The time for making new year’s resolutions and fresh starts is only weeks away. You may already be thinking about resolving to (finally) lose those last 10 pounds, quitting smoking, or eating better – but those are only part of the equation to what makes a healthier YOU.
Your finances are just as important to leading a healthy life. When money runs low, so does your patience, your mood, and your ability to weather storms. The problem is that, especially when you don’t have much to work with, it is tempting to bury your head in the sand when the topic of money comes up. Instead, you pledge to just “keep calm and carry on”, allowing the act of managing your money can get swept under the rug along with other well-meaning things like checkups at the dentist – and it is a big part of the reason why you make the same financial mistakes over and over again.
This year, why not change that? Your 2015 self will thank you. I promise.
Here are 6 things you can do right now to make next year a little brighter:
1. Make a Budget: Budgeting is easier than you think. You just look at what you take home each month, write down your obligations, and divide up what is left into groceries, treats, and meeting financial goals. It may not sound like much fun but it is a good way to get your spending on track, and start on the road to reducing your debt.
2. Track your Spending: This means that you have to go through your bank accounts and credit card statements each month to see where the money actually went. If your budget is like a diet, tracking your spending is like counting calories – one rarely works without the other – and like dieting, you may be surprised where your expenditures are actually going.
3. Managing Fees: One of the things you may be surprised about is the amount of fees you pay. Whether we are talking about the maintenance fee on your savings account or the interest on your credit card, you might be surprised where it is all going – and by the fact that it doesn’t have to. Take action by calling the account provider and seeing if there is another plan you can be on that has lower interest or reduced fees.
4. Shop Around: Next, shop around. You might be able to get a lower interest rate on your credit card, refinance your loan, or join a bank that doesn’t charge fees for checking. Likewise, keep an eye on how much you pay for your phone service, internet, and cable. There are always providers offering super low deals. You could save 50% of your bill by switching. A few phone calls can be all it takes to save you a bundle.
5. Cash In: If money is tight, now might be the time to cash in. Check your old Living Social and Groupon vouchers. Did you forget to use one? That’s okay; the value doesn’t diminish. Cash it in. Even if you can’t get a refund, you may be able to get a gift card you can use for a free evening out. Check your credit cards. Maybe you have cash rewards you haven’t used. Look in your closet. Does anything still have the tags on it? Return it. Obviously, you didn’t use it, so why not get the cash. Got anything you aren’t wearing or using? Sell it. Craigslist and eBay are both great places to sell your goodies and there is no better time of year than right now with so many people buying gifts.
6. Save Money: Saving money can seem impossible when you are barely scraping by, but if you never make an effort towards improving your lot, things will never change. You may have convinced yourself that all you have to do is hold on until you get that raise/promotion/winning lottery ticket – but why wait? The sky could fall tomorrow. Instead, make it a point to pay in cash and save your change or, if you are really ambitious, save all your one dollar bills. It may not look like much, and maybe it isn’t, but it gets you on the right track. You may even have enough to cover an unexpected expense when the time comes.
Featured Image via ShutterStock