Want to get yourself on the path to financial stability and independence? Organization is the key. Getting your finances in order isn’t just smart — it’s easy to do thanks to a wide range of convenient online tools at your disposal.
Take inventory of accounts and passwords
If you have an online account with your financial institution or a lender, you have a username and password. As U.S. News & World Report contributor Teresa Mears writes, organizing your accounts includes tracking these usernames and passwords and safely storing them.
To safeguard this sensitive information, you can create an encrypted spreadsheet and protect it via password. You can also use a service like LastPass, which stores usernames and passwords safely. While you’re at it, set a calendar reminder to update your passwords for these accounts every 90 days or so as it can help protect you against identity theft.
Your financial institution makes it easier to keep track of money going in and out of your account with online banking and bill pay. Because you can handle nearly all facets of your finances on the computer, that’s exactly where you should leave the paperwork.
Jennifer Calonia, a contributor to Yahoo! Finance, recommends opting into your financial institution and lenders’ paperless options. Not only does going paperless reduce clutter and environmental waste, but it also makes it easier to keep track of monthly statements and routine bill payments.
With online banking, you can easily see your account history, view payments and deposits, and monitor balances, all without receiving a single piece of mail. Better still, not having your information printed and mailed to you can help lessen your risk of identity fraud.
Automate your payments
Nothing can damage your credit score quite like missing monthly bill payments. To avoid having to do the guesswork, Mears suggests automating bill payments using your lender or credit card provider’s website or app.
By setting up automatic payments, it becomes easier to create a consistent monthly budget. It also helps eliminate the possibility that you’ll miss a payment, which could have a major impact on your credit score. While automating payments should move money automatically, you’ll still want to be diligent about checking your statements to make sure everything has gone through as planned.
You can even use this same approach to build good saving habits. Some financial institutions offer rules in their apps and websites that will automatically move money into your savings account on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. This ensures that you’re still working toward your savings goals.
Organize and consolidate
Intuit Mint Life contributor Zina Kumok writes that one of the best ways to eliminate debt is to organize it. If you have loans, credit cards, or other types of outstanding debt, create a list using a spreadsheet and include information like how much you owe, how much you pay each month, the interest rate, and the remaining term.
You can use this information not just to get a grasp of your debts, but to devise a strategy for paying them down. Whether you decide to focus on the debt with the highest interest rate or the shortest term is up to you. If you have multiple lines of credit card debt, NerdWallet contributors Steve Nicastro and Jackie Veling suggest options like a balance transfer or credit card consolidation loan. Not only will these approaches help minimize costs in the long run, but they’ll also streamline your accounts for easier management.
If you’re having trouble getting a handle on your financial situation, talking to a professional can help you gain perspective and put everything in order. Once you’ve built systems and patterns that are hard to break, you’ll find yourself firmly on top of your finances and on the way to greater peace of mind.