With the holiday season drawing to a close, the thought of prepping your finances for the New Year may not seem like a top priority (especially for those of you still recovering from over-indulgences of both food and drink...) However, taking an hour or two to clean things up can go a long way towards starting 2020 off feeling financial fresh and confident.
As the calendar turns over a new decade, you have the chance to make a fresh financial start. This checklist of simple steps will set you up to be better off one year from now when you’re looking back at 2020 thinking, “Dang, what a good year."
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 bureaus report in January, and schedule reminders to access the other two at a later date. (We suggest one in April and one 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 access to free credit scores 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 have a better handle on your finances. To top it off, Mint will analyze thousands of checking, savings, credit card, CD, and IRA rollover offers, then make recommendations that could help you save money based on your lifestyle and goals (aka, how they make money). If Mint isn’t for you, alternatives include Personal Capital, You Need A Budget and Pocketsmith.
Clean up your budget
With your online system ready and roaring to go, you can easily build a monthly plan based on past spending habits. Try to 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 spend less owning your own money in 2020. For example, with Kasasa, you can say goodbye to ATM fees and maintenance fees and start taking advantage of the reimbursements you should be getting every time you withdraw cash. (We believe in seriously free checking).
Get rid of the financial clutter
The end of the year is the perfect time to go through the piles of piles of documents you’ve been shoving in drawers and on shelves for the last 360 days. If the thought of mistakenly throwing away something you need later on terrifies you, (deep breath) don’t stress. It’s true, there are some documents that are very important to keep on hand (think: birth certificates, marriage records, and social security cards) but most of our most important financial documents are digitized these days. So, when you are having a hard time closing your junk drawer because your outdated credit card statements and electric bills are busting out, it’s time to start shredding (after verifying with IRS guidelines, of course).
At this point in your afternoon-long financial preparedness haul, you might be a little bogged down. That’s where #inspo comes in. Cap off your afternoon by browsing the web for money advice and information. And no, we aren’t suggesting blogs that offer “make coffee at home” as a means to complete financial freedom. We’re talking about first-hand accounts from non-experts who have found themselves realistic solution to daily money conundrums. You might be pleasantly surprised how hearing real life stories can get you amped for the new year to come.
There are a number of subreddits and private Facebook groups dedicated to personal finance. Think of them as online communities that offer support and guidance on a hyper-personal level.
However, if these communities aren’t your cup of tea, ours might be. You might opt to follow our very own Kasasa IG for your fair share of self-deprecating financial memes, because sometimes all you need is a good laugh.
Take 2020 by storm
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 or suffer through bland chicken meal after bland chicken meal. All you have to do is set aside an afternoon to get organized, and you're good to go!