Aside from caring for your family and maintaining your health, managing your money is the single most important thing you can do. A good money management plan helps you pay for the necessities and save for the unexpected.

Spending Plan

Most people dislike the word “budget” because it sounds too limiting or negative. Instead of a budget, why not develop a “Spending Plan”? How are you going to spend your money so you can pay for your “needs”, put some money aside for emergencies and still be able to purchase some of your “wants”?

Click here for a handy tool to help you!

Pay Yourself First

Many people find it hard to save money each month. One trick is to “pay yourself first”. This means putting aside money in a savings account before you pay any other bills. Develop your Spending Plan based on your monthly income AFTER you subtract the money you set aside for savings.

Direct deposit into a savings account is a great way to accomplish this goal. Have your employer send part of your pay right to a savings account, before you even see it, or miss it. If your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, set up an automatic transfer to take place every payday from your checking to your savings account. Then make a promise to yourself: You will not touch the money unless a REAL emergency comes along. A sale on big screen TVs is not an emergency but a car repair might be. By having a savings account you will have access to emergency funds when you need them.

Credit Reports

And you thought the days of report cards were behind you…

Your credit report is a “report card” of your credit history and getting a good grade is very important.  Your credit report and credit score can affect your life in many ways. Banks are not the only places using this report. Employers, insurance companies, utility companies, landlords and even cell phone carriers use the report to determine their relationship with you. A bad credit report can cost you money! Your insurance rates might be higher; the electric company might require a large security deposit; and you might not qualify for that dream job or apartment you want.

Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report every year. Visit or call 1-877-322-8228 to request a copy of your credit report.

Credit Score

We all know the higher your credit score, the better. But, did you ever wonder what makes up a credit score?

Your credit score is made up of:

1. The record of timely payment on loans (35%)
2. The types of debts and the total outstanding balance (30%)
3. The length of credit history (15%)
4.  New Credit (10%)
5. Types of credit used (10%)

Creditors want to determine how much of a risk you are—in other words, how likely you are to repay the money or pay for the service they provided to you. Credit scores help them do that, and the higher your score, the less risk they feel you'll be.

Credit scores (usually) range from 340 to 850.  People with a credit score over 700 are typically offered more financing options and better interest rates. Don't be discouraged if your scores are lower, because with a little hard work, a good Spending Plan and some time, you can improve you credit score.

For more information about credit reports and credit scores, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.