Every single one of us—no matter our location, age, gender, hair color, family background or race—has to manage our personal finances.

For some, it’s an exciting passion, a never-ending game of “how much can I accumulate in one lifetime”.

For others, it’s just part of life, something that needs to be dealt with but doesn’t border on obsession.

And finally, for many of us, personal finance is nothing but drudgery at best and an emotional trigger at worst.

Fortunately, there are a few simple rules that will help anyone stay on track, and reduce the amount of stress involved when it comes to making sure personal finances are well in order.

DO get organized. Even if you’re a “messy”, this Do is crucial. You’ll miss important due dates, pay exorbitant late fees and possibly get into serious debt (or credit trouble) if you don’t have a handle on what you owe and when you owe it. A simple rule of thumb: the messier you are, the simpler your system.

DO draw up a spending plan. Every dollar that comes into your household goes out in one way, shape or form, even if it’s to a savings account. Know where your money’s coming in and where it’s going. Without this information, you can’t possibly make wise financial choices.

Overwhelmed by the thought? Ask a financially responsible friend or relative (whom you trust) to do it for you. You can’t argue with success—and they can help you make the hard decisions when it comes to having to “trim” spending in certain areas.

DON’T cut out all your fun. Decide, along with your family, what’s most important to you in terms of living a happy life. Then divide up your budget accordingly. If your family really enjoys eating out, plan for it. Just keep in mind you may have to spend a lot less on groceries or clothing. If none of us are the same then our spending plans shouldn’t be the same. If you love to read then cutting back on cable TV wouldn’t be a problem. If you love to watch sports, then cutting back on cable TV would be a serious problem.

DO allow impulse spending. Yup, you read it correctly. Unless you plan for a certain amount of miscellaneous, unexpected expenses in your spending plan, you’ll always feel as though you’re blowing your budget when you pick up items you weren’t planning to buy. Just like anything else, give yourself a “buffer”. A side benefit: you get to skip the guilt when you pick up that neat velour Elvis on the boardwalk.

DON’T use your local bank – unless you absolutely have to. Check out all available credit unions first. In most cases, they’ll have better rates and more friendly policies on everything from fees to lending practices. Each dollar you deposit buys you a share, or membership, in the credit union. So instead of being a customer you’re actually a “member”. Like the ad says, membership has its privileges.

DO use a debit card with protection. Before you use a debit card, make sure your checking account is safe in case you lose your card or it’s somehow stolen. Also make sure you have the right to reverse charges in case merchants don’t provide the goods or services you purchased.

DON’T buy a new car. Considering the fact that new cars depreciate thousands of dollars as soon as you drive them off the lot, can anyone explain why buying a new car would be a good idea?

DO run numbers before every major financial decision. Conventional wisdom works—most of the time. But there are always exceptions. For example, in most cases, it doesn’t make sense to borrow from a 401(k). But there are instances where it’s financially beneficial. You’ll hear it preached from the rooftops that you shouldn’t use a home equity loan to pay off credit cards, or that debt consolidation loans are nothing but trouble. But if you’re financially responsible and ran into some tough circumstances, a HELOC or debt consolidation could be a lifesaver. Search online for calculators that will help clarify the situation. Numbers don’t lie.

And finally, perhaps the most important “Do” of all…

DO remember that personal finance is just that—personal. Everyone loves to give advice, and everyone loves to share their opinions. What worked for your mom and dad may not work for you. On the other hand, they probably have years of wisdom you can draw from.

Consider your personal finances an extension of who you are and where you’re going. Study the topic, and take the time to develop your own unique strategies when it comes to saving, spending and investing. During this information age there’s never been a better time to find the facts you need, in record time.

Author's Bio: 

A financial educator for over ten years, Leo Quinn Jr. specializes in helping people get out of debt and stay that way. His “How to Own Your Paycheck Again” program has helped thousands of families improve their personal finances and escape the debt trap. Learn more at http://www.OwnYourPaycheck.com

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