The end of the year is the best time to take a look at your finances and begin to regain control. With retailers keen on moving merchandise through the holiday season, the beginning of tax season, and the motivation that accompanies a new year, now is the best time to set some concrete financial goals and begin working on strategies for your financial success. With these four steps, you can be well on your way to getting your financial house in order for 2020.
Step One: Begin With the End in Mind
Before you make any decisions ask yourself what your motivations are and identify your top two financial goals. The most common goals are eliminating high-interest, negative debt like credit card debt and saving money for a rainy day. These are great goals and, unless your savings account has three months’ worth of living expenses, they should be the first items on your list. But equally important is your motivation. Understanding why these things are important to you specifically will help you maintain your willpower when sale signs and impulse buys come along.
Step Two: Evaluate Your Situation
People often avoid taking a hard look at their finances, but it’s important to understand where your money is going. This means looking at your tax liability, income, spending habits, and previous year’s performance to get an idea of your current financial health. You may find that you need to downsize your lifestyle in order to have a better quality of life and meet your financial goals. You may need to take advantage of financial products or services to get you back on target. Or you may find that you are ready to move on to the next level and pursue another financial goal.
Step Three: Check Your Credit
Getting a free copy of your credit report is simple and easy. Once you have it, review it for any possible mistakes. Banks, credit card companies and even potential employers use these numbers to determine your trustworthiness. You should be aware of what your credit report says and what it says about you.
Step Four: Develop a Budget
Budgeting isn’t fun but it can relieve stress from your life by putting you back in control of your money. Make sure to leave room in your budget for impulse buys or miscellaneous purchases. Include entertainment and clothing in your budget. Make sure that it’s realistic. One trick is to automate as many parts of your budget as you can. Automatic deposits into your savings account and automated payments for fixed expenditures are one way to regain financial control if you sometimes lack willpower.