Ask any financial adviser what schools are lacking and most would say “money management courses.” That’s because many Americans lack basic skills that will enable them to pay off loans quickly and fully, save enough money for retirement and track their everyday spending.

The good news? The following four personal finance tips will help you pay down debt and slash spending so you have more ways to put your cash to good use.

Sign Up For Automatic Student Debt Repayment

All the savings strategies in the world won’t do much for your bottom line if you’ve got student loans to pay off. But chances are, there are a handful of other monthly fees eating away at your money, including rent or mortgage and grocery and gas bills, making it hard to pare down that student loan balance in a reasonable amount of time.

Financial advisers might advise doubling up on payments over the year, or paying slightly more than the minimum payment. Another option? Signing up for automatic student debt repayment. These services deduct your monthly minimum from your designated checking account, and may give you a lower interest rate in return. Discover’s Audit Debit Reward program, for example, lowers your rate by .25 percent 1, as long as you are the borrower of a student loan originated or purchased by Discover Bank; your loan is in repayment, not deferment; your loan is not in default; your loans are enrolled in automatic payments from a bank account; and you do not have returned payments.2

Track Your Spending Habits

Ever get your credit card statement, take a look at the balance and wonder how it all adds up? If so, a spend-tracking tool like the Discover Spend Analyzer may be helpful in keeping track of where your money is going.

It works like this: Use your Discover card for purchases, and when you log on to the Spend Analyzer, you’ll find pie charts and bar charts that show your spending. You can also track and sort your spending by category, merchant or amount over the last 24 months, and see the average and total number of transactions per month.3

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It’s also important to cross-reference your credit card receipts against your monthly statement to make sure there is no fraud occurring, and go through your savings and checking account statements to look for anything awry.

Check Your Credit Report

Your credit report is important. It affects the kind of loan you get when signing for a mortgage, and can sway a potential employer who has access to a modified version.4 It also lists a summary of your accounts, including credit cards, loans and other lines of credit; public records like court judgments against you; and the personal information such as name, address and contact information throughout your credit history. There are three nationwide credit agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Checking yours couldn’t be easier: the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to get your credit reports from each bureau once every 12 months, free.

Audit Yourself

It pays to look at your spending on a quarterly basis to see if there are ways to cut back and put more money into savings or debt repayment. Discover’s Spend Analyzer allows you to search your transactions by month, then drill down into each. Perhaps you find you’re stopping at Starbucks for a $5 coffee each day before work. A better option? Make your cup of Joe at home, and put that $80 a month to work paying down your mortgage. Does your grocery bill rise exponentially over the holidays? Look at ways you can cut back without cutting out the fun.

Sources:

1: http://www.discover.com/student-loans/policies/auto-debit-reward-policy.html

2: http://www.discover.com/student-loans/policies/auto-debit-reward-policy.html

3: http://investorrelations.discoverfinancial.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=204177&p=irol-newsArticle_print&ID=1256984

4: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/credit-score/checking-all-3-credit-reports-worth

Discover Financial Services is not credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services does not  provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating. 

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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