This time of year we always hear the talk about New Year’s resolutions. Those who commit to exercising hit the gym hard in January but by early March are long gone. Those who commit to giving up smoking are often back on their cigarette breaks within a few weeks. And those who commit to save more money and pay off debt hit a wall and give up on their resolution within the first few months. The reason most people do not succeed at keeping their resolutions is that they don’t develop a realistic plan of action for handling their resolution. If you are one of those committed to getting your family’s finances in order this year, take the advice in the recent Equifax Finance blog article, “Five Steps to Getting Your Family Finances in Order in 2014.”
First, find out exactly how much you owe. Many people only focus on what they owe to creditors each month, not how much in total they owe. Add up your total balances on each of your accounts for a full understanding of how much debt you are carrying.
Next, come up with a plan for spending your money each month. Decide how much is needed to cover your monthly expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, food and transportation. Keep it realistic and flexible by including a designated amount for entertainment and clothing and other. Be sure that your expenses do not exceed your income.
Third, the article recommends that you start paying off your credit cards and do not use your credit cards until you are able to pay them in full when they come due.
Fourth, while you are paying off credit cards, you should also start building a savings cushion to cover unexpected expenses (such as a necessary auto or home repair) or to cover your living expenses should you lose your job. The article recommends that you should have three to six months of savings.
Fifth, develop a longer-term savings strategy. Start saving for your future by increasing the amount you contribute to your employer’s savings plan. You should save at least what your employer will match so that you can get as much free money as possible out of your employer’s savings plan.
Get the full article on the Equifax Finance blog, where you can find additional tips on saving money, reducing debt, building your credit and more.