Financially Fit: 30 Tips To Build Money Muscles
This Financial Capability Month, try a new financial workout each day, and you'll be in better financial shape by the end of the month.
If you're new to managing your money, or you're just out of practice, April is a great time to commit to your financial health.
But, just like physical fitness, achieving financial fitness doesn't happen overnight: It takes commitment, dedication and consistency.
30 Financial Fitness Tips
Try a new financial fitness tip every day, and by the end of a month, you might just feel better about flexing your financial muscles.
1. Create a Budget — And Stick To It
A budget is a fundamental part of your financial fitness program. Check out our budget-building tools for a step-by-step guide.
2. Set Specific Financial Goals
Be clear about your "why," and set goals that work with your financial situation, so they are attainable.
3. Set up Automatic Transfers to Your Savings Account
Automatic savings plans can be a set-it-and-forget-it step that helps you build great savings habits. Just make sure you choose an amount that works for your budget.
4. Schedule a Financial Health Check
BECU members have access to our free Financial Health Check. Use this one-on-one coaching service to help you build your budget and manage your money.
5. Set up Online Banking Alerts
Sign up for alerts to stay on top of your finances. You can get alerts for things like when you receive a large deposit, fall below a certain balance or exceed your budget.
6. Build Your Emergency Fund
Save up enough to cover three to six months of expenses in case of an emergency — like losing your job.
7. Check Your Full Credit Reports
Go to annualcreditreport.com at least once a year to check your credit with the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies.
8. Review Your Expenses and See Where You Might Be Able To Save Money
Remember to look at monthly expenses and occasional expenses. Consider your current financial situation and external factors like inflation.
9. Explore Budgeting Techniques
If you're not quite ready to create a whole budget, a good first step is to learn about different budget techniques and pick one that motivates you.
10. Take an Online Financial Course
This doesn't have to be a big commitment. Our partner, EverFi, offers bite-size financial education modules so you can gain financial skills in minutes.
11. Sign Up for a Free Seminar or Webinar
BECU offers free webinars and seminars for all stages of your financial journey. Discover topics on teaching kids about money or preparing to buy a house and many more. These opportunities are open to members and non-members.
12. Make a Plan To Pay off Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt can be a heavy weight on your credit score and your savings potential. Choose a strategy to pay off credit card debt that works for you.
13. Explore Tools To Increase Your Savings
With BECU's Save Up, you can either round up or transfer a flat amount to your savings account automatically with each debit card purchase.
14. Set up Automatic Credit Card and Loan Payments To Pay Down Debt
Once you know how much money you can dedicate to debt payments, automatic payments make it easy to be consistent. You'll improve your credit score, too!
15. Leave Your Credit Cards at Home When You Shop
Set a spending limit and take cash with you when you go out to go shopping. You can also delink your credit cards from online merchants. These tricks might make it a little more difficult to rack up credit card debt.
16. Create or Update Your Will
Being clear about your end-of-life plans and how you'll transfer your assets to your heirs will reduce your family's decision-making burden and ensure your wishes will be honored.
17. Add Beneficiaries to Your Accounts
Beneficiary designations are an important part of estate planning. It helps ensure your money goes where you want it to and can help support the financial health of your heirs after you're gone.
18. Help Your Teens Prepare To Become Financially Independent Adults
This will help you spend less on supporting them and give them a head start on building healthy financial habits and good credit.
19. Track Your Spending To See Where Your Money Goes
You can use a digital tool, like BECU Money Manager, or jot down your spending in a notebook.
20. Organize Your Savings
You can divide up your money into multiple accounts, try out a digital option like BECU Envelopes or you can put cash into physical envelopes labeled with your savings goals.
21. Nickname Your Accounts
If you have multiple accounts, nickname them based on how you intend to use them. This step can make your accounts and your money easier to organize.
22. Make a Meal Plan and Always Shop for Groceries With a List
Planning your menu for the week might reduce food waste and help you think about your grocery budget, even when factors like inflation are driving up food costs.
23. Sell Stuff You Don't Want or Need Anymore
Social media sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist make it easy to sell items to someone who can make good use of your old stuff. But take steps to stay safe.
24. Budget for Something Fun
Even if it's something small, including a little fun in your budget can help you avoid a big splurge.
25. Have a No-spend Day Each Week
This will increase your awareness of your habits and help you be more intentional about how you spend your money.
26. Explore Low-cost Entertainment Options
Go to the library for free books and movies, check out local street fairs and organize potluck dinners with friends. Get creative about how you enjoy your favorite activities for less money.
27. Pick Up Your Food Order Instead of Having It Delivered
You'll likely save money on delivery and service fees.
28. Cancel Your Cable
Cut the cord! Subscribe to a low-cost streaming service instead.
29. Listen to a Reputable Financial Podcast
Whether you're listening during your commute or at the gym, podcasts are a great way to learn financial skills. I give personal finance tips on Money Hacks, a podcast partnership with BECU and GeekWire.
30. Learn How To Protect Your Accounts and Personal Information
Learn what you can do to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft and scams — all potential threats to your financial health.
Financial Fitness Warm-Up
As you're thinking about how to get financially fit, consider warming up with this approach to your new financial fitness program.
Commit to a Financial Fitness Routine
Carve out a little time every day (or every week if that's all you can manage at first) to work on your financial health. Whether it's attending a financial health webinar, categorizing your expenses or having a money date with your partner, the first step is to commit and build time into your day to take action.
Set Financial Goals
If you lift weights, maybe you set a bench-press goal. If you swim, maybe you set a pace goal. Financial goals are just as unique to you. Think about the things you care about; how you like to spend your time and the lifestyle you want. Creating a budget and sticking to it are going to be much easier if you have a goal that you're working toward. If you achieve one financial goal, be sure to set another one so you can work toward that.
Just like any physical challenge, you need to work up to your goal. If you're a runner, you know you can't go out and run a marathon without training first. Take small steps that are manageable to you, like writing down your expenses in a spending diary. Over time, you'll be able to take on bigger tasks, like creating a budget and allocating your money toward different goals.
Saying you want to learn how to improve your financial health is a great first step — kind of like buying that gym membership in January. But if you don't follow through and work out consistently, you might feel like you are constantly starting over and get frustrated by your lack of progress. If you tend to your financial fitness regularly, over time, you'll build healthy habits that can help you for the rest of your life.