The first weeks of a new year are full of possibility. No matter how we’ve done things in the past, each of us can make small changes that help us chart a fresh course in the months ahead.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? As 2020 was ending, the website Finder asked people that question. They found that 74% of people planned to make promises to themselves for 2021. And one-third of those people said their 2021 goals are about their finances. As the new year begins, there are a few resolutions that can help people get to a stronger financial place. Rather than focusing on money moves we wish we’d made in the past, we can focus on making better moves today and into the future.
Even if you never learned how to budget before, this is the perfect time to start. By making a clear list of where your money is going, you can make conscious decisions about how to use your money in the future. So start by making a list of everything that makes up your monthly income.
Then, make a list of everything that’s a definite expense each month — these are things like rent or mortgage payment, utilities, basic food needs and transportation, child care and minimum loan payments. If there is money left over once you’ve accounted for those necessities, how have you spent that money? Then make a plan for how you’ll use it in the future.
The finance website nerdwallet.com recommends dividing any money left over after necessities between savings, debt repayment and buying things you want but don’t need. Choose what percentage of your leftover money you want to put toward each of those things.
Look back through credit and debit card statements to make a list of your recent spending. Can you see places you might cut back? Bringing lunch instead of buying it while at work can be a practical move. Another way to find invisible spending: Make sure you aren’t paying monthly fees for smartphone apps you don’t need.
Another important way to shrink your spending: Eliminate snowballing credit card debt by paying down the balance or shifting it to a personal loan with a lower, fixed interest rate. At 1st Franklin Financial, we offer debt consolidation support and can help get multiple bills into one monthly payment.
According to the credit reporting company Experian, there are several easy ways to improve your credit. Eliminating high interest debt is a great first step. Another powerful move is to keep a calendar of the dates when utility bills and credit card payments are due, so you can build a record of paying on time. Next, they recommend only applying for the credit cards you really need. Although it seems appealing when a store offers you a discount on your first purchase if you apply for their in-house credit card, adding new credit cards to your wallet can make it tempting to spend more than your budget allows.
Building financial literacy helps us move toward our goals, and it’s easy to do. The “Friendly Franklin Folks” at your neighborhood 1st Franklin Financial are happy to answer any questions you have about budgeting, saving, loan support, and taking steps to get your financial life in great shape. So reach out and ask questions. The more you learn about managing money, the easier it becomes.
All four of these New Year’s resolutions are steps you can take today — and we’re ready to help. Click here to find your nearest 1st Franklin branch, so you can connect with a person who’s happy to talk with you about these ideas. Happy New Year from our family to yours, and here’s to making this your best financial year yet!