founder of learnvest.com, a personal-finance site for wome. Many cards have six-month introductory rates of zero percent, which later reset higher. Transfer your balance to one of those, and for half a year pay it down with every penny (skipping retirement savinds). Close the card once your debt is paid. "Emotionally, you'll fee so much better."
5. STAY ON TOP OF YOUR BILLS. Create an e-mail account - like email@example.com - for electronic bill-delivery. Set up calendar alerts for each vendor three days before payment is due so you can read the statement and fix mistakes, like inflated restaurant tips. (Von Tobel says they're not uncommon.) Forget automatic transfers - "bills have errors!" says von Tobel. "You need to check them."
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