Give all you can. Invest toward goals you embrace by tithing and giving money to worthy causes. Check out charities before you donate to make sure they’re legitimate.

Use credit responsibly. Figure out how long it will take to repay credit card debt at various interest rates and monthly payment amounts. Visiting a Web site such as www.bankrate.com can help you do so. Do all you can to pay off your credit cards in full every month.

Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion); you’re entitled to one free credit report from each bureau per 12-month period. Call 1-877-FACT-ACT or visit www.annualcreditreport.com to order them. Promptly correct any inaccuracies you spot on any of the reports. Improve your credit rating by avoiding collection actions, foreclosures, or repossessions; paying on time; staying well below your credit limit; and keeping your current balance low.

Try to prevent identity theft. Store new, unused and canceled checks in a safe place. Keep your financial records and other important documents (like your Social Security card) in a secure place like a safety deposit box. Never give out personal information on the phone or through the mail or Internet unless you’re the one who initiated the contact.

Shred your personal papers before discarding them. Get a locked mailbox. Carefully review all bills and statements you receive; promptly report any errors or questionable charges. Update your computer virus-protection software regularly. If you do become a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and file a report with your local police department. Also, immediately place a fraud alert on all your accounts that have been affected.

Reduce debt. Commit to spending money only on necessities as dictated by your budget. Ask God to help you be content with what you have, thankful for it, and disciplined enough to live within your means. Focusing on higher-interest debt first, pay down all your debt (credit cards, student loans, car payments, your mortgage) as aggressively as you can. Consider refinancing certain types of debt if doing so will save you money. Dedicate any lump-sum income you receive (such as tax refunds or bonuses from work) to paying down debt, rather than additional spending.

Talk to your creditors as soon as you know you’ll have to fall behind on a payment, such as after a job loss or major illness. Be honest with them about your situation and work with them (and possibly also a credit counselor) to develop a manageable new payment plan. If you’d like a credit counselor to help you (services are usually free), contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org or (800) 388-2227. Avoid filing for bankruptcy at all costs; it’s truly a last resort and will mar your credit record for years to come.

Downsize your lifestyle. Base your lifestyle on what you truly need and can afford instead of trying to keep up with your neighbors. Have the courage to scale down significantly to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with savings, such as by trading in your car for an older model or moving to a smaller house. Simplify by considering whether or not you really need an item or service before buying it. Substitute by getting something else that costs less or by making it yourself. See if you can borrow the item you need, or ask someone else to split the cost with you and share the item. Shop off season for the things you need. Compare prices at several different stores. Use coupons. Never buy anything on impulse. Look for low- or no-cost ways to have fun rather than spending a lot of money on entertainment.