5 Tips to take Control of Your Finances in 2011
Every year, people make New Year resolutions which typically include things like: lose weight, quit smoking, save money, or get out of debt. We thought we’d help you get a head start on making 2011 a great year for healthy financial habits. Here are 5 tips to get you moving!
- Set Goals. Your financial goals are specific things you want to do with your money in a certain time period. Your goals can be short range (such as save money to buy a new computer), mid-range (save to buy a new car), or long-range (pay off your mortgage loan).
- Get a handle on your expenses. Make sure you understand the difference between essential expenses and discretionary expenses—between needs and wants. We’ve provided a link below to worksheets which can help you track your daily, weekly and monthly expenses.
- Build a budget. Once you’ve set goals and you understand your expenses and your income—you can then create a plan. Ask yourself: Am I spending more than I earn? Can I save more if I reduce some of my discretionary spending? Do I need to earn more income to reach my goals? Are my goals realistic? A budget is simply a priority list. By sticking to your priorities, you can make sure your money is used to achieve the goals important to you.
- Pay down your debt. If you’re saddled with a lot of debt, especially unsecured debt, then work to pay off those balances. Everybody uses credit, but high-interest rate credit card and loan balances can work against your efforts to save money. Consider moving your existing card balances over to a lower interest rate credit card, such as one provided by BrightStar.
- Pay yourself first. It’s important to set aside money each month or each paycheck to build up your savings. BrightStar can help you with this too. Ask about our WISH or second savings accounts—or about our easy automatic transfers.
Worksheets to help you. Here’s a link a complete Money Management Planner (pdf) provided by BrightStar’s financial counseling partner, BALANCE Financial Fitness: http://www.balancepro.net/pdf/mmp.pdf . The Planner contains easy-to-use worksheets for setting goals, determining your net worth, tracking your expenses, debt and income. It’s a great tool.
Need personal financial counseling? If you’d like individual financial counseling over the phone, including how to build a budget, how to understand your credit report and more, call BALANCE Financial Fitness. The service is FREE for BrightStar members. For details, visit our web site: http://www.bscu.org/balance/index.htm .
So there you are—some great tools and tips to help get you started on your financial plan. Good luck with your 2011 goals!