New Year Personal Finance Cleanup

How to start 2019 off right

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time to look toward the new year and the goals you hope to achieve. Health, wealth and happiness are usually the top three areas people concentrate on with their New Year’s resolution. Does your financial health need a check-up? Here are some tips and helpful advice to put you on the right path.

Take Stock and Track Spending

The first step is to assess the state of your finances. This will help you identify your weaknesses and strengths and determine what to focus on. Begin by comparing what you earn to what you spend and save.

It’s a good idea to track your spending for a month. There are numerous apps that can help you with that. You can also review your past bank statements to get a better overall picture. Be sure to carefully review your paychecks and your bank accounts to note any automatic deductions. You might be paying for services you don’t really need or use. Note how much you’re spending and on what.

Stop Waste

Once you’ve reviewed your spending habits, it’s time to identify waste and cut those expenditures out. Review some common expenses that you may be able to minimize or eliminate:

Insurance plan deductibles – Review your home owners or renters’ insurance, car insurance and other coverage you may have. The lower your plan deductibles, the higher your premiums. Instead of paying the insurance company this extra money, pay yourself. Set up an emergency fund and start paying into that account to help offset a higher deductible should the need arise.

Cell phone plan extras – Check your data usage against your limit to ensure you really need the amount you’re paying for. Are you paying for extras, and if so, are you using them? Optional features, like music streaming services and Wi-Fi hotspots, may not be necessary.

ATM fees – Poor planning can lead to this needless expense. Use your expense tracking information to determine how much cash you need on hand each paycheck and withdraw it from your financial institution when you get paid to avoid these fees. If this proves too much of a temptation to spend, consider switching banks or moving to a local credit union that offers better ATM options.

Utility usage – Perform an energy audit. Most utility companies offer online tools that allow you to track your usage and analyze potential waste. Smart energy use can bring your bill down and help the planet.

Unused memberships – Are you enrolled in membership services that you don’t need or use? Some examples include gym memberships, subscription “box” services, Kindle unlimited, and YouTube and Hulu adblockers. If they’re not really necessary, get rid of them.

Convenience store shopping – You pay extra for the convenience. Cut those “stop-and-shop” trips out and pick up what you need at a market or grocery store instead.

Eating out – It’s much cheaper to prepare your meals at home than to eat out at restaurants and fast food joints. Start small by bringing your lunch to work and decreasing your restaurant outings by two dinners each month. Challenge yourself to improve on this goal over the following six months.

Drinking/smoking – If quitting these bad habits isn’t a viable option just yet, work on cutting down. Track what you spend on cigarettes and/or alcohol. Set a plan to cut down 20 percent each week.

Other Areas to Work on Smart Financial Habits

This overview is just a primer to get you started off on the right financial foot for 2019. There are numerous other ways you can clean up your personal finances. Follow some reputable financial gurus on social media for proven advice and guidance.

Some other areas that you should concentrate on include your taxes, savings, and credit. There’s no shortage of available advice online. Just choose your sources wisely. Check your bank and credit card company websites – these financial institutions often offer helpful personal finance resources. Just start. It only takes 66 days to change your behavior for the better. You have 12 months – Go!

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