How to Do Money Like a Grown-Up

Most of us aren't money experts — especially as young adults. So it comes as no surprise that our individual money matters can get a bit messy at times. But while it's one thing to have questionable, disorganized financial habits in your late teens and early 20s, as you move into your late 20s and early 30s, it's time to clean up your act and do money like an adult. Here's how, slacker:

1. Set Up Autopay to Prevent Missing a Payment

For the longest time I was afraid of using autopay, primarily from fear that I would forget about a bill and accidentally overdraw my account — and that the government was going to steal all my cash while I was sleeping. I recently put my fears aside and took advantage of this service, and let me tell you, it has simplified my life for the better (even though I'm still keeping a close eye on Big Brother.)

Autopay is great because it puts your financial life on autopilot. I select the dates to have funds automatically drafted from my account, and as long as funds are available, my bills get paid — and I don't have to lift a finger. I do have to set reminders, however, to make sure that the necessary funds are available when needed, but that's much easier than all that check-writing and envelope-licking I used to do.

2. Start Making Digital Copies to Cut Down on Paper Clutter

Bank statements, credit card statements, and other bills can pile up on your desk, and if you don't have a system for keeping up with paperwork, finding important documents might require the help of a professional search team.

I'm all too familiar with this scenario. But since getting rid of the clutter and investing in a digital scanner, I'm in better control of my finances. Being self-employed, I have to keep good, accurate records throughout the year and maintain receipts for tax time. I used to have a shoebox, but that system was anything but organized, and it made calculating expenses at the end of the year a royal pain in the neck. Digitally scanning receipts and other important paperwork has saved me a lot of time and headache and there's less paper all over the place.

Whenever I receive a document that I need to keep, it takes less than a minute to scan and categorize. And when I need to retrieve a document, I can usually find it in less than 30 seconds, which is a lot better for my sanity than 20 minutes of ranting, raving, and clawing through piles of paper.

3. Consolidate Your Loans and Other Payments

Consolidation is your best friend, especially when you're juggling multiple bills with different due dates and payment amounts. If you have multiple federal student loans, ask your provider about consolidating all your loans into a single loan. And if you have multiple credit cards, see if you qualify for a 0% APR balance transfer credit card, and then combine your balances onto a single card. This reduces your chance of forgetting to pay a bill.

4. Use Banking Apps

A smartphone isn't only good for checking social media accounts, email, and playing games. It also provides a way to stay on top of your money and manage your finances anytime, anywhere. Just about every major bank has a mobile app that allows customers to deposit checks, pay bills, transfer money, and monitor their account balances. You may not always have access to a computer to check your account balances, but you'll most likely always have a smartphone in the palm of your hand.

Having instant access has helped me make financial decisions in an instant, it's prevented me from buying something I wanted but couldn't afford (I look at my balances to keep myself in check), and it cuts down on all the traveling back and forth to the bank I used to do to deposit checks and other business — which in itself is a Godsend.

5. Consider Hiring a Financial Adviser

You don't need a lot of money to have a financial adviser. Whether you need help with retirement planning, paying down debt, or buying insurance, a financial adviser can point you in the right direction and help clean up your financial life. Your adviser will stick by your side year after year, occasionally following up to see how he can best serve you. If you're just starting out and don't know much about money, mistakes are inevitable. Advisers are knowledgeable in various areas of money management and can provide a step-by-step guide for improving your finances.

6. Look for a Better Checking and Savings Account

A student checking or savings account might have worked when you were in high school or college, but now that you're an adult, it's time to explore adult accounts.

A regular savings account is an excellent place to house cash you need for emergencies, but don't expect to earn an impressive rate with a regular savings — you'd be lucky to earn more than 0.01%. If you're thinking long-term savings, or if you're looking for a better return on your money, you need an account with a higher yield, such as a high-yield online savings account, a certificate of deposit, or a money market account.

Additionally, don't settle for a checking account that offers nothing in return. Some people don't think of their checking account as a tool for growing their money. But for anyone who maintains a large balance in their checking, it only makes sense to find a bank that offers interest checking. (See also: Best Online Checking Accounts)

How do you do money grown-up style?

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