Get your finances in order

Practice good habits to prevent future money mismanagement.
  1. Get set for seasonal bills: If you are hit with high heating and cooling costs in the winter and summer, consider dividing your annual bill into a monthly payment plan.
  2. Open all your mail: Never assume an unmarked envelope is junk mail. The sooner you catch an overdue fine or a warning that an account is about to be sent to a collection agency, the better off you’ll be.
  3. Set a regular date: Sign up for automatic bill pay, and mark your calendar for a regular (weekly, biweekly or monthly) sit-down to monitor your budget.
  4. Establish a station: Dedicate a desk, file cabinet and container to bills. Keep stamps and envelopes nearby.
  5. Share the load: If you and your spouse don’t talk openly about what you’re earning and spending, checks and debit card payments can easily bounce or go into expensive overdraft.
  6. Keep a log: Not sure what’s coming in and what’s going out? Mint.com can help you organize your finances. Or if you prefer putting pen to paper, try a user-friendly workbook.