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We all know bad habits are hard to break. But if your worst habit has to do with the way you manage your money, breaking it could change your whole life – in a good way. If you overspend, don’t save money, over-use credit cards, pay bills late or consistently impulse buy, it may be time for a fiscal intervention. Now that we can buy everything from groceries to a new car with one click on our keyboards, reining in your bad consumer impulses takes real self-discipline.

Those who commit the above-listed money sins are often so used to being strapped for cash or hounded by bill collectors, that they may not even realize there is a better way to live. Further, many money sinners might believe they have been in the financial hole for so long that it is too late to climb out. That is absolutely untrue. Age has nothing to do with modifying your financial life. Here are common sense tips to help you have a healthier financial life:

What are your fixed expenses?

Determine exactly what you know you will owe every month. Your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, car payment, internet service, cable and child care are fixed expenses. It is not enough to keep track of it in your head – write it down and see it in front of you. Compare your fixed and living expenses (food, entertainment, gas, etc.) with your monthly income. This may be the first step in establishing that elusive budget you’ve been meaning to establish.

What is your debt-to-income ratio?

When you apply for credit or loans, the lender examines  your debt-to-income ratio. This is determined by dividing your monthly debt obligations by your monthly gross income. Many experts agree that your total debt-to-income ratio, including fixed expenses and other debt should be 36 percent or lower. Many of those same experts know that many people have no idea what their ratio is.

Establish a monthly budget – now.

You know you need a budget, you mean to take time to create a budget, but you still do not have a budget. You are not alone. Here are the two most important reasons for you to motivate yourself to establish a budget: 1) It will help you ensure that you are not spending money that you do not have; 2) A budget is nothing more than a plan for how you will manage your money. If there is something you are working toward acquiring (home, car, vacation, etc.) a budget is the best way for you to monitor your financial life and work toward your goals.

Cut the expenses you can cut

There are so many expenses you may be able to cut – no-fee credit cards vs. annual fee cards; name brand everything vs. generic brands; buying foods and other necessities in bulk vs just buying one item when you run out of something; using tough love to say no to your kids’ requests when doing so might make a real difference in your financial quality of life; pre-owned vehicles with full warranties vs. new vehicles that lose a large percentage of their value as soon as you drive away from the dealership; fewer restaurant excursions. The list goes on, and a bit less self-indulgence and impulse buying makes a big difference.

Get help from a professional

If you have never consulted with a financial advisor, maybe it is time to make that appointment. An advisor can help you get financially organized, establish short and long-term financial goals and come up with a smart, manageable investment plan. Make that call.

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