According to recent data, only about 30 percent of people in the U.S. have a long-term financial plan.

Maybe you’re not part of this group now, but would you like to be in the future? If you said “yes” to this question and are in need of personal finance help, you’ve come to the right place.

Read on to learn about five steps you can take to improve your finances, build credit, and more. You’ll also learn about some warning signs that indicate you need help with your finances.

Signs You Need Personal Finance Help

Some people know that they’re in trouble with regard to their finances. On the other end of the spectrum, though, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t realize how much personal finance help they need.

Not sure where you stand? Consider if any of the following apply to you:

You Don’t Have a Savings Account

Most Americans don’t have enough money saved to cover a $1,000 emergency. If you’re in this same boat, you need to start paying more attention to your finances. Building up your savings account is one of the best steps you can take to get yourself on the path toward financial freedom.

You Don’t Know How Much You Owe

Are you in debt right now? Do you have any idea how much you owe?

If you haven’t taken the time to add up your debt and figure out what you owe, now is the time to start. How are you supposed to get out of debt if you don’t know how much you need to pay?

You’re Often Late On Your Bills

Are you constantly getting late notices in the mail? Do you regularly have to call the power or gas company to get your lights or heat turned back on because you forgot to pay the bill (or couldn’t pay it on time)?

It’s true that some people are just forgetful. At the same time, though, frequent late payments generally are not indicative of a good financial situation.

You Keep Secrets

Do you hide your finances from your partner? Do you stuff bills in the freezer or under the bed so you don’t have to deal with them? If you’re keeping secrets about your money, that’s likely a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

How to Improve Your Finances

If any of the warning signs mentioned above resonate with you, there’s a good chance you can benefit from building credit and taking other steps to get your finances under control. The following five steps are great ones to start with:

1. Check Your Credit Report

Before you can start worrying about how to improve your credit score, you first need to know where you stand. Obtaining a copy of your credit report and looking over it carefully will help you to get a clear idea of your current financial situation.

Looking at your report will help you figure out what is bringing down your score (do you have a lot of debt, is your debt-to-credit ratio off, etc.). You can also check to see if there are any errors on your report that might be lowering your score.

2. Create a Budget

In addition to reviewing your credit report, it’s also important to go over your bank accounts, assess your spending, and create a budget for yourself.

Figure out how much money you have coming in each month. Then, calculate how much you’re spending, both on bills and on other, miscellaneous expenses. Once you’ve done this, give yourself a spending limit and make sure that every dollar you earn has a job to do.

If you find that you’re spending more than you earn, figure out where you can cut back. Do you need to reduce the amount of money you spend eating out, for example? Can you take steps to conserve energy so your utility bills are lower?

3. Build Up a Savings Account

You should also be allocating a portion of your income each month to savings. You never know when an emergency is going to arise, so it’s essential that you have money set aside to help tide you over should you find yourself in a bind.

It doesn’t matter if you can only save $20 per month. That’s better than nothing at all, and it’ll help you to get in the habit of putting some of your money away instead of spending it all.

4. Automate Your Bills

Do you have a tendency to be late on your bills? Do you forget to pay them altogether, only to have your electricity shut off as a result?

To avoid running into this problem (as well as the credit-lowering consequences of making late payments), automate your bills. That way, you can rest easy knowing they’re getting paid on time each month.

5. Choose the Right Lender

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t take out loans when you’re already in a tough spot financially. If you have an emergency, though, a loan might be your best option.

If you find yourself in a situation in which you need to take out a loan, do your research to find the right lender. This is especially important for those who have low credit scores.

Look for lenders that offer personal loans for bad credit, then compare rates and terms before agreeing to work with one. This will help you ensure you’re finding the best lender for the job and are still getting fair treatment.

Start Building Credit and Boosting Finances Today

When you’re struggling and in need of personal finance help, it’s easy to feel as though you’ll never be in a good place moneywise. As you can see, though, there are a lot of steps you can take to build credit, improve your credit score, and become the master of your finances.

Put these tips to the test and start improving your finances today. If you need more help, visit the personal finance section of our site today. You’ll find tons of helpful articles there covering everything from budgeting to personal loans.

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