Nearly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and don't have emergency savings, according to a bankrate.com survey last year.
But you don't have to become part of that statistic. If you want to stay on top of your finances this year, make a commitment to review your budget regularly and take an honest look at your financial standing - otherwise you could dig yourself deep into financial problems that may not be easy to recover from.
Here are seven warning signs it's time for a financial check-up:
1. You keep missing bill due dates. Late payment fees for services like Internet or cable can seriously add up, and you could get in even deeper financial trouble if you don't pay off your credit card bill on time and in full each month. If you're consistently missing due dates on those credit card bills, utilities or even housing payments, it's time to restructure your budget. Take a closer look at your cash flow, and make sure you are accounting for all forms of revenue and expenses in your budget.
2. You're opening more lines of credit. If you're having a hard time breaking your credit card spending habit or find yourself depending on credit, it's time to focus on your financial health. Opening more lines of credit when you are already carrying a heavy debt load can hurt your credit score. If you find yourself exploring more credit offers or loan options just to get by, stop and re-evaluate your finances.
3. You're making credit card payments...with other credit cards. While making credit card payments with another card is a convenient payment option, you will set yourself back financially by doing so. Paying off one debt by accumulating more debt - even if it's lower-interest debt - will keep you stuck in a vicious debt cycle. Instead, look for opportunities to cut your expenses and earn more money to help pay down your credit card debt.
4. You're not contributing to a savings account each month. Saving at least 10 percent of your monthly income is a healthy goal. However, that's not always possible when you haven't taken the reins on your cash flow or don't have an accurate idea of your monthly expenses. When there's just no room to save money each month, it may be time to review your budget and set some new goals. Even a modest contribution toward a savings account each month will help you develop the self-discipline to save on a regular basis.
5. You have no idea the state of your credit. Even if you don't plan on buying a home or car in the near future, you will want to make sure you have an accurate idea of your creditworthiness. Use annualcreditreport.com to order a free copy of your credit report you are entitled to at least once a year. Checking your credit report can also make it easier to catch signs of identity theft.
6. You have nothing in reserves. If you've been dipping into your savings regularly or have just stopped contributing to your savings and investment accounts, it's time to take a closer look at your spending habits and determine whether you are working with a realistic budget. Having no reserves could set you up for financial ruin in the event of a medical emergency, job loss or other financial crisis.
7. You're paying bills with your 401(k). If you find yourself dipping into your 401(k) just to take care of monthly expenses, it's like you're robbing from your future self - plus you'll probably have to pay taxes and fees on early withdrawals. Instead of taking money from your retirement account, consider supplementing your income with a second job or scaling back expenses to better manage your money.
Sabah Karimi writes for the financial blog Wise Bread, where you can find resources on how to land more jobs by improving your online reputation.
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