10 Tips for Improving Your Financial Situation – From the People Who Know

Whether you’re looking to make a big investment or struggling to get from paycheck to paycheck, we can all use some sound financial advice from time to time.  The certified financial coaches that form the backbone of United Way’s Massachusetts Working Families Network have you covered. Here are 10 things you can do to improve your finances:

  1. First, set a goal. Research shows that people save more money when they are working toward their own goals and the goals of their family. Set a goal for something you really care about — sending a child to college, saving for a new car, then figure out how much money you’ll need and how much time you have to save it.  Then break the big goal into smaller, attainable goals. Record these on your calendar, where you can see them every day.
  2. Plan ahead, then stick to the plan. Everyone wants to save, in theory, but the strategy and amount have to be manageable. Be patient and go easy on yourself — making sure to prepare for unexpected expenses that could throw you off track.
  3. Avoid unnecessary fees – get banked!  Many households in Boston do not have a checking or savings account and rely on costly check-cashing and other alternative financial services.  A household with an income of $32,000 per year can typically spend up to $2,400 annually simply cashing paychecks at check-cashing locations. Those funds could instead be put toward savings accounts, college savings plans, or other important financial goals.  Opening a safe, affordable and non-predatory checking or savings account is made easier by the City of Boston’s Bank On Boston program. Bank On Boston connects Boston residents with reliable financial products and services that can help them save, grow, and access their money.
  4. Get a buddy. Find a financial coach or a trusted friend or family member to share with and be accountable to.  United Way’s financial coaches enter into a true partnership with their clients, and stress the importance of building a trusting relationship.  A list of United Way’s supported agencies that provide financial coaching can be found here. 
  5. Find the free stuff.  Be creative in finding community resources geared toward your family’s needs and interests. Become members of the Boston Public Library to get free tickets to the museums, aquarium and other local activities, etc. Be a smart consumer, do your homework every time you are making a purchase to get the best prices.
  6. Don’t forget about credit.  If you don’t have good credit, everything else becomes more expensive.  Find out why good credit matters – and start taking steps to improve yours at Boston Builds Credit.
  7. Get Your Taxes Done for Free!  for those who made less than $66,000 in 2018, United Way offers My Free Taxes, an online resource for free tax preparation services.
  8. Save that refund.  Coaches tell us that while many clients who receive a tax refund will need to spend it immediately, it’s a great time to consider saving part of it in an emergency savings fund – especially if it’s unexpected.
  9. Plug the “money leaks” a money leak is money that you spend without thinking that does not add any real value or well being to your life. This could be a cup of coffee in the mornings, a pastry mid afternoon or Uber rides on cold days. Identifying leaks and planning to avoid them in the future can have a big impact on the monthly cash flow.
  10. Be patient. Finally, go easy on yourself.  Improving your financial situation does not happen overnight. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t see them improving as quickly as you expect.