New Year’s celebrations often focus on fresh starts and resolutions. While making healthy choices or deciding to read more books are great goals, getting your finances in order should be a top priority as well. Here are some tips to start off the New Year:
- Make a budget: The end of 2015 is a great time to analyze where your money was spent over the last 12 months. Start your budget with the essentials, but also make a concentrated effort to pay off any outstanding debt as quickly as possible and build up your savings. Many websites offer free resources to guide you through creating a budget or tips to stick to your newly created budget. Sites like Mint.com are free and will help you create a budget, have a complete picture of all of your finances and help you stay on track to meet your financial goals.
- Try the Envelope Budget Method. Many people find it difficult to stick to their budget once they’ve created it. In a time of credit and debit cards, it’s easy to swipe your card without accounting for where the money should really be spent. The envelope method focuses on using cash, putting it in labeled envelopes (groceries, transportations, utilities, etc.) and using that cash only for its allotted category. It’s a tried and true method that can help teach you discipline and self-control when it comes to spending habits.
- Build an emergency fund. It’s crucial to have savings built up in case of sudden unemployment or financial disaster, such as needing to an expensive car repair or broken appliance. Try using an Emergency Fund Calculator to see what you should have saved. Don’t get overwhelmed if the number seems huge. Emergency funds take months or even years to fully fund; it’s important to get in the habit and start saving even small amounts each month.
- Pay bills on time. It’s important to have a good credit score and one easy way to maintain that is by paying bills on time. Late payments due to forgetfulness are a ding on your credit score that takes time to erase. Instead, opt for auto pay on your bills to ensure you never forget or try setting multiple reminders for yourself.
- Make extra side money. Do your spring cleaning early and pull out any clothes you haven’t worn recently. Take them to a consignment shop to earn extra cash. Other unused items can be sold to a local pawn shop or online at Ebay. Use your favorite handmade hobbies to open a shop on Etsy. If you have a professional skill, try freelancing to earn a few extra dollars while also building up your portfolio.
Whatever your wallet-friendly resolution is, remember to take it one step at a time to avoid burning out by March. Getting your finances in check is a constant endeavor but it benefits your future far beyond 2016.
Happy New Year!
Heart of Florida United Way is focused on addressing the five major building blocks of financial stability in order to provide working families the services and support necessary to succeed. For more information visit www.hfuw.org or if you are in need of assistance, call 2-1-1, our 24-hour Information and Assistance helpline.