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While we are all thinking of new years resolutions and goals, here are a few easy financial resolutions you can make. It would be great to do all 8, but even just one will mean a lot to your bank account and your finances.
1. Pay off debt.
If you are carrying credit card or other consumer debt, then start the year by locking up credit cards (or even cutting them up). This is a big step and also means that you are working on living off only what you make and no more. Start on a plan to pay off the debt you’ve built up, working on cards with the highest interest rates first.
Tip: If you are eligible consider opening a new credit card that is offering a 0% interest rate and roll any balances you have on other cards to that card. Not paying interest on your debt will help you pay it off a lot faster!
2. Reduce monthly bills.
Now is the perfect time to consider your monthly bills and what you need versus want. While we probably can’t make big changes to the water and electricity bills, we can cut the cable bill to fewer premium channels or reduce the data on the cell phone plan. One big change I would consider is looking into cheaper cell phone companies. There are great companies that run on the big guys network and towers but at a fraction of the price.
The bills I put in the want category (meaning they are first to get cut) are:
Cable, Netflix or Other Streaming Services, High Data Cell Phones, Entertainment/Dining Out, XM Satellite or Streaming Music.
3. Make at least one extra mortgage payment.
Let’s all set a goal now to make one extra mortgage payment this year. You can do this a few different ways the easiest though is to take your regular mortgage payment amount, divide it by 12 and then add that to your monthly payment each month. This way that extra is going straight to the principal and reducing the interest you owe a little bit at a time. For my family that means paying $76 a month more.
You may ask, what will making one extra payment a year really do? For a 30 year mortgage, making one extra payment a year will reduce the life of your loan by almost 5 years and for a $200,000 loan will save $18,600 in interest!
4. Create a Budget
You don’t need to go big and fancy here, but sitting down for a few minutes and mapping out where your money is going is the only way to win the game. Make a simple list of your monthly expenses and your income to make sure things match up. There are great free printable sheets you can use to get started. Once you make a budget put it somewhere you can see it (like the refrigerator door) to help remind you of your goals.
5. Make Savings a Direct Deposit
Most employers can deposit your paycheck into multiple accounts. Have a set amount automatically put into your savings account with each paycheck. You don’t have to remember to move money and you aren’t playing the “if we have extra” game. Set a goal to create a solid rainy day fun of at least $1000.
6. Work on Your Credit Score
We all think/worry about various numbers in our lives, your weight, age, account balances. One we don’t give much attention to though is our credit score. Make a resolution to raise your credit score this year. This doesn’t cost you anything, it’s more about being aware and maybe a little more organized. Pay your bills on time, lower the amount of debt you are carrying, keep your oldest account open and other little things. You may think this is only needed if you need a loan, but your score affects insurance rates, and can even be pulled by potential employers.
7. Fully Fund Your 401k or IRA
If your employer offers a retirement match, you should be taking full advantage of this. No matter how the market is doing this is the best return on your money you make if they are matching every dollar you put in! While this may feel like the hardest goal if you have a lot of debt or are barely making it to the end of the month, but anything you put aside is better than nothing.
8. Learn How to Save
When you go to the store do you even look at the prices? Or do you grab house brands so you feel like you saved money? If you put 30 minutes into planning before you shop you can easily cut your grocery expenses in half. This doesn’t just need to be coupons in a grocery store, set a goal this year to be a deal hunter. Instead of grabbing something the minute you see it, give yourself a week or two (or more) to make sure you are getting the best price. You may also find that you didn’t need those items as much as you felt like you did.