Effective Ways to Get Your Finances Under Control This Year

o Take responsibility for your finances. Don’t try to shift the blame for your financial circumstances onto anyone else – your spouse, parents, employer or the government. This just reinforces in your mind that you’re not capable of taking control of your finances.

o Write down your goals. What is it you really want to achieve this year? It’s not enough to just dream about improving your financial situation. Setting goals helps you to create a solid financial plan – what it is you want to achieve, steps you need to take to achieve it, and a timeframe.

o Set up automatic savings plans. We’ve long given up the saving culture of our parents and grandparents. Our current savings levels are the lowest since the Great Depression. And, according to some non-profit organizations, over 40 percent of Americans spend more time planning their next vacation than planning their retirement.

Try to set up a savings plan to stash away at least 10 percent of your income this year. If you don’t already have a retirement plan, such as a 401K, you should get one. They help to secure your financial future, but also provide tax benefits. Arrange automatic withdrawals to coincide with your pay periods so you don’t have the chance to spend the money before it’s deducted.

o Create a debt reduction plan. Several surveys, including one conducted by the Pew Research Center, show that more than 40 percent of all Americans spend more than they earn. Earning more money isn’t always the answer, because in many cases, the more people earn the more they spend. Try to eliminate unnecessary expenses and set up monthly automatic payments for each bill. If you can try to pay more than the monthly minimum on credit cards each month.

o Keep good records. This may seem like a laborious chore, but it helps to reduce financial stress and allows you to take advantage of valuable tax deductions. Keep track of receipts for expenses such as medical treatments, donations to charities, or for your small or home-based business. Have a filing cabinet drawer, box, or folder to keep your receipts. You can even make your life easier by entering them into a software program on your computer.

o Don’t make knee-jerk decisions. Last year the recession forced many of us to take risks such as giving up health and life insurance. But these budgetary moves can lead to greater financial problems down the road for you or your family. Get advice before making any drastic moves. For instance, find out if there are cheaper plans that you may be able to afford, or do some comparison shopping for other insurance providers.

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