Money

The 4 simplest, most important changes you can make to get your finances on track

Getting your finances in order can be stressful and overwhelming. It feels easier to put the task off for another day.

But procrastination is never the answer, and ignoring your money woes can lead to messier problems in the future, like having to pay a lot of interest or damaging your credit score.

Over the holiday weekend, a friend asked me for small ways to be better with her cash. Here were my top four ideas.

Track

Write down how much you have, how much you owe and how much you spend. That was the first step in a process that helped 30-year-old Christian, star of Make It's new digital series "Saved," go from being almost $100,000 in debt and spending about $1,100 a month on takeout to gaining control over his finances.

It doesn't have to be formal or super organized, but the act of writing this stuff down can help lock these numbers in your head and keep them in mind whenever you're thinking about making a purchase.

You should know what's available in your checking and savings accounts, as well as how much you have invested and how much debt you're in. Then make a quick list of your major and fixed expenses like rent, utilities, bills, transportation and groceries, and see what number you're left with.

Christian (left) and Dom Chu discuss Christian's financial situation in the first episode of CNBC Make It's digital series, "Saved."
Christian (left) and Dom Chu discuss Christian's financial situation in the first episode of CNBC Make It's digital series, "Saved."

Separate

Open a savings account separate from your checking account. Your savings account should be far away so that you can't easily access it when you're low on cash. If you're using money from your savings account to pay for everyday expenses, then it's not really a savings account — it's a second checking account.

Since I switched my savings over to Ally Bank a few years ago, I have only pulled cash from it twice: to buy my car and to put down a deposit on an apartment. Now I have actual savings.

Opening an account also happens to be billionaire Mark Cuban's No. 1 savings tip.

That's me, right after the dealer handed over the keys.
That's me, right after the dealer handed over the keys.

Automate

After she opened up a new savings account at a different bank, my friend told me she'd be comfortable saving $75 each week, or $300 each month. I helped her automate a transfer of $150 from checking to her separate savings account on the days she receives her paycheck from work.

Now she doesn't have to think about it, and a year from now she'll have effortlessly saved over $3,000.

Self-made millionaire David Bach calls this paying yourself first and says it is the "one, proven, easy way to get rich."

Choose paper, not plastic

I used to have a ton of credit card debt. I was paying more than the minimum payment every month but I was also using the same credit card to buy more things. If you pay $100 towards your debt but add $200 more to it the next day, it's going to take you a really long time to get out of the hole, and that doesn't even address how much you end up wasting on paying interest.

My friend, who admitted she thought of credit as free money, was reluctant to cut up her card.

"But then I'll only have my checking to spend money from," she explained, nervously.

Exactly.

Don't miss: How I got out of $10,000 of credit card debt before turning 30