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January 2, 2020

6 Straightforward Ways to Improve Your Finances in the New Year

For most people, a little more money would make life go more smoothly. But increasing your income isn’t the only way to put extra cash in your pocket. 

Effective personal finance needs a little organization, and if you made it your New Year’s resolution to get your cash under control, you’ll see the benefits in 2020 and beyond. 

Here are six straightforward ways to do exactly that.

1) Get into the Statement Habit

Checking your bank and credit card statements can feel like a chore. It can even be a worrying prospect if your financial state isn’t too great. However, it’s vital to get into the habit of reviewing statements when they arrive, rather than leaving them ignored and unopened.

First, scan every statement for any transactions you don’t recognize, as these could help you catch fraud in the early stages before too much damage is done. 

Less dramatically, you may spot subscriptions for services you no longer use, and which you could cancel to reduce your outgoings. You may also notice some subscriptions which have grown more and more expensive over the years, and which you may no longer feel are good enough value.

You could easily uncover some bad spending habits which are clear to see when they’re set out in black and white. And perhaps most importantly, simply being proactive and checking your statements gives you a greater sense of control over your finances, while ignoring them lets them spiral out of control much more easily.

2) Check Your Credit Report

Similarly, checking your credit report isn’t something that most people find an exciting way to pass the time – especially if you suspect it may make for unhappy reading. 

But checking your credit file is free, so promise yourself that you’ll do it in the New Year. Again, you could spot signs of fraud before the situation becomes too bad. More commonly, you may notice errors that you can have corrected, such as debts wrongly marked as unpaid or unknown names being linked to your address.

Even minor errors can have a large impact on your credit score, so monitoring your report regularly can do a lot to keep your finances running more smoothly.

3) End a Bad Financial Habit 

If your budget is in a poor state, it’s a daunting task to completely rebuild it. However, even minor changes can make big differences, so start small.

Think of one bad financial habit that you have, such as late-night impulse shopping online. Work to overcome this habit, and then move on to the next. This step-by-step approach is much easier, and yet in the long-term, the results can be just as dramatic as a sudden revolution in your spending.

4) Get Your Debts in Order

Most people have at least some debt in today’s credit-driven society. And while you might not be able to clear it all just now, make a bare-bones plan about which debts you should aim to deal with most urgently.

List your debts in order of how much they actually cost you each month in interest, not just which ones have the highest rate. Concentrate on cutting these debts back down to size whenever you have a little spare cash, and you’ll see the quickest effect on your monthly budget.

And once you get started off paying debts in order, you can set off a snowball effect that leads you to a debt-free future sooner than you’d imagine. 

5) Step Up from Minimum Repayments

Even if you don’t need to start a formal, long-term debt repayment program, promise yourself that you’ll never make another minimum payment on your credit cards again.

If you pay only the statement amount each month, you’ll be mostly paying interest without making much impact on your underlying debt. This can leave you treading water expensively for years to come.

Paying just a few dollars extra each month will start making deeper inroads into what you actually owe, and it’s one of the best financial moves you can make if you’re carrying any credit card debt at all. 

6) Automate Everything

Lastly, online banking makes it easier than ever to automate large parts of your finances. Whether it’s credit card payments, adding to a savings account, investing, or paying energy bills – setting up automatic transfers means you’ll never forget them or be hit with charges or interest penalties.

As the New Year begins, put as much of your day-to-day financial world on autopilot as you can. You’ll save both money and stress when things take care of themselves.

If you’ve been struggling with chaotic finances, or you just feel it’s time to get serious about your money, this is the perfect time to start putting things on a straighter path.