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Are you in Good Hands?
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Are you financially fit or fiscally flabby? As basic household expenditures such as housing, food and healthcare continue to rise, it’s more important than ever to keep your budget in shape. Here are seven steps to help you spend smarter and save more.

1. Pay Bills on Time, Every Time. With fees as high as $38 plus interest, late charges on mortgages, car loans and credit cards add up! Plus, late payments create a longterm ding on your credit rating, which can cost you in higher interest rates down the road. When possible, set up automatic payments or withdrawals to stay on track.

2. Once You Pay It Off, Save It. When you get that loan paid, funnel the money into a savings or investment account. Since the amount was already in your budget, you won’t miss the extra cash. Over time, you’ll be surprised how much you have saved.

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3. Prevention Perks. Most health insurance policies cover wellness visits and a variety of regularly scheduled screening tests for free or a minimal co-pay. Plus, these medical assessments (such as blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, mammograms, colonoscopies, and obesity counseling) can prevent costly health procedures down the road.

4. Work Out & Save. People who exercise regularly saved an average of $2,500 year on healthcare costs compared to those who did not follow a fitness routine, according to a 2016 study by the American Heart Association.

Did You Know?

Thanks to the magic of compound interest, an investor starting with $5000 and contributing just $100/month could grow her portfolio to $229,907 after 30 years, according to Investopedia.

5. Rx Comparison Shop. When getting a new prescription, always ask your doctor or pharmacist if there’s a generic option. Generic drugs can cost a fraction of the price than their name-brand equivalents. Likewise, drugs can cost as much as 10 times more from one retail pharmacy to the next. Shop around and check mail-order pharmacy options. With some retailers, buying in bulk—like purchasing a 90-day supply—can yield additional savings.

6. Strategically Plan Your Grocery List. Take time to plan meals for the week (or at least a few days) and buy only the ingredients you need to prepare them. Make a grocery budget and a list and stick to it. Many grocery stores have apps that allow you to make lists and download coupons.

7. Love Your Leftovers. Americans throw away $640 of food every year. When you plan meals consider how you can “recycle” ingredients from one day to the next. Or simply freeze leftovers for future use.

8. Invest the Difference. With all these savings, you may find you have extra cash to invest. But where? Start with tax-advantaged accounts: IRAs, 401ks, then HSAs. If you max those out and don’t have an idea where to invest next, start a taxable account and buy some low-cost index funds.