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Top 10 Tips to Get (and Stay) Financially Ahead

May 06, 2022

A person looking at their calculator, working to see how they can get financially ahead

Every payday, doesn’t it always seem as though your money is spent just as quickly as it hits your bank account? Yet, it’s so important for your family’s peace of mind to have money available for an emergency fund or just for the future in general. So what steps can you take to save money, especially if you live paycheck to paycheck? Read on for some great tips that will be easy to implement and make a habit — even if it means getting financially ahead only a few dollars at a time.

Spend Less Than You Make.

You’d think that would go without saying, right? But it’s not always so obvious (let alone practiced), otherwise the idea of “being in debt” wouldn’t be a thing at all. The bottom line is this: No matter how much or how little money you make, you won’t even have the chance to get ahead financially if you spend more than you earn.

Here’s a rule of thumb: It’s often easier to spend less than it is to earn more. Earning a raise or finding a new job requires a lot of time, energy and dedication. On the other hand, cost-cutting even the small things (think: that manicure, that new pair of sneakers, going out to lunch) on a daily or weekly basis takes little effort — yet, it can yield big, more attainable savings over time.

Stick to a Budget.

Budgeting is your best friend! Yes, treating yourself is usually more fun, but you won’t be able to set spending and savings goals (at least accurate ones) if you don’t first give yourself a clear understanding of where your money is coming from and where it’s going. Don't be intimidated by this practice; instead, check out our tips for setting and sticking to a budget, where we help break it all down for you.

Pay Off Credit Card Debt.

Did you know that credit card debt is the No. 1 obstacle to getting ahead financially? Paying for things on credit seems so convenient in the moment, because it almost feels like it’s not real money. But the responsibility to pay it off is still very real, yet usually unplanned for. This is a big reason why many people find themselves in a bind and credit insecure. So if you must use a credit card, make sure you have a payoff plan in place before that card gets swiped.

Better Yet, Don’t Use Credit at All.

You might be thinking, “Is that even possible?” The answer is yes. At the same time, we realize that having large amounts of cash to pay for something (especially big-ticket items) is not an option for most people, either.

There’s a third — and better — shopping option, and it’s called Acima. With our lease-to-own solutions* you can shop for thousands of name-brand items without using credit or having large amounts of cash on hand. Instead, get what you need and pay as you go as you work toward ownership with manageable lease renewal payments. over You own it earlier and save by exercising an early purchase option. If you no longer need it, return it in good condition at any time without further obligation. Learn more about how Acima works today.

Contribute to a Retirement Account.

While retirement might seem like a long way off (especially if you’re early on in your career), the truth of the matter is that the best time to start contributing to a retirement plan is this very second. Future You will thank you!

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan or other type of employer-sponsored savings program, we encourage you to contribute to it if you can afford to. Even a little bit adds up over time, and your employer may even match you on contributions. If a 401(k) is not available, consider opening an IRA to save for retirement on your own.

Save, Save, Save.

We all have a lot of things we need to pay for; it’s just a part of life. But if you wait until you’ve met all your financial obligations before seeing what’s left for savings, you’ll probably never be able to save anything. So make it a habit to pay yourself first. Resolving to set aside even just 5% of your paycheck before you pay for anything else will ensure that you have that financial safety net when you need it. Just imagine what that will do for your peace of mind!

Keep Good Records.

Whether you prefer working with printed or digital copies of paperwork — tax returns, pay stubs, etc. — keeping good records (financial or otherwise) is always a smart move to ensure you have information you need, when you need it. Set up a good system that’s organized, efficient and works for you so that you aren’t scrambling to find “that” document in a frenzy.

Set Life Goals to Motivate Yourself.

What do you dream of doing in your life? Do you want to buy a house? Go to college? Retire early? Setting and sticking to financial goals becomes a lot easier when you have life goals to work toward.

So find your motivation to save! Using the new home example, it may mean that in four years, you’ll be able to afford a down payment on the house you have in mind. Focusing on the bigger picture always turns the mundane practice of saving into something more exhilarating, and you’ll end up making it a priority.

Practice Proper Maintenance.

You may think this tip doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest, but it does. Certain things that you own require periodic maintenance — your home, your car, your appliances, the list goes on — to keep them in good working order. You know the saying about an ounce of prevention, right? It will cost a little bit of money to stay on top of maintenance checkups, but you’ll mitigate the chances for big, much more expensive breakdowns in the future.

Evaluate Your Financial Situation Periodically.

Your financial situation right now may be very different a year from now. Part of being financially savvy is understanding that your plans should be flexible to adjust to those changes. That’s why we recommend auditing your accounts from time to time to keep a regular pulse on your income, savings and expenses. For example: As you pay off debt, see if you can allocate more of that newly freed-up money elsewhere (like into a savings account). If you make a big career switch but take a cut in income, you’ll have to see where you can tighten things.

Every Little Bit Adds Up to Big Savings

No matter which of the tips above you decide to implement, remember that even just a few dollars per paycheck combined with a little discipline will help you develop good saving habits and more financial security. And that’s something you cannot put a price on. But you can’t get where you want to be until you get started!