Do you remember the first thing you “splurged” on with your very first paycheck? You might still have been living at home when you got your first job. That meant no bills, which means a lot of that first paycheck could have been spent on fun stuff. Of course, there are still car expenses and saving up for college that came into the equation. From that first paycheck up until your next pay day you are handling your personal finances. It seems like the older we get the more that the bills accumulate. That is where the need for keeping your personal finances manageable is so crucial. Just like working out, you can start to strengthen your personal finances starting today.

These are the five rules to get things in order:

Don’t Spend More Than You Earn

This is a very simple rule that most people totally ignore. The money we make from our salaries need to go towards living expenses first. That’s true if you’re living alone or as the head of the household. The hope is that once those living expenses are taken care that you will have a little extra. That is what needs to go into saving. Spending more than you earn happens any time you use a credit card to buy something because you don’t have the cash. Now part of your paycheck needs to go towards paying off that debt and that can trigger a vicious cycle of always being in debt. That’s no way to live.

Focus on Saving an Emergency Fund

A healthy savings account can provide relief in all kinds of situations whether that is the need to pay an insurance deductible or make an emergency repair on the car. Your primary focus should be to build up that emergency fund anyway you can. If you get direct deposit each week, then you can designate setting aside money into that fund. It goes out without you giving it a second thought and before you know it, they’ve built up quite the fund.

Along the week, any money you save you should physically put into a jar. For instance, if you skip $4 cup of coffee, then put those four dollars into the jar. At the end of the month, those jar savings should go into your fund.

Cut Your Bills

We get bills every month for all kinds of things. Some of those bills are fixed like rent or a mortgage payment. Many of those bills can change each month. That is certainly true with utility bills and credit cards. You should pay attention to your bills and be proactive about cutting them. Your power company might offer reduced rates for off-peak hours. That is when you should run the washer and dryer. You might find a lower interest credit card where you can transfer your debt and close out the high-interest card. Each month when a bill comes in, take a few minutes to see if there are ways to cut that bill.

Buy a Reliable and Efficient Car

Next, to your living expenses, transportation costs can take a big chunk out of your budget. That starts with paying off a car loan. The goal should be to buy a car that you can drive long after your loan is paid off. Imagine if you paid off the loan but kept saving those car payments. That would provide a huge boost for your savings. You also want a car that is going to be as fuel-efficient as possible. That starts with the actual make and model. You can also improve your efficiency by driving the speed limit, keeping your tires inflated and your engine tuned. Every little bit counts towards keeping your expenses low.

Invest Your Money

The best money to have is money that works for you. That can only happen through investments. This doesn’t mean you have to become a day trader. There are many ways to invest in mutual funds that pay dividends and grow. These are the kinds of investments that you want to keep for a long time. Talk to a financial advisor about the “safe” funds to invest in. This is a good way to start building up for your retirement.

Taking charge of your personal finances today ensures a bright and secure future.