The year is coming to an end, which means New Year’s resolutions are on the horizon. Losing weight and finding love are popular resolutions, but this year, think about your financial health and find ways to make improvements. You don’t have to have or make a lot of money to benefit from some fiscal changes.
Here are a few ways to better yourself financially in the year ahead:
- Take a long, hard look at your current monthly expenses. Review where your money is going each month. Check your recurring payments to make sure you aren’t paying for a service you do not use. This is also a good time to consider ways to cut expenses like satellite radio, cable TV, movie subscriptions, and eating out.
- Create a monthly budget and stick to it. Have a budget for everything from groceries to gas. You should know a realistic budget for each monthly expense. There are free websites that can track your monthly expenses and help you maintain a budget. Sites like Mint.com also have smartphone apps, so you can be notified of upcoming payments or when you are close to going over budget.
- Pay down your credit cards and student loans. According to a Survey of Consumer Finances conducted in 2010, the average American family spends 14.2% of the household income paying down credit card debt. Credit cards tend to carry high interest rates, so getting them paid off should be your highest priority. Once you are free of credit card debt, start paying down your student loans. The faster these loans are paid off, the faster you will see extra monthly cash flow.
- Check your credit score and protect it. The Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) requires that the three major credit reporting companies provide you with a free copy of your credit report every 12 months, at your request. Take advantage of this service and check your score each year. Your credit score not only affects your ability to acquire credit cards and home mortgages, it also affects your insurance premiums and sometimes even your employment. Compare the report from each of the company to ensure that all of the information is correct. Protect your credit score by paying your bills on time. Repeatedly missing payments—especially on things like a mortgage, rent, and utilities, can negatively affect your credit score.
- Shop your home and auto insurance. If you have had your home and auto insurance with the same company for years and you haven’t had any recent claims or infractions, it’s not a bad idea to ask your agent if he can shop your insurance to look for more competitive rates. If you shop your insurance outside your current agency or company, make sure you are getting quotes for the same, or better, coverage.
- Shop your home mortgage for a better interest rate. If you are paying a high interest rate on your home mortgage, it is a good idea to see if you qualify for refinancing. Talk with your bank about your options and ensure that refinancing is the best choice for you.
Many adults cite money issues as their biggest day-to-day concern. By taking steps to improve your financial health in 2014, you can alleviate potential stressors in your life and better your physical and mental health as well.
What will you resolve to do in 2014?