If you feel a dollar short and constantly bogged down by debt, you’re not alone. According to reported data, consumer debt reached a record $14.88 trillion last year. In the spirit of Independence Day, we’re here to offer four tips to get you on the path to financial freedom.

1. Eliminate unproductive debt

Not all debt is created equal. Investments such as home purchases, student loans and business loans have the potential to produce a return of some kind, but some incurred debt is unproductive. High-interest credit card balances are the quintessential example of this, although there are others. The impact of unproductive debt can be massive; U.S. households carrying credit card debt pay over $1,000 a year on average in interest alone.

Tackling unproductive debt is the first step to getting a handle on your debt and identifying your spending habits is a good place to start. Consider using tools such as FirstBank’s Money Manager to simply track your spending and see where you may have room to tighten your belt. With that in mind.

2. Budget like the best

Setting an achievable budget that eliminates unnecessary spending can give you a fighting chance at controlling your finances and might save you over $2,000 a year. Budgeting can seem daunting at first glance, but with a little partitioning it doesn’t have to be. First, take small steps to cut out bad habits inhibiting your ability to save. Secondly, pinpoint the “money leaks” in your life. These are wasteful expenses that slip through the cracks and add up over time (think unused gym memberships). Doing both may help uncover additional funds you never knew you had, and just as importantly, train your brain to look for ways to save and spend smarter in the future.

3. Be active about passive income

Ever heard someone talking about making their money work for them? They’re talking about passive income. Some examples are retirement accounts and rental properties. Passive income may require some time and/or money investment but can pay off in the long run.

If you’re looking to open an IRA or 401K and start growing your retirement nest egg, check to see if your employer will match your contributions. If so, take advantage of their offer so you don’t leave money on the table.

 4. Build emergency savings

If you don’t have an emergency fund, you’re not alone as almost 25% of Americans don’t. But having enough to cover several months of expenses can bring you peace of mind and get you through a car breakdown, sudden injury, or job displacement. We’ve included some handy tips to get you started in an emergency, and best of all, these strategies can work at any time. While it may be difficult to put money into an account where you feel it won’t ever see the light of day, try to remember each time you make a deposit, you’re reducing potential stress and making your finances more resilient.


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