Financial Planners: Work out your credit to get financially fit this summer

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(ARA) - Running shoes - check. Sunscreen - check. Snazzy shades - check. Diet plan that emphasizes fresh veggies and lean meats - check.
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You have everything you need to stay healthy this summer.

But what about your financial fitness?

The arrival of summer not only means more active time outdoors, it often also means more opportunities to spend. Will you be taking a summer vacation? Maybe you're looking to move into a new house while the kids are out of school for the summer. And don't forget those energy bills you'll need to pay to keep your house cool and comfortable.

Just as you take care of your physical health in preparation for summer fun, you need to pay attention to your financial well-being as well - and not just when the weather's warm, but all year round. And just as the key to losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn, financial health depends on your ability to earn and save more money than you spend.

Here are three important steps to take toward financial fitness this summer:

Build a budget

A balanced, nutritious diet is the foundation of good physical health and a balanced, smart budget is the cornerstone of financial health. If you've never had a budget before, it's time to create one. If your budgeting efforts have been sketchy in the past, it's time to knuckle down.

Creating a budget is simple but detail oriented. Start by writing down on a sheet of paper every source of income you have in a month (your job, your spouse's salary, your eBay auctions, etc.). Next, list all your fixed expenses - ones that you can't skip paying, like rent or mortgage costs, insurance and so on. Then, list expenses that are flexible and could be trimmed, like entertainment, dining out, cable subscriptions, and so forth.

If your total expenses exceed your income in a month, you need to put your spending on a diet.

Flex your savings skills

Eating well and exercising daily are your investment in your future health - ones you rely on to ensure you've banked the nutrients and strength you need to stay well as you age or to help you fight off illness now. You also need to set cash aside in case of emergencies. Treat your monthly payment to your savings account like any other debt you can't shirk - pay yourself that money before you spend it on flexible expenses or fun. In fact, think of it as the most fun money you'll spend in a month - watching the bank account total grow can give you a very positive, empowered feeling.

Give yourself a credit checkup

No financial fitness plan would be complete without a credit checkup. Unwise use and poor understanding of credit contributed to the real estate crash and the overall poor health of the economy, many money experts say. A credit checkup can help you better understand your overall financial health.

Your first step is to check your credit score and report online. Think of a credit score as an indicator of your overall financial health. A good score tells potential lenders that you know how to manage money and are likely to be a good credit risk. A lower score may be a symptom of poor financial health. Web sites like provide valuable credit monitoring tools to help you assess your credit health and how your financial health habits affect your credit.

Just as medical errors can harm your health, so can errors on your credit report. That's why checking your report regularly for errors or possible fraud is as important as monitoring your blood pressure if you have hypertension, checking your blood sugar if you're diabetic or watching your weight - for anyone.

Courtesy of ARAc.

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