8 (Totally Easy) Ways to Make Over Your Finances

Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Alexa Von Tobel, Founder of the Personal Finance Web Site LearnVest.com

Do This Now: Electronic bills are great--unless they're lost in a crowded in-box. Set up a separate e-mail account (e.g., alexabills@gmail.com) to keep your e-bills orderly.

Do This Soon: Step back and look at the big picture. Fifty percent of your take-home pay should be allocated for essentials, 20 percent should go toward savings and debt, and 30 percent can cover everything else.


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Illustration: Kagan McLeodMichelle Singletary, "The Color of Money" Columnist for The Washington Post

Do This Now: Challenge yourself with a 21-day financial fast, during which you eliminate all spending except for the bare essentials. Halting unnecessary purchases forces you to reflect on how much you consume.

Do This Soon: Keep a spending journal for 30 days. A month's worth of data makes it easier to see where you can cut back.


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Illustration: Kagan McLeodMary Caraccioli, host of We Owe What? on the Live Well Network

Do This Now: Stop delaying your savings! So many women say they haven't done enough research to enroll in a 401(k) plan, but it's far better to act now and tweak your allocations later than to delay building any security at all.

Do This Soon: Pick one intimidating financial situation--whether it's saving for a house or getting rid of your debt--and meet with a financial adviser. You can find one through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. A single session can put you on the right path.


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Photo: ThinkstockJB Orecchia, CEO, SavvyMoney.com

Do This Now: Wait 24 hours before pulling the trigger on any impulse purchase, be it a magazine or an outfit. You'll feel less inclined to buy once the initial shopping rush wears off, but the idea that the purchase is just "delayed", rather than forbidden, makes the habit sustainable.

Do This Soon: Your credit score impacts interest rates on everything from a home mortgage to a credit card. Get motivated to improve that score--which is often as simple as paying down outstanding debt--by asking your lender about the potential savings (a mere 60-point improvement can reduce your credit card rate as much as 10 percent).



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