Nobody is pretending that 2020 was not an extraordinary year. Yet despite the disruption the one thing that will remain constant is spending throughout the winter holidays. The National Retail Federation says the average spend over the holidays in 2019 was $1,048, and little is expected to change this year.
However, focus will soon turn to personal finances in January. Although the pandemic continues to burn, all this staying home is the ideal time to think about what you are going to do with your personal finances in the year ahead.
Make a Budget
Did you know only 32% of Americans keep a formal budget? It is impossible to plan financially when you do not even have a budget. You need to know what is going out and what is coming in as a starting point.
There are plenty of free budgeting apps, but it is unnecessary to get this complicated. A simple Excel spreadsheet where you input everything is more than enough. Budgets can be as simple or as in-depth as you feel necessary.
Pay Off Your Debts
Most of the money used to pay back debts is not used to pay back the debt itself but the interest fees charged. You should look to pay down your debts as soon as you can.
Focus on the debts with the highest interest rates first. If you have a small debt with relatively high interest and you want to pay it off before your next paycheck, consider a Blue Line Loan. Remember, interest does not immediately kick in on debts until the first repayment is due.
Set Aside Money to Save
When calculating a budget, it is not uncommon for people to forget to save. The reality is the average American has $8,863 in their savings accounts. The experts recommend having at least six months of living expenses, but if possible aim for twelve months. As the 2008/2009 recession demonstrated, a couple of months is not enough.
Setup a minimum saving target every month. It is even possible to have an amount taken out of your salary and transferred into your savings account automatically the moment you get paid.
Work on Your Credit Score
For better or worse, your credit score defines everything from whether you get a mortgage to whether a landlord will rent an apartment to you.
Begin by finding out what your credit score is. Sites like Credit Karma can give you access to your free credit report. It updates every week and gives you an idea of where you are.
From there, start working on your credit score by paying off your credit card in full every month. Over time, your credit score will gradually increase, and your future credit options will increase.
Frugality does not have to mean living a life of deprivation and poverty. Being frugal simply means taking the time to get the best deal on the things you need.
Do you need to shop at Trader Joe’s when you could find practically the same items at Walmart? Is it necessary to purchase that recently released smartphone when you could buy an older model that does practically the same thing?
Consider going on vacation during the quieter times of year instead of when everyone else wants to go.
You do not need to deprive yourself of anything you love in order to be frugal. Taking the time to find the best deal can save hundreds and thousands of dollars every single year.
In the America of today the majority of people do not have control of their finances. This is due to simple neglect rather than a lack of knowledge. Spending a few minutes throughout the week to think about your finances can allow you to make the decisions that will secure your family’s future.
What are you doing to take control of your finances in 2021?