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April is Financial Literacy Month: Small changes can help you save more money

April is Financial Literacy Month: Small changes can help you save more money
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POSTED: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 11:00pm

UPDATED: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 3:14pm

(StatePoint) It seems like much in life is beyond our control, but when it comes to your wallet, taking control is crucial for a solid future.

Experts say the first step is to improve your financial literacy - and this can be easier than you might think.

With April being Financial Literacy Month, now is the perfect time to arm yourself with the knowledge to make better money decisions.

"Many consumers go through life without a handle on how to manage money and credit," says Mike Kane, vice president of Consumer Credit Operations at Ally Financial. "While it may seem overwhelming, you don't need an MBA to manage personal finance. Many of the concepts are simple."

Kane offers suggestions to manage finances and save more:

o Buying or leasing a vehicle is a serious undertaking. There are many different ways to obtain a vehicle, and it's important to understand your options and pick the process that works best for your budget.

o Review your current car insurance coverage. If you have an older vehicle, comprehensive or collision coverage may not make sense. Consider increasing your deductible to help lower premiums. Simply inquiring about discounts from your current provider could also net you savings. Some insurers offer discounts for low-mileage driving, installation of car alarms or completion of defensive-driving courses.

o Check your credit report by obtaining a copy of your file from one of the credit reporting agencies. Credit scores range between 350 ( high risk) and 850 (a low risk) and generally, a consumer with a higher score will be offered lower interest rates since they have a history of timely payments and managing their debt well.

o Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into a savings account for the amount you want to save each month. If you have to spend time transferring money, you may find an excuse not to do it.

o Switch your finances to a direct bank without physical branches. They can offer competitive rates in online checking and savings accounts, CDs and IRAs and have perks that make banking easier. For example, Ally Bank an FDIC-insured subsidiary of Ally Financial, offers mobile banking with Ally eCheck Deposit and has 24/7 live customer service. They also have no ATM fees and reimburse other banks' ATM fees nationwide. More information can be found at www.Ally.com.

o Track spending for at least three consecutive months to trim unnecessary expenses you're your monthly budget. On a quarterly basis, perform an expense audit. Evaluate your bills and expenses, finding anything you're spending money on that isn't giving you the value you'd like.

o Use free online tools to learn more about improving your financial education and ways to cut spending. Ally Wallet Wise, for example, offers a series of lessons that cover budgeting, banking and investing, credit and automotive finance.

During financial literacy month, commit time to learning more about saving money and managing your finances better.

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