4. BORROW SMART FOR COLLEGE
A college degree can pay off in higher earnings, but lenders may allow you to borrow far more than you can comfortably repay. If you’re borrowing for your own education, consider limiting your total debt to what you expect to make your first year out of school. If you’re a parent borrowing for a child’s education, aim for payments that are no more than 10% of your after-tax income and that still allow you to save for retirement. If your payments are higher than 10% of your after-tax income, investigate income-driven repayment plans that could bring down your costs.
5. USE CREDIT CARDS AS A CONVENIENCE
Credit cards offer convenience and can protect you from fraud and disputes with merchants. But credit card interest tends to be high, so don’t carry credit card balances if you can avoid it. If you routinely pay your balances in full, look for a rewards card with a sign-up bonus that returns at least 1.5% of what you spend.
6. FINANCE YOUR HOME SMARTLY
If you want to be a homeowner, the best time to buy your first home is when you’re financially ready and in a position to stay put for a few years. Opt for a mortgage rate that’s fixed for as long as you plan to remain in the home, and don’t make extra payments against the principal until you’ve paid off all other debt and are on track for retirement.
7. BUY USED VEHICLES AND DRIVE THEM FOR YEARS
Buying a car right now isn’t a great idea; supply-chain kinks and other pandemic-related issues have inflated the cost of both new and used cars. In general, though, buying a used car can save you a ton of money over your driving lifetime, as can driving your car for many years before replacing it. These days, a well-maintained car can last 200,000 miles without major issues, according to J.D. Power. This means you can get roughly 13 years of service out of your car if you drive it 15,000 miles a year. Ideally, you would pay cash for cars. If you need to borrow, try to limit the term of your loan to a maximum of five years.
8. INSURE AGAINST CATASTROPHIC EXPENSES
Use insurance to protect yourself against catastrophic expenses rather than smaller costs that you can easily pay out of pocket. If you have sufficient savings, consider raising the deductibles on your policies to save money on premiums. Be careful about high-deductible health insurance policies, though. Having a high deductible could cause you to put off medical care, and it’s better to err on the side of safety when it comes to health.