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Four Steps to a Healthier Financial Life in the Next 30 Days

Use your BlackBerry smartphone to take charge of your finances

In a tough economy it pays to take charge of your personal finances. Controlling spending, living within your means, and peace of mind are just a few of the potential benefits. With that in mind we have put together four simple steps you can take in the next 30 days with your BlackBerry® smartphone to help shore up your household balance sheet. Your wallet will thank you.

Note: Keep in mind that we are not financial experts. This should not be considered professional financial advice. You may wish to consult with a professional for help with your own situation. Also, be sure that you know and trust with whom you share your account information and passwords, and from where you download financial applications.

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION AT ALL TIMES

It is not a stretch to say that few of us truly know our financial situations. Sure we may occasionally check our online balances or balance our checkbooks, but how many of us know day-to-day our account balances, how much we owe, or when a deposit cleared?

And when things get tough, human nature is to ignore our finances to escape the worry. But that lack of knowledge can have consequences: we feel out of control and fearful. So the first step is to know your financial situation at all times.

Monitor your accounts

How can you use your BlackBerry smartphone to help? Start by checking your banks or credit unions for mobile versions of their websites. You would be surprised how many smaller banks have such websites optimized for smartphones. Also check the BlackBerry App World™ for bank apps. Bank of America Mobile Banking and ING Direct are two examples.

See all your accounts in one place

See all your accounts in one place

For an all-in-one solution we like Personal Assistant Premium ($6.99, free version available) by Pageonce. With this little gem you can see your entire financial universe—bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, utility bills—in one location. No more logging into multiple websites to see your balances.

STEP 2: KEEP A 30-DAY SPENDING DIARY

Want a tried and true tip for controlling spending? Try recording every purchase you make for the next 30 days. And by every purchase, we mean everything from large items to that candy bar from the vending machine. At the end of 30 days review your results. You will be shocked at how much you spend on small items like $5 morning lattes or $15 lunches. Then think of ways to cut back.

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.            
– Financial expert Suze Orman as quoted from "Suze Orman's Easy Money To-Do List"

Three BlackBerry tools to help you track

Your BlackBerry smartphone comes with three tools to make recording purchases easier:

Three BlackBerry tools to help you track
  • First, you can type purchases, location, and price into MemoPad.
  • As a quicker option, try Voice Notes Recorder for an audio record.
  • Or try photographing your receipts with your smartphone's built-in camera. It's a quick way to record the information without typing.

Or try an app to track...

Or try an app to track...

To make recording purchases easier, try using Mobile Checkbook ($7.99 US, no free trial). First set up your main checking, savings, and credit card accounts; add the balances; and then record everything you spend. (Mobile Checkbook can also help you balance your accounts.) You cannot synchronize with your online accounts, but you can email your transactions as Microsoft Excel® or Quicken® files to your desktop.

Whichever tool works for you, get in the habit of recording your purchases immediately after purchase. That way you will not be tempted to put it off.

STEP 3: CREATE A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT

When it comes to household budgets financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade says, "Whether paper-based or electronic, the discipline of managing your budget will help to keep you organized. Annual bills, like car insurance, won’t surprise you, sending shock waves through your cash flow." (Quoted from "The Dreaded B-Word.")

A budget is a powerful tool to keep you living within your means. A problem with budgets, however, is that we tend to forget them out in the real world. But with your BlackBerry smartphone you can bring your budget with you.

Have budget, will travel

Have budget, will travel

For a portable budget tool we like SplashMoney Personal Finance ($9.99, free trial). This handy app lets you see your spending against your budgeted amounts, giving you an on-the-spot visual red flag to any problems. You can also synchronize with your bank and credit card accounts for a true financial picture. Then create graphs and charts showing your spending by category.


STEP 4: RAISE YOUR PERSONAL FINANCE IQ

They say knowledge is power, which is doubly true when it comes to financial health. So why not take a few minutes each day to educate yourself about personal finance?

CNNMoney

A good place to start is the mobile site for CNNMoney.com. CNNMoney.com has a consumer focus, so it is good for beginners. Recent articles included:

  • "When to Get Long-Term-Care Insurance"
  • "Making $300,000 Last a Lifetime?"
  • "When Grandma Offers Tuition Help"
SmartMoney

The SmartMoney mobile site is another excellent resource for personal financial information. Recent articles promised to tell you:

  • "10 Things Retailers Won't Tell You"
  • "Going to an Outlet Mall? Wear a Thinking Cap"
  • "The Suspicions About Reward Programs"

SmartMoney focuses a bit more on investing in stocks and bonds, but it is packed with information for all levels.

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