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5 Free Things You Can Do to Help Your Finances

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate:

When you’re feeling stuck because of debt, or you just can’t seem to get any traction when it comes to increasing your income, it can be very frustrating.   Watch any late night television, and you’ll be bombarded with sales pitches to consolidate your debt or make money quick.

Fortunately, there are some very simple things you can do right now, that are completely FREE, that would help your finances.

Check your credit report.

You can get a free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies (Experian, EquiFax, and TransUnion) once a year.   It’s a good idea to check your report to make sure that there are no errors.  Look closely to make sure debt you’ve paid off has been recorded properly. Make sure there isn’t any outstanding debt that isn’t yours, which could indicate identity theft.

Make sure to correct any errors you find.  An erroneous credit report can make it difficult for you to borrow money and can affect your credit score.  A low credit score can mean you’ll pay more for interest rates on borrowed money and increased insurance rates as well.  It doesn’t take long to check your credit report.  It’s totally free, and it’s easy.  The best part – you can see just how far you’ve come on your journey to better finances!

Start a budget.

If you’re serious about being a good steward of your money, then you should track your expenses and start a budget.  There are plenty of free budget tracking resources available – from printable spreadsheets to software to smartphone apps.   You’ll know where you stand when it comes to your money and you’ll know what expenditures are problem areas for you.

Negotiate your rates.

Pick up the phone and call your cell phone company, your cable/satellite company, or your internet service provider, and ask them for the best rates they can give you.  Do the same for your auto, home, and life insurance.   You could save a decent chunk of change with just a few minutes of your time.

Drop unhealthy (and expensive) vices.

Now, I’m not saying you should give up things that bring you enjoyment.  It’s ultimately up to you to decide what you value.  But consider giving up some of the more unhealthy vices you may have such as smoking, drinking, gambling, or fast food meals.  Consider dropping soda from your daily beverage consumption or avoiding relationships with people who drain you of your financial and emotional resources.   You’ll not only save a huge amount of money, you’ll also help prevent future financial difficulties caused by unhealthy habits.  And you’ll feel so much better.

Read. Read. Read.

Head to your local public library and check out all the personal finance books you can.  Read books on saving for retirement, getting out of debt, investing, and economics.   Check out books and magazines about cooking, sewing, home improvement, gardening, and do-it-yourself projects.   You’ll arm yourself with the tools to manage your money for free.  And you’ll learn valuable skills and enjoyable activities that can help you save money.

The truth is that when we’re stuck there is always something we can do.  We just have to stop and think a bit about what that is.

What free things have you done to get your finances on track?

Featured photo credit: Eirik Solheim

Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas.  She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 6-year-old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.