2020 Vision for Your Finances
As we enter a New Year & Decade, you have probably debated improving your health, overcoming an obstacle, or kicking a habit – but have you thought about your financial fitness?
Much like a healthier lifestyle, financial fitness doesn’t come overnight. Whether your resolution is to save more money or pay off debts, here are some creative ideas to jump start your financial well-being.
Saving money can be a challenge for even the most seasoned savers, but it doesn’t have to be. One of the best ways to save money is by creating a budget. Unfortunately, that is the only easy part. After creating a budget, you have to stay true to your limits. For an organized budget, divide your spending into categories – needs, wants, and savings. In your needs, include things like housing, utilities, groceries, gas, child care, credit card or car payments. Your wants should include clothing, eating out, subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc.), and gym memberships. Savings includes an emergency fund, 401k contributions, investments, and nest eggs. Sticking to your budget will make your finances happier and healthier by planning ahead.
Creative ways to help your budget could include; carpooling, meal planning, no-spend days. Complete a money challenge or find a new (free) hobby to keep you distracted from shopping and spending.
Pay Off Debts
Once you’re in a financial hole – stop digging! It may seem like a no brainer, but most people need to hear it. To stop frivolously spending is easier said than done, and will require a fair amount of restraint on your part. While paying off debt takes some commitment, there are some ways to get rid of unnecessary debt quicker. The first way to lessen your debt stress is through the snowball method. Start paying more towards one of your debts until it is paid off. Once you have it paid off, take the completed payment and add it to one of your other debts, paying off the second debt faster. Continue this until all of your debts are paid off. You will not feel as though you are paying more money because you will still be allocating the same funds towards your debts. It is always a good idea to round up on a payment, even if by only a few dollars. This will slowly chip away at the debt that has been accrued.
Keep track of the debts you have paid off; it can be hard to fathom your success when you can’t see your progress. You can find debt trackers and other tools online to aid your motivation along the way.
Improve Your Credit Score
The road to a great credit score can be long and testing without a direct solution. Credit scores are calculated from a multitude of factors including number of accounts, payment history, debt ratio, credit limits and usage, how long you’ve had credit and inquiries. Most of these factors can’t be altered by making a singular change.
Of the factors listed above, there are a few ways to better your credit score by taking action. Credit scores are heavily influenced by payment history, taking into account if collections have ever been involved. To boost your credit, make your payments on time and monitor your accounts to ensure payment has been withdrawn to avoid collections. Many companies will mail or email statements to the payee. Open all mail, file it away with your records or shred all personal information.
Credit limits and usage also play a large role in your credit score. To increase your score, keep your credit usage below 30% across all credit taken out in your name. Payoff small purchases quickly and monitor your accounts to be fully aware of your spending.
Avoid reckless inquiries into your credit, maintain a stable amount of accounts, and continue using your credit to increase your scores overtime. Remember that credit score providers factor these elements slightly different, resulting in varying scores.
It is never to early to start saving for your retirement, even when it seems like it is too far in your future to even consider. Realistically, retirement may be far down the line for you, but having to suddenly start saving for your retirement can add more stress and anxiety than if you make it a normal part of your savings routine from an early age. If your employer offers a 401k matching program, take advantage of the free money. No really, it’s free money.
It is important to understand your retirement savings options, and it is best to speak with a financial advisor or a human resources representative to fully understand any company initiatives. Its best to start your retirement savings now because as you can see, “a year can go by in a blink of an eye”.
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