It’s a new year, which means it’s a good idea to sit down and take a few minutes to think about where you were financially last year, and where you’d like to be this year. If you want into 2018 with few plans and no budgets, the holidays might have been challenging for you—juggling regular expenses with gift-buying, travel costs, etc. Instead of hating yourself for the money habits you had last year, why not get started on a brand new regimen that will keep you fiscally fit and on budget this time around?
Always start with a budget
Look back at last year’s expenses. Were there months or events that caused you to spend more than you were prepared to? Try working some of that information into the creation of a budget or savings plan. This can help cover you if those same situations arise in the New Year; and if they don’t, you’ll have saved a good chunk of change just in case.
It’s recommended that you try out a budget or savings plan for at least three months to give yourself an opportunity to see how well you can manage with the adjusted, disposable income. Three months is plenty of time to make adjustments to any plan or budget you come up with.
Make finance a topic of conversation around the house
Whether you’re the only one who handles the money or you share the responsibility with a spouse or roommate, make it a topic of conversation. The more comfortable you are with talking about money, the easier it will be for you to understand what you need to do to make smarter financial decisions throughout the year. It’s also easier to deal with budgeting, savings, and finances when you’re sharing the responsibility with someone else, so don’t shy away from help when it’s offered!
Assess your credit score and educate yourself
Credit is one of those tricky things that takes careful management and regular monitoring. For a lot of things, you have to have good credit, which means having no credit or poor credit can affecting securing loans for houses, cars, or a business; it can even impact your ability to open new credit card accounts and rent property.
Sign up at a reputable site for credit reports to keep apprised of any changes to your credit score. An added benefit of tracking your credit score regularly is noticing any abnormal accounts that show up—a possible sign of fraud or identity theft.
Most credit reporting sites will offer tips and suggestions based on your credit and any accounts listed on how you can maintain or improve your credit score. What better time to start working on your score than at the start of a brand new year?
Write down your money goals (and dreams)
Of course, you have bills to pay but why else are you saving your money (or why do you want to start)? Having an idea of what you’re building up to—financial independence, a bigger place, or starting your own business—can help you structure your budgeting/savings in a way that not only makes sense to you, but that will also ensure you’re working toward your goals.
Think long term when listing your financial goals. You can find financial calculators all over the Internet that can help plan larger purchases like a car or house.
Remember: It’s great to save money for emergencies or “just because” but identifying any goals can be a good incentive for maintaining the practice.
Getting started on your finances now can make the rest of the year more manageable, and it should put you in a better mindset to tackle your taxes!