Whipping into financial shape

Bikini season comes just once a year, but your year-round budget will affect your bottom line for decades to come.

So it’s time to get financially fit.

When you strengthen your personal finances, you have more freedom to afford the items that are important to you and you feel more secure about the future.

Here are some exercises to get your finances back in shape:

Setting realistic goals is the first step to getting your finances in order. Put together a plan to reach your goal.

Monitoring your progress will help you know how your money is being spent. Keep a “money diary” to track your purchases and spending behaviors. Monitoring your cash flow regularly shows your commitment and keeps you on track.

Anticipate the ups and downs of a budget. You most likely will break your spending limit a few times. In an effort to prevent this, try leaving certain credit cards at home when you go shopping, and pay cash for transactions.

Consult with a financial adviser while improving your finances. A professional can help more than you think. You should also take personal responsibility to have some head knowledge of how to deal with savings and debt.

Budget for small splurges to help keep your sanity. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. Try to choose a cheaper alternative to your usual outings, though. Instead of an evening movie, try a matinee.