Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
The key to taking action to improve your personal finances is finding the time to do many of the suggested action steps that financial experts recommend. For example, checking your credit report, reconciling your checking account balance, and reviewing household income and expenses (e.g., budgeting).
Many people find it difficult to manage their finances on weekdays. Between work, commuting, and/or children’s school activities, there is precious little time. What to do? Carve out one hour of time over the weekend (or another day, if your days off fall on weekdays) to do at least one financial management task.
Below are some suggested strategies.
Check Your Credit Report- Check in with one of the “Big Three” credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every four months on a rotating basis to review your credit report. This should take no more than 10 minutes. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and enter the required data or download a mail-in form.
Read an Article about Personal Finance- Identify a go-to source for financial information (website, newspaper, blog, television show) and check in each weekend (daily is even better) to learn something new.
Reconcile Your Checking Account Balance- Do this task monthly whenever there is a new account balance cycle. To reconcile your account balance, go online for the balance or use your most recent bank statement. Compare your balance to that of your bank/credit union and search for errors if the balances do not agree.
Calculate Your Net Worth- Pull account statements to determine loan balances and saving/investment account balances and check newspaper ads or websites to determine the value of your home and personal property. Net worth calculations involve subtracting the value of debts (what you owe) from assets (what you own). The difference between these two figures is your net worth, which is a benchmark of your financial progress.
Prepare a Spending Plan/Budget- Track expenses for a month or pull receipts, billing statements, and/or your checking account register to get the information required to prepare a spending plan. A spending plan is a projection of future income and expenses that is based on current income and spending habits.
Read a Personal Financial Statement or Document- Dive into your pile of financial statements that need to be read and filed away, electronic statements that were never opened, insurance policies that were renewed but never reviewed, and other paperwork that requires your attention. Even one hour of concentrated attention can make a big difference in reducing paperwork clutter and that feeling of “falling behind.”
Got a little extra time this weekend? Take some time to learn something new about personal finance or take one small step to improve your finances.
Weekend Personal Finance Self-Improvement Strategies
- Check your credit report
- Read an article about personal finance
- Reconcile your checking account balance
- Calculate your net worth (assets - debts)
- Prepare a budget (income and expenses)
- Read a personal financial statement or document