9 tips for being financially responsible

There’s a lot that goes into managing finances. And it’s a full-time job keeping track of what’s coming in, what bills are due and so on. There are plenty of things you can do to simplify finances. And at the center of it all is the idea of financial responsibility. 

Think of it as a personal finance skill you can develop. And as you develop, you can apply financial literacy and other skills you learn to manage your money in the way that’s best for you. Here are some tips to get you started.

Key takeaways

  • Being financially responsible involves making a plan for your money and sticking to it as much as possible. 

  • Controlling where your money goes might make it easier to save for emergencies, stay out of debt and build good credit. 

  • When you put those things together, you start to build more financial security.

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What is financial responsibility?

Financial responsibility means managing your money in a way that supports your short-term needs and long-term goals. Basic principles include:

  • Living within your means 

  • Managing your spending habits 

  • Making saving a part of your plans

There’s no single way to be financially responsible. But the idea is to financially protect yourself and the people who depend on you.

Tips on how to be financially responsible

Here are nine different tips that could help you be financially responsible:

1. Make plans for your financial future

Financial goals are targets you can set for how you plan to spend or save your money. Everyone’s goals are different, but they’re an important part of financial responsibility. They’re also helpful reminders to stick to your plan. You might set long-term goals, like saving for retirement, or short-term goals, like creating an emergency fund.

2. Create a budget that works for you

A budget is a tool you can use to find out whether you need to adjust your spending to meet your financial goals. It’s essentially a spending plan you can create to visualize your money habits. 

The first step involves establishing your monthly income and expenses. If you have money left over after paying your living expenses, you can dedicate a portion to saving and paying off debt. You may also set aside money for discretionary spending.

3. Find room for savings

Regularly contributing to your savings is another form of financial responsibility. When you have a financial emergency or an upcoming expense, you can dip into your savings instead of going into debt to cover the cost. 

If you want to make emergency savings part of your budget, start by opening a dedicated savings account. That way, you’re not tempted to spend the money you’ve saved. Plus, you can set up automatic recurring direct deposit contributions. 

Saving can be hard. Especially, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) notes, “if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or don’t get paid the same amount each week or month.” But the agency also says that saving small amounts can still provide some financial security.

4. Keep an eye on your credit

Keeping track of your credit reports can help you ensure the information is accurate. And tracking your progress over time may also keep you motivated to improve your credit.

Paying your bills on time, keeping your credit card balances low and applying only for the credit you need may help you build good credit scores. In turn, having strong credit may give you a better chance at things like qualifying for lower interest rates, passing a landlord’s background check or getting an insurance policy.

5. Pay your bills on time, every time

When you borrow money, you promise to pay it back through installments or minimum payments each month. Consistently making on-time payments could strengthen your credit. It can also help you avoid late payment fees. 

But if you miss payments, the lender might report them to the credit bureaus. And missed payments can stay on your credit reports for up to seven years. These kinds of derogatory marks can negatively impact your credit scores and make you appear less financially responsible.

6. Stay well below your credit limits

In general, a credit limit is the maximum amount you can charge to a credit card. When you spend a large portion of your credit limit—or max out the limit—it can signal that you’re spending beyond your means. And that will reflect poorly on your credit utilization ratio, a key credit-scoring factor that compares the amount of credit you’re using to how much you have available. The CFPB recommends keeping credit utilization under 30%. Staying below this limit is an important part of financial responsibility.

7. Pay down your existing debt

Having debt may make it difficult to afford your expenses every month. And it can increase your debt-to-income ratio, which might prevent you from meeting your financial goals. If you have high-interest debt you want to pay down, consider making it a part of your financial routine.

If paying off debt is part of your financial goals, you can check your budget to see how much you can dedicate toward doing so each month. Then you can consider different debt payoff strategies, such as the avalanche or snowball methods.

8. Understand how interest impacts your purchases

Interest is the cost of borrowing money. When it comes to credit card interest, you may be able to avoid or minimize it by paying off your statement balance each month. But when it comes to any type of borrowing, it’s helpful to understand how interest is affecting your budget.

Pay attention to the interest rate or annual percentage rate (APR) when you plan to borrow money. The higher the interest rate, the more you could end up paying overall. The exception may be if you qualify for a low-interest loan or a credit card with a 0% introductory rate

With a 0% introductory APR credit card, you may not owe interest on purchases until the introductory period ends. That means you could pay off your balance without any additional interest charges. Just remember: If you don’t pay off your balance in full, your standard interest rate will apply to any outstanding debt after the introductory period ends.

9. Live within your means to help keep debt down

Living within your means is possible when you spend less than you earn each month. This can be challenging, depending on your financial situation and habits. But working to avoid overspending and impulse buying could ultimately reduce financial stress. Even little steps can help you make progress toward your financial goals.

Being financially responsible in a nutshell

The core principle of financial responsibility is that you live within your means. That generally means you spend less than you earn, save for the future and emergencies, and pay your bills on time. Financial responsibility isn’t always fun, but it has long-term benefits.

If you want to monitor your credit on your way to financial responsibility, CreditWise from Capital One can help. You can use it to access your TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score for free—without negatively impacting your scores. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—not just Capital One cardholders.

You can also get free copies of your credit reports from the two other nationwide credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

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