It’s estimated that one-third of Americans are financially illiterate. This is not only an indication of a basic lack of understanding of financial principles, but a failure to cultivate a responsible relationship with money. Developing healthy spending skills is the first step toward building financial security

Personal money management is one of the most important skills Americans don’t have. A financial information polling company found that 94 percent of participants who took a financial literacy test failed. Judging by the disturbing Fed report that indicated 40 percent of Americans couldn’t afford a sudden $400 expense, the problem is more serious than a lack of understanding of what a bond is. People are becoming financially unstable, and that can cause problems for the population as a whole.

While having a comprehensive understanding of finance is certainly excellent, it is still possible to manage your money effectively without it. If you are struggling to get your financial house in order, here are a few tips that can help you behave responsibly, even if you don’t have an economics degree.

  • Know yourself – find a budgeting style that suits your lifestyle and personality. Having a budget is important, but maintaining that budget is more important. Find a budgeting strategy that you can adhere to, whether it’s zero-based budgeting or the cash envelope method.
  • Rethink your relationship with money. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck but are drawn to shopping because spending money relaxes you, you should seriously address this compulsion, possibly with a support group. Saving money should always be your first instinct.
  • Build your emergency fund. Have you ever gone a year without needing a plumber, car repair, or money for some other unexpected expense? Emergency funds are essential, and having a healthy one will spare you a significant amount of stress.
  • Use credit wisely. If you don’t have the ability to pay off your full credit card balance at the end of the month, you’re doing it wrong. But don’t dismiss credit cards out-of-hand – a great rewards-rich, low-fees card like those offered from Brim Financial can offer you excellent deals and money-saving opportunities in the long-run.
  • Take advantage of your company’s 401K plan. If your company offers a full match 401K plan, enroll. They’re basically giving you free money.

If these tips seem simple, it’s because they are. While you’ll want more sophisticated advice if you plan on investing or opening up additional retirement accounts, basic financial responsibility is within anyone’s reach.