Now that you’ve played your April Fool’s jokes and started your spring cleaning, don’t neglect the other essential task this month: figuring out your finances. It’s Financial Literacy Month, which means that thousands of people are dedicating themselves to better financial health. Are you ready to join them?
Don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Learning to manage your money more effectively can make your life easier and more enjoyable.
What is Financial Literacy Month?
Financial Literacy Month gives you the chance to focus on your finances, either alone or with loved ones.
Money Management International created Financial Literacy Month to promote healthy money management and to help educate consumers about credit, debt, savings, and other related topics. Since April has 30 days, there are 30 steps to the financial literacy program.
The first step, Commit to Change, involves changing your mindset about your finances. Instead of continuing the same habits, which might have led you astray, you commit yourself to learning from Financial Literacy Month and changing habits that no longer work for you.
April ends with the 30th step, Moving Forward. This is the time to reflect on what you’ve learned, adopt the habits that you’ve created, and commit yourself to continuing those healthy habits.
In between, you’ll take many different steps, from learning about establishing good credit and creating an emergency savings fund to setting goals and establishing your own personal spending plan. Each step takes you one step closer to financial health and stability.
Financial Literacy Month isn’t just an excuse to talk about money. It’s a chance to figure out how you can better manage your cash and to create a more viable future. The average U.S. household has more than $134,000 in debt, and they pay an extra $1,300 annually in interest alone. You can take your first step away from that trend if you participate in Financial Literacy Month.
Plus, it’s a way to get others involved in the process. Maybe you could encourage your family members, friends, church community, or other acquaintances to get involved. People often get better results when they tackle a problem with others instead of attempting it on their own.
Finally, Financial Literacy Month serves as an annual reminder that many people struggle with money-management issues. From extreme debt to poor credit, consumers all over the world live in fear of financial hardships.
How can I learn to better manage my money?
Financial Literacy Month gives you an excellent first resource for managing your money. The 30-step plan guides you through the process of learning about financial topics and terms, then gives you action steps for applying that knowledge to your own life.
You can even take the pledge that the Financial Literacy Month offers. If you sign the pledge, you promise that you are “ready, willing, and able to take financial responsibility.” Sometimes, accountability can serve as a powerful motivator and help you achieve your goals when you might otherwise give up.
The pledge also includes other promises, such as passing on healthy money-management habits to your children and seeking help if you’re not sure how to move forward.
Other resources exist, as well.
Learn about financial terms at websites like Investopedia.com. Read through some of the definitions so you know how the banking system works. If you have a question about budgeting, savings, credit, debt, or other subjects, conduct a Google search and read tips from financial experts.
Watch and listen
Pay attention to other people who manage their money well. Maybe your parents are excellent savers and you’d like to learn how to manage your money like them. Use them as a resource to help you become more financially independent. Ask them questions, pose hypothetical situations, or even ask them to help you design a budget.
Friends, colleagues, and other people in your life might also be great resources. If you know that your friend in the next cubicle has excellent saving habits, ask him for some guidance.
Keep track of data
Let the numbers do the talking. Track your incoming cash and outgoing money religiously. You can use a pen and paper, or you can download an app for your smartphone. Alternatively, keep track of it all in a spreadsheet or word processing document. Just find a system that works for you.
At the end of every month, look over the numbers. How do they differ from last month? Do you see any expenses that you don’t really need? Make adjustments to your financial habits based on the patterns you see.
Don’t spend cash
It’s easy to whip out a few worn bills and hand them over to a cashier in a store or restaurant. You might not even think about the total cost of whatever you’re purchasing because you have the cash in your wallet.
Instead of taking cash out of an ATM or cashing your paycheck every week, use a Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card to manage your money. You’ll find yourself thinking more critically about every choice you make because you need to know the balance on the card and the expenses you’ll have to pay in the near future.
Avoid spending cash if you want to save.
Save on the little things
Sometimes even the smallest savings can have incredible results. Maybe you’re picking out breakfast cereal at the supermarket and you choose the generic corn flakes instead of the name brand. Maybe you only saved $0.50, but that’s a step toward improving your financial situation.
Many consumers try to take on too much at one time. They want to see immediate results, and they get frustrated when their goals stay unfulfilled. Instead of tackling the big things, focus on small accomplishments. Before you whip out your wallet, ask yourself if there’s a way to save money.
Pay off a small debt
Use a Green Dot prepaid Visa card to accumulate savings over a three-month period. Depending on your budget, add a few dollars to the account every pay period. Next, pay off a small debt, such as a low balance on a credit card. You’ll get an immediate sense of satisfaction because you set a goal and met it.
From there, move on to larger debts. Save up money on your Green Dot prepaid Visa card, then pay off what you owe. Alternatively, use that card to set aside monthly payments. Either way, you may find yourself debt-free before you know it.
We all have them. Maybe you can’t resist a beautiful pair of shoes. To help yourself stay on track financially, avoid shoe stores so you won’t get tempted. Perhaps you’re always spending money on mobile games. Delete all the games from your smartphone and tablet, then find another hobby so you can redirect your time.
If you know your weaknesses, you can avoid spending money unnecessarily. You’ll need a healthy dose of willpower, but you’ll feel much better when you can control your spending.
Where can I get a reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card?
Now that you’re up-to-date on Financial Literacy Month, it’s time to take action. The first step is to sign up for a Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card. It’s a reloadable card that you can use over and over again to set and meet your financial goals. There’s no credit check involved, so you don’t have to worry if poor financial habits have caused you trouble in the past. Plus, you can use it for direct deposit, making ATM withdrawals, and all of the other tasks you’d accomplish with a traditional bank account.
All you have to do is fill out a short form and get a Green Dot prepaid Visa card sent to your home. From there, you can refill it several ways, including in retail stores near your home.
Many consumers choose to use multiple Green Dot prepaid Visa cards. You can assign a particular expense to each one, such as utilities, debt, groceries, rent or mortgage, and clothing. Keep one for the fun stuff, too — just set aside a few dollars every month for entertainment or other enjoyable expenses.
Once you have your card or cards in hand, you can choose how you use them. Work the cards into your budget just like people used to do with labeled change jars. This method is far easier and less complicated, which means you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
Financial Literacy Month might be just the motivation you need to start learning and practicing better money management. From the 30-step plan on the Financial Literacy Month website to the prepaid Visa cards that help you budget your cash more effectively, you could be well on your way to financial stability by the end of the month.