It’s a new year, and if you’re like most of us, you’ve been thinking about how to improve your life in the next 11 months. For some people, the priority is health and fitness; for others, it’s traveling and experiencing new things. We’re all individuals, and our motivation can come from anywhere. But one aspect of life that almost everyone reports could be better is finances.
If you’re one of the 99%, chances are you fall in that group. To help you live 2017 to the fullest and accomplish your financial goals, we’ve assembled a list of tips and resources to revolutionize your finances whether you want to prepare to buy a home, pay down debt, or just learn to control your spending.
Preparing Your Finances to Buy a Home
Know your credit score
Thanks to the internet, figuring out where you stand is easier than ever. Websites like AnnualCreditReport.com and Credit Karma allow you to check your credit report and see your credit score, account balances, activity, and if you have any derogatory marks for free.
Watch your spending
With services like Mint at your fingertips, tracking your spending is easy. All you have to do is sign up and link your accounts. If you want to go the extra mile, set up spending categories too. Then Mint will show you all of your spending, in each category, and on every account. No more hiding from those impulse buys!
Keep your bank accounts in the green
If you’re hoping to buy a home soon you should know, lenders are generally weary of overdrafts. Even if you have overdraft protection, the fact that more money is coming out of your account than the balance can cover is a red flag. Make sure you always have enough in your checking to cover your expenses and don’t rely on overdraft protection.
Paying Down Debt as Painlessly as Possible
Calculate the pay down method that works best for you
There’s two time-tested strategies for paying down debt. You can choose to pay off smaller balances first (which can help you stay motivated), or you can save as much as possible by tackling your debt from highest interest rate to lowest. Try this calculator to see how each method would work for you.
Pick up a side hustle to bring in extra cash for payments
Maybe you’ve got yourself into a bit of a pickle and paying down those balances isn’t going as quickly as you’d like. If you can find even a few hours here and there, you can work a side hustle. Drive for Uber or Lyft, make things and sell them on Etsy, or answer surveys on the weekend. Do whatever you can to bring in extra cash so making those payments doesn’t feel like such a pinch.
Gain Control of Your Spending
Try the envelope method
Swiping cards for purchases disconnects you from your money. Get back in touch with your bank account by using the envelope method and paying cash for recurring purchases like groceries, gas, eating out and virtually anything else.
Force yourself to write it down
Not ready to commit to using cash 24/7? Then break out the pass book (your bank will give you them for free, just ask) and start writing down every single purchase. Each coffee, every lunch date, all those groceries – write it down. Even if you swipe your card and aren’t actually writing a check, you can still record your spending and track your balance.
Stick to the 72-hour rule
Quit impulse buys cold turkey by committing to wait for 72-hours before making any immediate purchases. If you still feel like you want or need an item after waiting three full days, then buy it. But chances are if it was a true impulse buy, the urge to spend will pass.
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