new year's resolution financial check-u

New Year’s Resolution Checkup

new year's resolution financial check-u


Did you make a New Year’s resolution for your finances? Now is a good time to check up on how you are doing with those resolutions. If you are still on track, congratulations! If you are struggling to keep your resolution, don’t give up. Evaluate where you are going wrong and resolve to get back on track.


According to a study by Fidelity Investments, saving money is the top financial resolution. Everyone has the best of intentions when it comes to saving money. Unfortunately, you need more than a resolution. You need a plan. The Internet is full of creative ways to save money from collecting all your change or five-dollar bills to saving an increasing amount of money each month through the year. These are all a great way to save a little extra, but they all have the same flaw. It’s easy to find a reason each month not to save that money. So, setting up an automatic deposit from your paycheck into a savings account is a much better plan.


If you are trying to save money, you need to spend less. Chances are that if you take a good look at where your money goes during the week, you’ll find some easy places to spend less. Keep track of every penny for the next 7-10 days. Then go back and look if your actions match your goals and intentions. Think about all the money you could save if you made your own coffee instead of buying it every day for a year. How much are you spending on meals you are not making at home? Try bringing a lunch to work and finding easy meal solutions for weeknights. You don’t have to be extreme, but utilize coupons, savings apps, and store rewards cards. Do you have a gym membership or fees for other monthly services that you are not using? Can you cut your phone or cable services? Making little changes to your spending habits can add up to big savings over the course of a year.


Paying down credit cards and other debt is the second most popular financial resolution. Gather information about the amount owed, payment, and interest rate on all of your debts and make a plan of attack. Credit cards should be your first priority. Rank them based on interest rate or total balance and set out to pay them off one by one. Only after you have done that should you look at other debts. Car loans and other consumer debts should fall into a second tier. If you have no other debt and are already saving and investing, focus on student loans and mortgage debt. Both of these sources of debt usually have very low interest rates, and the interest you pay is a tax deduction.


Only about 10% of study participants cited budgeting as a resolution. Yet, making a budget and sticking to it is necessary to finding success with any other financial goal. Make an honest assessment of your income and monthly expenses. Create categories of expenses and set a monthly spending limit for each category. There are some great computer programs and phone apps that will help you record your expenses in different categories so that you can have a real-time picture of how well you are doing sticking to your budget. It really is so much easier to stick to your budget and attain your financial goals when diligently track your progress every month.
identity theft hackers holidays protect money finances

Beyond Budgeting: Protecting Your Wallet During the Holidays

identity theft hackers holidays protect money finances


The official start of the holiday shopping season is just one week away. After I wrote that, I had to take a minute to digest it. How about you? The holidays are a pretty busy time for your schedule and your bank account. We have to try not to become entranced by the visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads and stay smart about our money.


If you take a minute to think like a criminal, the holidays are a pretty great time for fraud and theft.  Although debit cards are so much better to use from a budgeting perspective, they are definitely not as safe to use as credit cards during the busy holiday season.  Hackers are trying to get access to your card number or identity using scanners in stores or by breaking into servers holding capturing credit card transactions from physical stores and online transactions.  There are so many more transactions taking place with holiday shopping.  Stores are crowded and people are busy and pre-occupied.  All of these things make for happy hacking holidays as well.


Because we may not be keeping close track of our spending and accounts during the holiday season, we may not be as quick to notice trouble with our debit or credit cards.  Having a credit card number stolen is an annoyance but not much more.  Having your debit card stolen means that your bank account can get drained of funds and cause lots of other checks and bill payments to bounce.  Finding out that your electric bill, mortgage, or phone bill did not get paid right in the middle of the holidays is certainly not going to make for a Merry Christmas.  From a safety perspective, credit cards are definitely preferable to debit cards during the holidays. We just have to be a lot more diligent about budgeting.


Cash is also preferable to debit cards for holiday shopping, but then you also need to be vigilant about having your wallet or purse stolen.  Once cash is gone, it is gone for good. Still, if you are looking for the absolute best way to protect your identity, bank accounts, and budget this holiday season, cash is actually the safest choice. It’s funny that with so much technology to make our shopping easier, we resort to old-school style cash.


So, if you are headed out for some Black Friday shopping, take some cash with you. If you are staying home and shopping online, keep your debit card in your wallet and only use your credit card. Make good choices!