2018 is here!
Have you made plans for financial improvement? Here are six tips to get you started:
1) Tune up your budget
It’s great to start off the new year with a plan. A budget is just that — a plan that starts with the income you expect and your fixed expenses such as your mortgage, insurance and utilities. The plan incorporates your savings goals, and the remaining money is designated for your other expenses. A realistic budget will help you set your financial goals and will remind you to stick to them.
Review how you spent last year’s money in order to make better financial decisions for the year ahead. Track your spending. You can do this on a spreadsheet or tag items in your checking account.
Even with a solid plan, there can be surprises along the way, so be sure to build an emergency fund into your budget.
2) Plan ahead to meet your goals
Consider how you will accomplish your goals. You might have shorter-term goals, such as purchasing a new home, as well as longer-term goals, like retirement. Each set of goals requires different kinds of planning and saving.
Financial planners recommend setting up a separate savings account for each goal. This way, your progress toward that goal is clear.
It’s best to work backward for determining how much you need to save for each goal. Determine the cost of your goal and then establish a reasonable time frame as well as how much you’ll need to save each month to reach it.
3) Spend mindfully
Make your financial future more secure this year by identifying your wants and needs. Your needs are necessary for survival and include food and shelter. Your wants are simply things you desire — like a luxury car. Tend to your needs first. Then, if there is money remaining, consider your wants. This might sound obvious, but for many of us, the lines between wants and needs are blurred.
4) Maximize tax contributions
Tax deductions can be a valuable source of savings. If you have employer-matching funds available, take advantage of them. Also, verify with your HR contact and your accountant that you are contributing the optimal amount to your 401(k) and IRA.
5) Check your flexible savings account (FSA)
If you have unspent money in your FSA, now is the time to use it. Your pre-tax dollars in such accounts typically need to be spent before the end of the year or they are lost.
6) Put the brakes on unnecessary spending
Avoid going overboard on spending or you might spend the beginning of the year trying to pay it all back. Set a shopping limit and cancel automatically recurring memberships that you no longer use.
The Stanford FCU mobile app makes it easy to monitor your spending and organize your financial life. With a little attention to some often-overlooked details, a little perseverance and a little mindfulness throughout, you’ll be moving forward with a strong foundation and positive outlook.