Get fiscally fit

The concepts are pretty similar: when you start exercising, you create a plan so you know exactly where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Creating a financial plan works the same way. Know your goals, plan wisely and execute.

Here are some helpful ideas to get you off and running:

Check your credit. Take advantage of the federal law that allows free annual credit reports. Review for problems or inaccuracies and have them corrected.

Do an audit. Is your portfolio balanced enough to meet your current and future goals? Do you have enough insurance? Is there any way to save on your current insurance costs? Take note of what’s changed in your life and adjust to compensate.

Pay your bills. Missed or late payments can negatively affect your credit rating – not to mention cost you money – so be sure you pay your monthly bills on time. Online banking and email reminders can help you stay on schedule.

Avoid credit. Using credit cards is sometimes unavoidable, and that’s OK – if you pay off your balance every month and don’t rack up high-interest balances. Don’t open credit accounts you really don’t need.

Pay down debt. If you carry a balance, try to make more than the minimum payment each month, particularly on the higher-rate accounts. You could also try calling your creditor to request a lower interest rate or a special repayment plan.

Shop for lower interest rates. If you are buying a home or making a major purchase, such as a car, do your homework and shop around, then negotiate the best deal.

Save, save, save. Just like working out, saving money requires adopting good habits and sticking to them. Are you saving enough? Could you save more? What are the tax implications of your current savings habits?

10 ways to start saving money every day.

1) Cut out 10%

“Even the most frugal people can find 10% of their expenses to cut,” writes Austin Netzley, Business Insider contributor. “If you take that 10% and invest it in yourself and your future by paying off debt or putting it towards something that can make you money, you’ll be much better off.”

2) Do a direct debit audit

Yahoo Finance reports that we waste $70 a month being too busy or lazy to cancel direct debits, ranging from gyms we don’t visit to magazines we no longer read. Check your statements and get rid of any extra payments.

3) Notch down the thermostat

Bringing down your thermostat by one degree could cut your heating bills by 10%, reports the U.S. Department of Energy. Reduce monthly spending by reducing your heat.

4) Bring your lunch

Time reports that eating out at least three times a week adds up to almost $1,500 a year. Save money, time and calories by bringing your own lunch to work.

5) Utilize savings accounts

“Have a set amount of your salary automatically paid into a savings account,” advises Deborah Arthurs from Bankrate. “The key is to not touch it.”

Northwest offers a wide selection of personal savings accounts to help make sure your funds are secure and earning a competitive rate of interest.

6) Pay off debt

The average American carries roughly $7,000 in credit card debt. But here’s the good news—the most popular financial New Year’s resolution is to pay off debt, according to GoBankingRates.com. Make larger credit card payments each month to clear you and your family of debt.

7) Unplug

ENERGY STAR® warns us to beware of phantom power—the energy used by

an appliance when it’s still plugged in. The average home contains sleeping devices (such as coffeemakers, televisions, chargers and more) that account for as much as 10% of energy use. Unplug!

8) Track your spending

Rachel Cruze, personal finance expert and daughter of the renowned financial author Dave Ramsey, says it all comes down to being intentional with your money. “Create a budget and track your everyday spending so you know where you money is going,” she explains. “It will help you avoid debt, pay off existing debt and save money.”

9) Invest

Making the most of your investments can be as simple as diversifying across asset classes and rebalancing once a year.

“Invest the same amount in a mutual fund every month. That ensures you’ll buy more shares when they’re cheap and fewer when they’re expensive,” advises Money Magazine’s David Futrelle. Northwest offers investment management and trust advice to help you develop a financial plan.

10) Say yes to in-store incentives

If a store is offering you 15% off simply by handing over your email address, why pass up the opportunity? Welcome new customer offers such as loyalty points and interest-free offers—every bit matters when it comes to saving.