Debt diet: 6 tips to getting into financial shape

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - If you are still talking about your resolutions, it is time to start doing something to make them happen.

Consumer expert Amy Davis is showing you how to start your debt diet and save more money in 2018. 

The money challenge

There are a few simple challenges people are sharing online. There's the spending fast where you don't buy anything other than necessities. No eating out, no shopping except for groceries. And first, you have to eat what you already have in your pantry and fridge. 

In the 52-week Money Challenge, you save $1 the first week of January, $2 the second week, $3 the third week and so on. By the last week of the year, you will have nearly $1,400. 

These challenges can be really motivating to get you started, but you have to follow up and set up some auto-save programs so when you're ready to bail out of your lofty savings goals, you will keep going.

Pay yourself first

"Pay yourself first," Richard Rosso of Clarity Financial said. 

Rosso said if you set up the direct deposit from your employer for a larger chunk to automatically go into your savings, you'll never have the opportunity to spend it. 

"You will adjust your spending to the deduction. So do the deduction," Rosso said. "It sounds painful. But after awhile, you will fit your budget into the deduction."   

Open a virtual savings account

Now is also the time to open a savings account with a virtual bank. They pay double what the big banks pay in interest. 

"You're gonna get better rates by looking at the online banks, like an Allied Bank or a Synchrony Bank," said Rosso. "These are all FDIC-insured, but they just don't have the overhead." 

Use rewards cards

If your credit card isn't giving you cash back, you're missing out on money. 
Nerdwallet has a list of the best cards for 2018 that will give you cash back at the end of the year. 

Review credit card statements

Take the time now to review your credit card statements for recurring charges you forgot you were paying.

"I dare to say you are going to find a bill and go. 'What is this? I forgot I had it,' Rosso said. For me, it was a magazine subscription. I haven't read the magazine in over two years and yet I paid over $200." 

Build your savings

Rosso also said you should have emergency savings of three to six months.

With the Federal Reserve expected to raise interest rates in 2018, you don't want to get stuck putting emergency car repairs or other unexpected expenses on a credit card. If you have that savings, you will be ready for most emergencies.

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