ABA: Consumer Tips for Budgeting, Savings and Reducing Debt

March 1-7 is National Consumer Protection Week

​WASHINGTON — In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, the American Bankers Association is highlighting personal finance resources and urging consumers to take an active role in managing and protecting their money.  National Consumer Protection Week, observed the first week in March, is a campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions.

“Banks implement numerous safeguards to protect their customers’ money and information, and they also provide consumers with critical tools to make informed financial decisions,” said Frank Keating, ABA president and CEO. “There are many actions consumers can take to control their financial future and keep their money safe.”

ABA’s consumer site—ABA.com/Consumers—features personal finance tips and resources on topics such as mortgages, credit cards, protecting your money, saving for college and more.  It also includes interactive calculators that can be useful when making decisions regarding home and personal financing, investments, retirement and leasing.

ABA recommends that consumers follow these tips to assess their finances, gain control and stick to a new budget or saving plan:

Create a Budget 
Track your income and expenses to see how much money you have coming in and how much you spend.  If you have debt, establishing a budget will help you to pay down your debt while saving.

  • Identify how you spend your money.
  • Set realistic goals, especially if you plan to cut some of your expenses.
  • Track your spending and review your budget often.

Reduce Your Debt
Establish a budget to pay down debts while you save.  Points to consider when cutting debt:

  • Pay more than the minimum due and pay on time.
  • Pay off debt with higher interest rates first.
  • Transfer high rate debt to credit cards with a lower interest rate.
Save for the Unexpected and Beyond 
Pay yourself first.  Saving is important; it helps ensure that you can endure financial surprises.  No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to begin saving.
  • Save at least 10 percent of your income for retirement.  Enroll in a retirement plan or consider optimizing an established retirement plan.  Contribute at least the maximum amount that your employer will match, and increase your contribution as your income increases.
  • Financial advisors often recommend keeping about three months’ salary in a savings account in case of financial emergencies like hospital bills or loss of job.
  • If you receive direct deposit at work, ask your employer to send a specific amount to your savings account.  Because the money is put into an account before you have a chance to spend it, automatic savings plans are an easy and convenient way to save.  If your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, many banks allow for automatic transfers from checking to savings accounts.