It’s time for an important question: Do you manage your money, or does your money manage you? Do you feel that you’re in control of your finances? Or do you just hope that everything will work out in the end because you are a little worried about what you might find if you look too closely?

Whether you struggle to pay your bills every month or you think you have it all figured out, it’s always a good idea to spend a little time on money management to plan for financial security and long-term financial success. The good news is that it’s not as hard as you might think.

If your finances aren’t quite what you want them to be, spending a little bit of time on money management could help you to prevent hardships or disasters. Even if you feel like you’re in control of your money, learning to manage your money could put you on a path toward a much better financial future. And it might help you prepare for unexpected expenses, a job loss, necessary big purchases, or another emergency.

Your financial goals may be modest or ambitious. Either way, taking basic steps to manage your money and evaluate your finances and spending habits could pay off for you in the long run.

16 money management tips

There are many ways to manage your money, and in this article, we’ll offer 16 helpful money management tips. You may not need to use all of them to be successful in managing your money – but implementing even a few of them consistently could help your bank account grow, put you in a position to better handle your debt obligations, and set you on the path toward saving money. You may even be able to establish an emergency fund and have extra money to use as you like.

Spend less than you make

Spending less than you earn is a key step toward avoiding debt and achieving financial security.

This sounds easy in theory, but it isn’t always possible in practice. Start off by determining your monthly income and your monthly expenses. When making your plan, remember that emergencies do occur — and that you may need to use credit. That’s okay, as long as you have a plan that allows you to pay off that debt while still living within your means, even if that means that you’ll have to cut back elsewhere. Just be sure to use good credit habits, so you don’t get into debt unnecessarily.

Have a budget

Once you know how to track your spending, create a budget. Ideally, you will want to spend less than your monthly take home pay and have a little left over to put in savings accounts. Remember to include recurring costs, like having to pay taxes, in your budget.

Your budget will help you stay on track to reach your savings goals. If you have a family, it is important to get the whole family on board.

Contribute to savings

The best way to become financially secure is to contribute to savings regularly. If you can, set up a system in which your money goes into your savings account automatically. Putting money into savings should be a key part of your budget – and you should always plan on paying yourself first.

In choosing a savings account, look for one with the best interest rates. Over time, you will see your money grow, thanks to compound interest. That means that you’ll start to earn interest on interest that your money already earned.

Also, be sure to look for a financial institution that is FDIC insured.

Have an emergency fund

No matter how much you plan, emergencies are bound to occur. Since it’s impossible to know what will happen when, experts recommend that you put 30% of your income toward savings. This will become your emergency fund.

As you are creating your budget, keep in mind that experts recommend this scenario: that 50% of your income go towards necessities like rent, food, clothing and transportation, with 30% going toward savings and the remaining 20% of your income toward discretionary items (like vacations, eating out, and other splurges).

Have an investment account

Investment accounts provide an opportunity for your money grow faster – especially when there’s “free money” involved. For example, if your employer offers a 401(k) with a match, don’t pass up that free money. You should contribute to a 401(k) even if there is no match, because of the tax benefits involved.

Financial advisors or an investment adviser could help you navigate benefits that may be available to you.

Track your spending

Track your spending using a mobile app or just old-fashioned pencil-and-paper. By doing this for a couple of months, you may be able to get a handle on your personal finances and avoid overspending. Categorize everything. Look for waste, such as monthly fees for streaming channels and apps that you don’t use. See if you can find any spending you can trim, like cutting back on drinks over the weekend or taking a bus instead of using an Uber.

Get out of debt

One of the best ways to manage your money is to get out of debt. Wishful thinking won’t get you there. You need a plan. One approach is the snowball method. Using this method, you’ll pay off your smallest debts first. Or, you can try the avalanche method and pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first. Take a look at each method and decide which will work best for you.

Think big picture

Sticking to financial goals can be hard. It will be tempting to give in and splurge from time to time. Before you break out the plastic for something you don’t really need, stop and remember why you are managing your money in the first place. Instead of giving into temptation, remember that you can use that money set aside for discretionary purchases later instead, and this should help you avoid getting into debt and paying interest. This may mean that you’ll have to delay gratification for a few months, but it’s worth it to stay focused on the big picture.

Limit your credit card purchases

It’s so easy to take out a credit card and swipe that you may find yourself overspending quickly if you’re not careful. Limiting your credit card purchases is a great way to manage your money. Studies show that people spend less if they use cash, so consider leaving your plastic at home for daily purchases. Some credit cards offer great benefits like cash back or points for travel. However, if you are spending more than you normally would on purchases and interest, you are actually losing money.

That said, you should keep a credit card around for emergencies.

Shop around

Change your money mindset – always look for the best deal. Look for coupons for things you already buy. Consider waiting for sales for purchases that you can put off for a few weeks. Before buying new, see if you can find something almost as good that’s second-hand. Money-saving apps, such as deal sites, could also help cut costs. Evaluate your skills to see if you can barter for services or goods. For example, if you are great at decorating cakes and you need your car fixed, try to find someone who will accept birthday cakes for the whole family for a year in exchange for their help with your engine.

Develop a positive money mindset

Many people have a very negative relationship with money, especially if they are accustomed to feeling as if they never have enough. If this sounds familiar, forgive yourself for your past mistakes and resolve to have a healthier relationship with money as you move forward.

Focus on your successes, such as reducing spending (even by a small amount) or paying off a debt of any size. Stop comparing yourself to others and stop trying to keep up. Developing a positive money mindset may take time, but it is an important step in taking control of your finances and in managing your money wisely.

Never miss a payment

If you miss a payment, it may have negative consequences — not only could it impact your credit score, but it could also affect your ability to do the things you want to do. A history of missed payments sends the message that you aren’t in control of your finances. This could result in higher interest rates, make it difficult for you to get approved for credit cards and loans, and make it harder to get approved to rent apartments. Some employers also check credit scores, so your missed payments could even make it harder to get a job.

Establish a solid credit history

Building good credit doesn’t happen overnight. Taking the time to build and maintain a good credit score could help your financial situation in the long run. A good credit score means that you may receive a better interest rate on loans and mortgages, potentially saving you thousands in interest. You may also qualify to borrow more, since you’ve proven your fiscal responsibility. That means that you might be able to get a credit card with a higher spending limit or you might qualify to buy a nicer house or car. A good credit score could also improve other parts of your life – it may open up more job prospects and make it easier to rent the apartment that you want.

Building good credit takes time, but there are a few things that you could do to help the process along: regularly check your credit report, keep your credit card balances low, and always make your payments on time.

Are you missing out on free money?

Have you looked at your workplace health benefits and your other benefits?  You might turn up some hidden gems that you are not taking advantage of, like gym memberships, discounts on eyeglasses or legal services, or even pet insurance. Also, changing the timing of major dental and medical procedures that aren’t emergencies could save you a lot of money when you use your deductions and other health care selections in a savvy and timely way.

Consider a money management app

Mobile apps could help you track spending and your debt, and they’re invaluable tools in helping you get in control of your finances. Consider using an app to keep track of your daily purchases, ongoing expenses, savings, and debt. Having all of this information readily available on your phone could make it easy to get a handle on your spending and savings. You may even start to notice patterns – maybe you consistently spend more than you expected on meals or on Uber rides – so that you can make changes quickly, before things get too out of hand.

These apps are also a great way to track your success when it comes to reducing your spending and debts and increasing your savings. If you need a reminder about how well you are doing, just open the app!

Analyze your debt

Let’s face it: everyone wants to pay off debt as quickly as possible. However, instead of just focusing on paying down the principal, look into other steps that might help. For example, transferring a credit card balance to a card with a lower interest rate could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Consolidating debt could make it easier to pay your debt down more quickly.

Managing money

It may seem daunting but getting control of your finances doesn’t have to be complicated. Even taking a couple of basic steps could help you get on your way to effective money management.