Financial fitness

Getting in better physical shape is the motto for many every New Year’s. Have you abandoned your workout yet? I promise, getting your finances in shape won’t take as much work and you’ll see results. As all those W2’s arrive in the mail, now is a great time to check-up on what you did in 2011 and make changes that make you a saver rather than a spender in 2012.

1. Check your consumer reports
Did you know there are 10 consumer reports that may contain personal information about you? While your credit report is the most obvious report, there are many others including a report about insurance claims and even your rental history. Even more are being added this year, so get a grip on this before others are added to the mix. A simple mistake on a report can cost you money.

2. Review your budget
Do you even have a budget? If you don’t, consider one especially if you spend more than you save. Put your expenses to paper and you might be surprised at how much you’re really spending on miscellaneous items that you can easily do without.

I use my credit card for most purchases so I can earn rewards, so I just download my purchases for the year. Banks and credit card companies make it easy to do this so you know how much you spent on travel, food, and housing essentials like gas.

If you don’t have an easy way to track your expenses, create a system. Then, track what you spend for two weeks or a month and review your purchases. Were they all necessary or are there things you can out?

Spending too much? Start clipping coupons or shop daily deal sites.  Think it will take too much time? It doesn’t. There are an abundance of coupon sites that do the hard work for you matching up the sales to the coupons. Spend some time on them and you’ll be amazed at how much you can save by organizing before you head to the grocery store.

Finally, begin valuing every cent in your pocket. Go through your house, pockets, and car and collect all the spare change. All that loose change will add up to more than you expect.

3. Earn money to shop
How about earning money for your online purchases? Sites like Ebates allow you to earn cash back at many online retailers. It sounds like a scam, but it’s legit.I get a check in the mail every quarter.

4. Raise the bar on your 401-K
If your company matches, make sure you contribute enough to earn 100% of the match. If you’ve been holding back the last few years so you have more disposable income to cover other expenses, make it a New Year’s resolution to start saving again. What better place than your 401-K. It makes financial and tax sense.

5. Refinance your mortgage
Mortgage rates are at historic lows and refinancing can save you upwards of $100 a month. That’s an additional $1200 back in your pocket and perhaps much more. It’s a good idea if you plan to stay in your home for the next 3 years. That way you can recoup the closing costs you’ll pay to refinance.

2 responses to “Financial fitness

  1. The AICPA has a terrific financial literacy website at http://www.360financialliteracy.org. Well worth a look.