Did you know that simply writing down your goals makes you more likely to actually achieve them? “I’m all about writing down your goals — big or small. Whether it’s a house, a new dress, new running shoes, a car, or a vacation, it puts your daily purchases in perspective,” says Allea Grummert, the blogger behind Ask Allea. “An $8 shirt at Target is less appealing when I know I’m saving up for something better,” she adds.
Get on top of your finances by signing up for text or email alerts for your credit cards, student loans, and other financial accounts. “Set up alerts for bank accounts and card accounts. These can remind you about payments and alert you to large transactions,” says Julie Rains, a freelance writer at Investing to Thrive. Spending five minutes doing this now can help you avoid missed payments, overdraft fees, and other costly mistakes.
One easy way to get a grasp on your money is to see where it’s actually going. “Start monitoring your spending better by signing up for a site like Mint.com. See how much you spend and cut back on something unnecessary,” says personal finance writer Karen Cordaway. “It can identify money leaks and help you quickly sidestep future spending.”
Improve your finances by creating more than one savings account. Having all your savings lumped together can make it tough to be clear on your goals. “Create an emergency fund, car replacement fund, or vacation fund by signing up for automatic transfers to a savings account,” says Zina Kumok, founder of Debt Free After Three.
Missing a payment can hurt your credit score and tack on unnecessary late fees. Lee Huff from Bald Thoughts encourages people to sign up for minimum payments on your credit card. “It’s ideal to pay credit cards off in full each month, but life happens, so make sure every credit card is set up to at least make the minimum payment automatically so you don’t get hit with late fees,” he says. You can also sign up for autopay on your student loans — and might even get a discount on your interest rate.
Want to take a major step toward financial awareness? Calculate your net worth. How do you do that? Take your assets (cash, investments, etc.) and subtract your liabilities (debts).
When you start working at a new job, you might be happily surprised by your salary — or abysmally disappointed. Regardless of your situation, your real hourly rate is different than your salary and should be the foundation of any budget or spending plan. Look at your pay stubs and see what you’re taking home after taxes. Divide that by the hours worked to find your real hourly rate.
Could downloading your bank’s app make you more mindful of your spending? It worked for Sarah Li Cain, blogger at High Fiving Dollars. “Sounds silly, but effective: I downloaded an app from my bank. I check my bank account balance to see if I’m on track with my spending goals,” she says. Strive to spend just one minute a day checking your account balances and transactions. You’ll be proactive against any fraud and check in on your spending.
For the same reasons as above, you should check your credit score regularly. Your credit score is a numeric representation of your credit that informs lenders about what kind of borrower you are. You can get your free credit score on sites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. You may also be able to get your free FICO credit score through your credit card.
Your credit report can help determine your credit score, so you want to make sure there are no errors. Spend some time checking your credit report to start the new year fresh. “You can check your Experian credit report for free — and without having to enter a credit card — on FreeCreditReport.com,” says Blaine Lyerla, managing editor of Consumer Education at Experian. You can also check out AnnualCreditReport.com to get free credit reports from all three credit bureaus.