As the Holiday season is coming to a close, there has never been a better time to start a personal financial checkup and consider what you want to accomplish in the upcoming New Year. A recent study completed by LendEDU determined that over half of Americans (52.85 percent!) consider saving more money as their most important financial resolution for 2017. If you’ve already started thinking about your own New Year’s Resolutions, chances are, a few of those goals are money-motivated! Here are our 5 financial tips for you to consider as you financially prepare for the New Year.
1. Eliminate Credit Card Debt (or other kinds of debt!)
The average American carries $7,000 in credit card debt. You already know that the money you spend on interest is simply wasted money, and that can cause some serious financial stress, especially when debt can prevent us from reaching other financial goals! Make a list of your current credit card balances, with the interest rates for each account to get an idea on what you owe so far, and what debt needs to be tackled first. A good debt management trick is to focus in on the credit card with the highest interest rate first, then work your way down.
While students may typically not be among this group who carry a high amount of credit card debt, make a commitment to pay off other debts you may have, like a high interest rate student loan or a car loan. To make a payment on your student loan, simply register your account with your student loan servicer and designate the bank account you want to make payments from. (There is no penalty to pay early on your student loans!) Find out who your federal loan servicer is by logging into this website with your FSA ID and password. If you have any private loans, you will want to register with your lender through their website.
As always, the key to being successful with eliminating any kind of debt is to review your monthly bills and spending habits and cut back wherever you can. Yes, it is going to take some diligence and sacrifice but you can do it! After the credit card is paid off, be sure to never charge more than you can pay off in full at the end of the month.
2. Start an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is an absolute must have when it comes to being financially prepared. This is money that is set aside in a separate savings account to be used for any unexpected expense, like car and house repairs, medical expenses, or a loss of job. Experts suggest having at least 3-6 months’ worth of your normal living expenses saved up in this fund.
As a student, it’s still important to have an emergency fund established. While the 3-6 month guideline may seem a little intimidating at first, consider starting off with a smaller savings goal. Let's say you want to have $500 saved up in an emergency fund by the start of next Spring semester. Setting aside $42 a month will help you accomplish this goal within a year!
3. Reduce Monthly Bills
Break out your monthly bill statements and review them for fees or “extras” you didn’t know you were paying. For instance, if you’re paying to rent a router for your internet service, consider buying a used one instead or installing one yourself that may be lying around in a closet. Contact your cable provider to be placed on a more basic package, or eliminate your cable bill all together. (Hellooo Netflix!) Another tip is to scale back on the data plan you have on your cellphone. This is a feasible possibility if you primarily use your phone while connected to Wi-Fi at work or home. Traveling a lot? Apps like Boingo and Devicescape help your phone automatically connect to available public Wi-Fi!
4. Improve your Health
We all know a common New Year’s resolution is to get healthy! Whether it’s hitting the gym more or watching what we eat, a healthier lifestyle can lead to fewer medical bills! During cold and flu season, it’s smart to be extra cautious by washing our hands often, and making sleep a priority. Start thinking of plans you can implement to improve your health this New Year.
5. Set your Goals
Write your financial resolutions down and set 30, 60 and 90 day checkpoints to ensure that you stay on track. Consider rewarding yourself for staying on track and achieving your resolutions –like going out for a Fro-Yo date! (Plus, Frozen yogurt is way healthier than ice cream, right?) There are also great apps out there that can help you track and monitor your financial goals, too.
Apart from being a fantastic budgeting app, Mint has the capabilities to set and track your financial goals. You will first choose a goal from their list (For ex: Pay off Credit Card Debt, Take a Trip, Save for an Emergency Fund, etc.) or you may create your own. Next, you’ll set the goal with either an end date or monthly amount in mind, and you can link your goal to an account so it’s easy to track.
For those students who are looking to save more money this New Year, the app Quapital lets users customize their ability to automate savings transfers. They can set up rules so money is moved into a savings account after a certain purchase or time period, and the app also lets users insert images of what they’re saving for to help them stay motivated. Cool, huh?
What financial resolutions are on your mind for 2017?