Six Sensible Financial Resolutions for the New Year
Traditionally, resolutions are made and started in the new
year. But why wait? Start now and you will feel greater accomplishment.
Pay down (or pay off) your credit card debt. Are you paying
just the interest? Put together a plan to pay off all your cards and resolve
to always pay them off in full, every month. Use these online calculators
to help: Federal
Reserve Calculator or Bankrate
Tip: Once you have accomplished this, don't be tempted
to use them. Cut up all but one - keep the one that has the lowest interest
rate and provides rewards.
Create a budget and stick to it. Commit to write up (on
paper or electronically) a monthly budget with your expenses and income.
Start with the necessities such as rent or mortgage, utilities, auto payments,
and food, and include an amount to put in savings (see below). A budget
will help you distinguish between a need and a want - a need is keeping
the lights on, a want is all-the-frills cable.
Tip: Do not wait to do this - start now and have it done
by Jan. 1.
Start an emergency fund. Build three to six months' worth
of necessary expenses and continue to grow it. The savings comes in handy
when life hands you a financial surprise. It costs less to use your fund
than your credit card or a loan.
Tip: Pay yourself first and opt for an automatic deduction
from your paycheck directly to a savings account. Start small - $25 -
and build up.
Open a retirement account - even if you are in your 20's.
Most people under save for retirement. If you have a 401(k) through your
employer, bump up your regular contribution to the amount your employer
matches. Get more information from the Internal
Revenue Services IRA Resource Guide.
Organize all your financial information, including insurance
documents, in folders, notebooks, or anything that helps you retrieve it
when you need it. Make sure your family or trusted friends know the location
of your important documents, such as a list of savings, checking accounts,
and health and life insurance records.
Tip: Many office supply stores have clearance or "blow
out" sales right after the holidays for organizational items. You can
organize and save money at the same time.
Get your credit report. Go to annualcreditreport.com or
call 877-322-8228 (toll-free) to get your report from the three nationwide
consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). It is free
and you are entitled to one from each agency every 12 months. By reviewing
your reports, you may find discrepancies or mistakes that affect your credit
score. A lower score means you may pay more in interest rates and insurance.
Tip: Some financial advisers say staggering your requests
- asking for one report every three months - may be a good way to keep
an eye on the accuracy and completeness of your report's information.
For more information, visit
this Federal Trade Commission page.