It’s the New Year, and that means it’s time to make a thorough list of resolutions that you will (hopefully) get around to accomplishing by the end of 2014. Most people’s resolutions tend to revolve around weight loss or character development, while financial resolutions take a backseat. The start of the New Year is the perfect time to get your finances in order and begin being more fiscally responsible. Here are five suggestions to get your financial resolution list started.
- Make a monthly budget—and stick to it. Many people slip into debt after months of overspending on little things, never noticing how much it all adds up. To avoid this, set yourself a monthly budget, and don’t stray from it. Divide your budget into what you will spend on housing, utilities, groceries, credit card payments, and discretionary spending, like going to the movies or out to dinner. Websites like Mint.com are great for creating personalized budget goals and monitoring your spending to make sure you are meeting those goals.
- Pay down high interest debt now and make a long term plan to pay off your credit completely. Set some time aside to sit down and take a long look at your finances. Make a long-term plan to pay off your debt in the next, say, three to four years. Break it down into monthly payments, and make sure you keep up with them. Limit your credit card use as best as you can. For those who are less strong-willed, leaving your credit card at home (or in a frozen can of water in the freezer) will discourage you from using your card for every little purchase.
- Cut out wasteful spending. There are so many ways to cut out unnecessary expenses. Take shorter showers and turn off your lights before leaving the house to reduce your utility bills. Cook at home six days a week instead of dining out every other night. Buy generic brands when you go grocery shopping—they’re almost always just as good as name brands. If you stopped buying a Starbucks coffee every weekday before work, you could save $80 a month. That’s $960 a year, which could go a long way toward paying down your credit card debt.
- Review your insurance policies and make sure you’re not overpaying. Insurance policies are often difficult to understand for those with no background in insurance. The easiest way to find out more about your policies is to make a quick call to your insurance agent and have them talk you through it. After you learn a little more about your specific policy and rates, shop around and compare prices. You might be surprised to find that you could pay lower rates by switching policies. Start by checking out your state’s insurance department website, and call different companies for quotes.
- Be educated and cautious about identity theft. In the age of smartphones and online banking, identity theft is a bigger threat than ever before. Always take extra care to safeguard your personal information. Don’t give out your personal information online unless you are on a secure wireless network and are confident that the company you are sending it to is legitimate. Use strong passwords for your phone, computer, and bank accounts. Install anti-virus software on your computer and avoid opening emails from strangers. If you want more tips on keeping your information secure, a quick visit to the Consumer Information section of the Federal Trade Commission website may be beneficial.