The time has come once again for New Year’s resolutions! While some tend to scoff at the idea, the beginning of a new calendar year gives us an opportunity to take a look at our habits and consider how we might live better, happier or more fulfilling lives.
For some people, that means working in an extra trip to the gym each week, or agonizing over ways to avoid that extra piece of chocolate cake. But another good (and, some might argue, more painless) option is to commit to improving your financial life. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start saving for retirement but never really had a chance to explore your options, or maybe there’s some debt you’d like to pay off. Think of 2014 as a new start, an opportunity to take control of your financial future and make smarter decisions about how to manage your money. Here are a few things to try this year:
Set up a personal budget
No matter where you are financially, having a budget for yourself is a simple way to help better manage your income. You can start a budget using old fashioned pen and paper, or if you’re more technologically inclined, Excel or Microsoft Money can be a good way to go. For smartphone users, there are many apps available, like BUDGT or Mint that can help you keep track of your income and expenses from your smartphone.
The start of a new year is a great time to take a look at your spending habits. How much money do you save each paycheck? Are you earning the best possible interest rate? Do you have an emergency fund set up? With the amount of economic uncertainty, traditional wisdom says that you should try to have three to six months’ salary saved up—and probably a little extra—in the event that a job loss, illness or sudden change in your family situation occurs.
Whether it’s a student loan, a car loan or a credit card, chances are you have some sort of debt hanging over your head that you’d like to pay off. Take a look at the debt you have and re-evaluate how you’re paying it off. Can you afford to pay above the minimum monthly payment? Is refinancing or consolidation possible? Concentrate on paying down high-interest debt quickly to save yourself money in the long term, and be conscious of any new credit lines you open.
Pay bills on time
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but the fact is that sometimes, despite your best efforts, you forget that a bill is due and get hit with a late fee. Fortunately, most banks—like CBTC—offer a bill pay program as part of their online banking services, enabling you to schedule automatic payments each month. It’s a simple way to maintain a good credit score and avoid losing unnecessary money to late fees.
As with any New Year’s resolution—be it weight loss or financial success—the downfall usually lies in setting over-ambitious goals. So whatever you set out to do, remember to keep your expectations realistic. Taking small steps and laying the groundwork for good habits will allow you to carry your resolution through 2014 and beyond.
Whatever the New Year has in store for you, Community Bank is here to help! From personal checking accounts to retirement planning, we can help you meet your goals. Stop into any of our convenient branch locations to talk to us!