It’s understandable if you drifted off course financially during the last couple months of the year. However, you don’t want bad money habits to follow you into the New Year. If your finances have slipped, it’s time to get back on track for 2018 and devise a plan to tackle your debt efficiently and effectively. Take a step back and evaluate your finances before the clock strikes 12 on December 31.
Here are some tips that can help you refresh your finances and stay motivated in the New Year.
1. Review Your finances
Take a look at your overall finances and consider setting both short-term and long-term goals. Confused about where to start? You may want to begin by obtaining a free copy of your credit report at Credit.com. Through Credit.com, you can request reports from all three of the major nationwide credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Since you might have been using your credit cards often during your holiday shopping, be sure to check your credit report for any irregularities. Fraud and identity theft skyrocket during the holiday season. While you are checking your credit report, you also might want to check your credit score. If you are using more than 30% of your credit cards, you may see a slight drop in your score in the post-holiday season. While credit scores can fluctuate slightly from time to time, it’s important to recognize when a deep drop occurs so you can find the problem and resolve it as soon as possible.
2. Set Goals and Make a Plan
Goals give us something to look forward to and work toward. Make a list of all the financial goals you plan to achieve in the next 12 months or so. Establish a payment strategy that works best to tackle not only your post-holiday debt, but also your overall debt. Consider making a list of all of your debts (secure and unsecure) and devise a plan on how to get them down.
Ask yourself what your short-term and long-term goals are. You might be looking to save up for a wedding, for retirement planning, or for your student loans. When it comes to loans, consider paying more than the minimum and making payments twice each month to help tackle your debt more efficiently. If you think you won’t be able to tackle all of your debt at once, focus on the highest-interest rate debt first before you work on the rest.
3. Stay Motivated
You may be stressed out from your financial situation. Stress can be very overwhelming, especially when it’s money related. Try to write down all of the reasons why you are stressed out. Focus on two to three financial problems or financial stress points and write down ways you may be able to solve that issue.
For example, you could write the following:
- “I am stressed because I keep missing my credit card bill and now I am in debt from the late fees.
- Solution: Maybe I can set a reminder on my phone or sign up for automatic payments so I don’t forget next time.
- Solution: Since I’m deep in debt now, maybe I will put extra money towards my monthly payments instead of just paying the minimum.”
4. Put Yourself on a Financial Diet
Try and put yourself on a “financial diet” after the holidays. Focus on your debt instead of spending frivolously. Consider only spending money on essential expenses and use coupons when you can. If you make a few changes to your lifestyle—bringing the exact cash that you need to the grocery store or bringing a bagged lunch to work instead of eating out—you will improve your overall financial health. You will also adapt to these new habits and boost your cash flow. If you think you have a problem with impulse buying or you find yourself in deep debt, then you might want to consider seeking outside financial help.
If you only have enough money in your bank account to pay your bills at the end of the month and anything unexpected expenses are being paid for with credit cards, it may be time to rethink your financial strategy. It’s easy to get caught up in the credit card debt cycle especially around the holiday season, however getting out of debt means planning for the expected. Planning for those “what if” moments can help you avoid breaking the bank in case of an emergency. You may be thinking I can always just use my credit card, however, using a credit card in a “what if” situation should be your last option.
5. Don’t Cheat Yourself of a “What If” Fund
If you only have enough money in your bank account to pay your bills at the end of the month and you’re paying for any unexpected expenses with credit cards, it may be time to rethink your financial strategy. It’s easy to get caught up in the credit card debt cycle, especially around the holidays. However, getting out of debt means planning for the expected. Planning for those “what if” moments can help you avoid breaking the bank when an emergency comes. You may think, “I can always just use my credit card,” but really, a credit card should be your last option in an emergency.
To get started on your “what if” fund, you can set reasonable goals, open a savings account, and be sure to make regular contributions to your savings until you reach 10% net income. If you take money out, be sure to replenish the funds! Just think how great it will be having money available if an emergency happens.