Make it easy to pay yourself first. This is an old adage with the addition of making it easy. With direct deposit and online banking available to almost everyone, set up an automatic transfer to your savings account to build your emergency fund or save for your vacation or Christmas expenditures. This is a disciplined way to minimize debt.


Plan the payoff before you buy. Before buying that discretionary item, ask yourself, how are you going to pay for it. If you put it on a credit card, how is that credit card going get paid off at the end of the month.


Make it easy to make a budget. This is the hardest thing to do so make it easy by using software tools like Mint.com, Quicken or Microsoft money. The software can actually make a budget for you and then remind you if you are exceeding it.


Be a smarter consumer. To further this concept, we at D3 Financial Counselors, give a subscription to Consumer Reports to all of our comprehensive clients. This helps them compare the quality and price of most consumer products they use in their everyday lives. Smarter consumer decisions ultimately save money.


Take advantage of discounts from local providers. Every Downers Grove resident should be taking advantage of the Buy Chamber program established by the Downers Grove Area Chamber of Commerce. Go to their website www.downersgrove.org for the list of local venders providing discounts on their products and services. Buying local saves gas and gives you a potential bargain.


Don’t be afraid to get competitive bids for big expenditures. The village of Downers Grove is required to get competitive bids in an attempt to get the best value for its residents. For any large expenditure don’t be bashful about getting 3 competitive bids so that you can compare the value and price that best fits your needs.


Recognize the impact of taxes on your financial wealth. If you are putting money away for retirement or for college education, make sure you understand the tax advantages of using a 529 plan, a 401k, an IRA, a Roth IRA, or an annuity. The tax advantages of some accounts are better suited for specific situations that other accounts. Make sure you understand the tax ramifications of money going into these accounts as well as coming out of these accounts.


Don’t be afraid to get second financial opinions if you are unsure about financial decisions. There is a whole group of financial planners that work on an hourly basis (just like a lawyer) that will help you weigh the pros and cons of any financial question. You can find them at www.napfa.org. If these ideas sound like concepts a business would use, you are right. Whether you realize it or not, your household finances are like a business. Use these refreshing ideas to manage it like one.

This article was written by Don Duncan MBA CPA, CFA™, CFP® and was featured in Neighbors of Downers Grove Magazine in June 2011.