10 Strategies to Organize Your Finances for the New Year

8 Financial Resolutions That Could Actually Change Your Life

I love a fresh start. Whether it’s starting a new job, moving into a new house, or beginning a new activity, something about that clean slate energizes me and makes me feel like I can change the world.

As we approach the new year, a fresh start is available to everyone.

Whether or not you make resolutions, the beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on your life and decide if you need to make some changes.

You might want to lose weight, tackle a new challenge, or find love, but don’t forget about your financial well-being! Here are 10 ways to get your finances in order this new year.

1. Get a Good Bank

It’s easy to get complacent with your bank. You probably signed up years ago for convenience. But are they still the best choice? Are they providing good customer service? Do they offer all the features you need? Most importantly, are you earning a good interest rate on your accounts?

Make a list of features you need in a bank, and then go bank shopping. Compare local banks and online-only banks, which often offer the best interest rates due to their low overhead.

2. Put Your Bills on Auto Pay

Most bills can be paid online these days. If possible, set them up for automatic deduction each month. This saves you the hassle of writing checks or logging in to make payments, and it helps you avoid late fees.

Even if your bills can’t be paid online, your bank probably has a bill pay option for recurring payments. (If not, see point #1 about finding a better bank.)

3. Create a Budget

Budgets aren’t just for those on tight incomes. They’re for anyone who wants to achieve financial goals, whether that’s paying off debt, traveling, or saving for retirement. A budget is your plan to reach those goals.

While budgeting might not be fun or glamorous, achieving goals like becoming debt-free or taking a dream trip certainly is.

4. Top Up Your Emergency Fund

Financial experts recommend having an emergency fund of at least $1,000. Without it, unexpected expenses like a flat tire or a broken refrigerator can end up on a credit card, leading to debt.

If you already have a $1,000 emergency fund, challenge yourself to save 3-6 months of living expenses. This larger fund can cover bigger emergencies, like job loss, giving you time to find new employment or adjust your lifestyle without financial panic.

5. Pay Down Debt

Whether you owe $800 on a credit card or $80,000 in student loans, start tackling your debt. The interest you’re paying can be put to better use elsewhere. Create a budget (see #3) and find areas to cut back, using the savings to pay down your debt. If cutting back isn’t enough, consider selling items, getting a part-time job, or finding a roommate.

6. Contribute to Your Retirement Plan

If your employer offers a match on your retirement plan, make sure you’re contributing enough to get the full match. If you’re already maximizing the match, challenge yourself to increase your contribution by a few percentage points.

Check with your employer about enrolling in or modifying your contributions to your retirement plan, which you should be able to do at any time during the year.

7. Review Your Insurance

Ensure you’re getting the best deal on insurance. Check your car insurance deductibles and premiums, and consider bundling it with your homeowner’s insurance for potential savings.

Review your life insurance needs, especially if you’ve had or expect major life changes like buying a house or having children. Don’t rely solely on your work-provided policy; it likely isn’t enough on its own.

8. See What It Takes to Get Ahead

If you’ve been coasting at work, consider what steps you need to take to advance. Do you want a promotion at your current job, a new position, or a career change? Make this the year you earn more and find fulfillment in your career.

9. Clean Out Your Basement

If your basement, attic, or garage is filled with boxes of stuff, consider why you’re holding onto it all. Decluttering can lead to financial gains, whether through a garage sale or selling items on Craigslist or eBay. You might even find you don’t need as much space, potentially saving on housing costs.

10. Try Making a Sacrifice

Even if your finances are in good shape, challenge yourself to cut back on discretionary spending. Use the savings for a special treat, like a vacation, or to boost your retirement fund or a house down payment.

Consider cutting cable, reducing dining out, or handling pet care yourself. You can always revert if necessary, but you might find you can live without these expenses and enjoy the added savings.

The new year is an exciting time filled with fresh possibilities. Whether you need to turn your finances around or elevate them to the next level, this is the year to make it happen. The choice is yours!

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