7. Prioritize billsLate fees and exorbitant interest rates can eat away at even well-stocked coffers. Whether you're juggling a lot of financial plates or have only a couple of monthly obligations, paying on time -- every time -- is essential.
One of the great conveniences of modern life, online bill pay allows consumers to schedule bill payments without touching a checkbook or finding postage stamps.
Some people prefer the security of real-world actions to virtual ones, however, which means they need to plan ahead.
"Payments need to be sent at least seven to 10 days before the due date," says Gail Cunningham, senior director of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "Write the date that you are going to mail it in the upper right hand corner under where the stamp goes and then file those bills in chronological order so that anytime you sit down, you have at your fingertips which bills need to be paid."
She also advises that if money gets too stretched, necessities should always come before paying unsecured debt.
"Last in line are the creditors, but often the consumer pays them first. I always say if your creditor is happy and your electricity has been cut off, you've done it backward. But really, though, the creditors put on the pressure."