With the holiday season in full swing, the thought of prepping your finances for the New Year may not seem like a top priority. However, taking an hour or two to clean things up can go along way towards starting the year off feeling financial fresh and confident.
As the calendar turns over into a New Year, you have a new chance to make a fresh financial start. This checklist of simple steps will set you up to be better off one year from now.
Check your credit report
Once a year, you can download your credit reports produced by the three credit reporting agencies for free. To avoid paying a fee, download one report in January, and schedule reminders to access the other two later, once in April and again in August. If you find any funny business or false information, such as accounts you didn’t open or incorrect payment statuses, report the problem immediately.
Set up an online bookkeeping system so you can get an overview of your net worth — what you own minus what you owe — in one place. One of the most popular free tools is Mint.com, which offers a free credit score and pushes out budget alerts and bill reminders. You may have to spend some time digging around for account numbers and passwords to various loans and accounts in order to have all this information in one place, but in return you'll get a better handle on your finances.
Clean up your budget
With your online system, you can easily build a monthly plan based on past spending habits. Try and make a few cuts in places where you can stand to spend less. There's no need to give up the fun stuff — just set some limits. Also, take a closer look at the bank fees you've shelled out, and set yourself up to pay fewer fees in 2017. For example, with Kasasa, you can say goodbye to ATM fees and start taking advantage of the reimbursements you should be getting every time you withdraw cash.
Go on autopilot
Setting up automatic payments for your loans will help you build an on-time record, which in turn can raise your credit score. At the same time, use some of that extra money in your budget to pay ahead on one bill. This is the start of your debt snowball. While you’re at it, set up an auto transfer to your savings account so you have a little money to fall back on.
Unlike some other New Year's resolutions (we won't name them here, but you know what we mean), getting your finances in shape doesn't require you to get up an hour before dawn. All you have to do is set aside an afternoon to get organized, and you're good to go!