7 Steps to Financial Fitness in 2013 ...

If you're not 100% happy with your current finances, make 2013 the year that you focus on financial fitness. Being financially responsible has short-term and long-term benefits. People who spend their money wisely typically have larger bank accounts.Tired of being broke? Here are seven tips to achieve financial fitness this year.

1. Establish a Budget

A budget is key to financial fitness. Some people feel that budgets restrict their spending, but if you’re constantly broke and don't have cash for essentials, lack of a budget can be the problem. A budget lets you examine how you spend your money, and with your expenditures on paper, you can make adjustments and increase your savings.

2. Plan for Retirement

It's never too early to start planning for retirement. There are many ways to achieve long-term financial goals. For example, you can contribute a percentage of your pay into an employee-sponsored 401(k) account. There's also the option of opening an individual retirement account. Whatever option you decide, don't wait until your 40s or 50s to get started. The earlier you start, the more you'll have later in life.

3. Build Your Personal Savings

In addition to saving for your retirement, develop a strategy to increase your personal savings. This provides liquid cash for emergencies, such as a car repair or a medical expense. How do you achieve a bigger savings account? Simply deposit a percentage of your paycheck into your personal savings account every week.

4. Pay down Debt

Stop being a slave to credit card debt. If you pay only the minimum on your credit card, it can take 15 to 20 years to pay off the debt, depending on the balance. There is a better way to get rid of your balances. Drop a lump sum on your credit card balances each month. This will put a dent in your balances faster, thus motivating you to stick with your payoff goal.

5. Pay Your Bills on Time

Being habitually late on your bills isn’t a small problem. This can decrease your credit score and cripple your relationship with your creditors. Plus, lateness can trigger higher finance fees in the future. Show that you’re responsible and respect due dates. Always pay on your due date, or a few days earlier.

6. Reduce Expenditures

Periodically review how you're spending your money. Maybe your budget allows for extras, such as hair appointments, vacations or dining out several times a week. But being able to afford certain expenses doesn't mean you have to spend your money on these things. Be smart and make saving a priority. Think of needless things that you regularly spend your money on, and then consider ways to reduce these expenditures.

7. Think of Ways to Expand Your Income

Does your present income make it difficult to pay down debt or save money? You don't have to accept low pay. Granted, you can’t demand a higher salary from your employer, but you can take steps to increase your income. For example, you might enroll in courses to gain additional experience in your field, or turn your hobby into a side business.

If you're not good with money, becoming financially fit can be somewhat of a challenge. But don't give up too soon. Improving your money management skills can have a positive impact on different areas of your life. What steps are you taking to make 2013 a good year financially?

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