On my drive in this morning, I heard two news stories. The first was discussing a multi-state lottery, where the jackpot is up to nearly $300 million. The second story was on New Year’s resolutions.
In the lottery story, the reporter asked someone what they would do with the winnings. The first thing the respondent said was “Pay off my debt.” In the second story on making New Year’s resolutions, another respondent said “Save more money.”
Both responses related to money and how it can be a burden, whether you are trying to pay off a debt or save more money.
As we look towards 2016, if you have concerns about money, here are a few tips that can get you off on the right financial foot in the New Year.
1. Set up a money management system that works for you
Different systems work well for different folks, but here are a few ideas:
• Write down your income and all of your monthly expenses. Look for opportunities to trim expenses, wherever you can.
• Identify the areas where you might overspend, and then decide to use cash for these transactions. Then, limit the amount of cash you put in your wallet each week to the amount you’ve decided to spend. Seeing the amount of money available as a fixed, finite thing can help you control your spending.
• Set up automated budget alerts with a service such as Mint.com.
2. Review your credit report
You can obtain each of the three credit bureau reports one time per year for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you’re having trouble understanding how to improve your credit, a free credit report review through GreenPath can help.
3. Begin to save
Once you’ve got a workable budget, automate the process of saving. Setting up direct-deposit into savings makes it much more likely that you’ll save. Plus, paying yourself first helps the money to be “out of sight and out of mind,” so that you’ll be able to stick more closely to the spending plan you’ve set for yourself.
It’s important to reach a point where you have a balance between short-term savings and long-term (retirement) savings. It should be a priority to adjust your budget to take advantage of any employer-sponsored retirement plan that your job might offer – especially if the employer offers a contribution match.
4. Get serious about reducing debt
One of the first steps in decreasing your debt load is to stop adding to it in the first place. Begin to get out of the habit of using credit cards for purchases.
A safe, frugal and Happy New Year!