This article is the first in a multi-part series on steps you can take right now to get your financial health in order. Resolutions are all about goals. If your goal is to get financially healthy in 2016, here are 10 steps to get you past the finish line.
You can embrace the suggestions made in this series in any order and at any time of the year. However, with 75 days to go before we turn the calendar to 2016, here are some basic tips – think resolutions – to embrace. Some may sound obvious. That’s because they are obvious. However, if you are not taking them seriously, you also aren’t getting the benefits of them.
1. Starting Saving More: Most everyone is on some type of a budget. Maybe it’s a forced budget; you can’t spend money you don’t have if you don’t have a credit card. But most people make promises – to themselves, at least – to attempt to save a little bit each week or month. If you have done this already, take the time now to figure out how to do a bit more. If you haven’t really kept the promise to yourself to save – start now.
2. Spend Less: Also easier said than done, everyone can find ways to cut costs. If you love Starbucks, for example, and have the willpower to start bringing coffee from home rather than stopping for a latte on your way to work, do it. Perhaps you need to start slowly; allow yourself a fancy coffee three days a week instead of seven. Or, you can even take smaller baby steps; order the equivalent of a small rather than a large or extra large.
3. Don’t Ignore Your Debt: Even if your debt seems overwhelming, you have to start somewhere. Get a handle on your debt by getting organized about what you really owe and promise yourself to pay a little at a time. Whether you create a payment plan with your creditors or a personal plan to schedule payments, you can keep to your word and chip away at the debt.
4. Create an Emergency Fund: Call it a nest egg or a rainy day fund if you want. More appropriately, though, you may want to call it a flat tire or a broken hot water heater fund. Things come up and you have no choice to pay for them. A little planning can down on stress when “disaster” strikes, helping you to realize that things do happen and unexpected expenses are a part of life.
5. Speaking of Budgets, Create One: This will help you do two things. You an start to be realistic about what you can afford and you can also set goals to save for the “extra” things you really would like to buy at some point. You won’t know it until you see the numbers in front of you, but those small convenience store purchases and lunches and movie rentals really do add up.
6. Finance Tracking: The Part 2 of Budget Creation is keeping an eye on your finances. It’s not enough to be aware of how much income vs. spending you have/do. You also need to track your behavior to make sure you are sticking to your saving and spending plan. Without a plan to track your finances, it’s very easy to go credit card crazy.
7. Do Regularly Credit Checks: Speaking of credit cards, how often do you check your credit report and credit score? These things weigh heavily on your ability to not only get credit but have favorable credit terms. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free credit report.
8. Retirement Planning: There are myriad reasons to start very early when it comes to putting away money for retirement. However, if you haven’t done so, get on it. And, if you do have a strategy for building a retirement nest egg, meet with a financial advisor to check your investments and risk levels.
9. Fees Add Up: What doesn’t have a fee these days? From ATM fees to delivery charges, to bounced check fees – the list goes on and on. First, try to eliminate doing business with companies that charge fees. You may have options to choose free ATM withdrawals with certain banks, for example. Also, whenever possible, avoid paying late fees by paying bills on time.
10. Ditch the Credit Cards: Even for a short time, try living only on cash. Don’t use your debit or credit cards at all. If you don’t have cash in your wallet today, you can’t make a purchase. This can help you limit spending and allow you to really consider whether you need what you are about to buy.
If you are in over your head financially and need some assistance trying to get back to a place where these tips seem like possible things you can do, contact a savvy debt negotiation lawyer who will review your situation and offer timely, sound legal advice to get you on the road to financial health. Contact Joel R. Spivack Esq. today for a free consultation about your debt situation.