Track Your Spending
Why it's important: You know the big-ticket expenses in your life, but all the smaller spending can also be a killer. Take a look at your monthly outflow, and I guarantee you will have a few "Yikes, I had no idea" moments.
Do this now: Gather up your bank and credit card statements. Then go to my website, SuzeOrman.com , and click on Suze's Expense Sheet. Input your average monthly expenses, and get honest about where your money is going.
Calculate Your Net Worth
Why it's important: We tend to focus on assets and forget about debts. Financial security requires facing up to the big picture: assets minus debts.
Do this now: Type "net worth calculator" into any search engine and you will find plenty of free online tools to help you take stock of your assets and debts.
Check Your Credit Profile
Why it's important: Your credit score affects the interest rates you're offered on credit cards and loans, can be used to vet your job application, and in some states may influence your insurance premiums. So your credit reports, which determine your FICO score, need to be up-to-date and correct (mistakes abound). A score of at least 720 (the range is 300 to 850) earns you a gold star.
Do this now: Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free credit reports from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Every year, you are entitled to one free report from each. If a site asks for your credit card to receive a report, you're at the wrong place! Scour your reports for mistakes, and follow the directions for filing a dispute. Once corrections are made, go to MyFICO.com to buy your FICO credit score. You may receive offers for free credit scores. They are knockoffs of the real deal—your FICO score is what most lenders and businesses check. It costs $16 to see your FICO score; with so much on the line, that's a small price to pay.
Cut Spending by 10 Percent
Why it's important: The median pay raise for 2010 is expected to be around 3 percent (the lowest forecast in 25 years). So challenge your family to give your budget a 10 percent raise by cutting your spending 10 percent.
Do this now: Once you input your income and outflow into the Expense Sheet on my website, print it out and circle every expense that is a want (not a need), then figure out how to reduce or eliminate it.
Step 2: Find Hidden Savings