The New Year puts us in the mindset to reorganize, plan and set goals – an ideal time to get your finances in order.
No matter your income level, we’ve provided three financial resolutions that will benefit you all year long:
- Create a Monthly Budget – A budget is a document that measures all of the money that comes in, and the amount of money that goes out. While the concept is simple, a budget is one of the most useful and effective financial tools we have at our disposal. It helps us stay on the right financial track, monitor trends in spending habits and prevent overspending. It’s vital to overcoming debt and saving for the future. It’s first important to establish your goals, and then develop a plan and timeline to achieve those goals. For instance, if you want to pay off your credit cards within one year, determine how much each monthly payment will need to be, and how you can free up the funding in your budget. Do you need to eliminate a portion of entertainment costs? Do you need to eat out less? Use our financial calculators to assist with budget planning.Remember to be realistic when determining your budget. Incorporate funding for emergencies and personal interests. You should also reevaluate your budget as your goals or income level change.
- Build an Emergency Fund – All consumers need emergency funds – no matter their net worth. An emergency fund contains monies that are strictly used for emergencies, such as vehicle repairs, a computer crash or job loss. A one-day-only sale at the mall is not considered an emergency. An emergency fund is typically housed in a liquid savings account you can easily access at a moment’s notice without penalty. We suggest the account contains three to six month’s worth of living expenses.Most consumers need to build their emergency fund in phases. Make a monthly contribution that fits within your budget and identify points throughout the year in which you can contribute larger funds. For example, you may be able to stock your emergency fund with a tax refund, birthday gift or work bonus.
- Organize Financial Records – Create a method for filing your current financial records and destroying outdated records. Tossing important documents into a box or a tall “to do” stack can be cumbersome in the long run and stall tax planning and financial planning. Contracts, warranties, leases, home maintenance receipts and other personal finance documentation should be neatly filed in a secure location. Categorize records by type (housing, auto, retirement, credit cards, etc.) and date. Different types of financial records need to be kept on file for different timeframes. Bankrate.com has developed a financial records timeline that shows you how long you should keep specific documents on file.
One final note: be sure to shred all outdated financial records. Many crooks have been known to scour trash cans for personal financial data used in identity theft and fraud.