- Francesca Sacco
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Start the New Year with a Clean Financial Slate
January offers a fresh start to address whatever goals you may have. If you’re looking to tackle some financial goals in 2020, the earlier you start, the better. That’s why the New Year is the perfect time to review your finances and implement changes. Regardless of what you hope to accomplish, starting 2020 with a new outlook on your finances will help you introduce – and stick to – sustainable habits that will help you succeed. Here’s where to start:
Set goals. Sit down and figure out where you need to work harder in 2020. Does your emergency fund need beefed up? Maybe you want to save more for retirement. Don’t be afraid to set several financial goals at once. Some goals take longer than 12 months to achieve. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your persistence will pay off. Whatever your goals, take the time to build them out and identify ways to see them through.
Review and update your budget. As your goals change, your budget should change to support them. Examine what you spent in 2019 and look for cost-saving changes. If you accrued debt, identify what you can do differently in 2020. While you’re at it, explore tools like apps and software that help you streamline your budgeting.
If you don’t have a budget, January is the perfect time to create one. Need help? 7 17 Credit Union has partnered with KOFE (Knowledge of Financial Education) to provide free financial education and coaching for our members all year long! For more information about KOFE, or to access the site, visit www.717cu.com/KOFE.
There are also many free sites and apps, like Mint and NerdWallet that assist with budget creation.
Get rid of some of your subscriptions. Use the New Year to audit your recurring charges. If you’re no longer using all of your subscription services, eliminate them. While you’re reviewing your subscription charges, look for similar or related items that can also be eliminated. Are you paying for workout services and apps, but no longer going to the gym? Don’t forget to cancel those services when you cancel your gym membership.
Pay down debt. Whether its credit card debt, student loans or something else, debt obligations can keep you from reaching your financial goals. You may not be able to pay off the entire balance, but every little bit helps. Add extra money to your payments when possible, and start with the debt that has the highest interest rate.
If you’re facing big credit card debt, make a plan to get it paid down as quickly as possible. The longer you have it, the more money it will cost you in interest.
Check your credit score. Haven’t checked your credit report in a while? Make it a priority in 2020. A simple check can help you identify any errors and help you get your credit on the right track (if need be). You can get a free copy of your credit score once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also monitor your credit for free with Credit Karma.
Save. Regardless of your goals, don’t forget to pay yourself. Even if you just increase your 401(k) contributions, the more money you manage to put away, the better prepared you are for retirement or a rainy day.