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.

Manage Your Monthly Payments

Managing a monthly budget, including rent or mortgage payments, grocery and gas bills as well as student loan payments can be a lot to keep track of. However, small changes can help pare down your student loan balance.

Financial advisers might advise doubling up on payments over the year, or paying slightly more than the minimum payment. Another option? Signing up for an automatic payment program. This can help you save time and money each month. Payments are automatically deducted from a checking or savings account, and while enrolled, you get a 0.25% interest rate reduction during the repayment period.

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. 1 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.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

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