The new year is a time to reflect on the good, the bad, and the “just OK” financial decisions you’ve made in the past. Fortunately, it’s also a time to think about your future. Think of 2019 as an opportunity to do better and consider these moves for a stronger, healthier financial future:
1. Prioritize your debt. Take stock of what you owe and how much you’re paying in interest. Start with debt that carries the highest interest rates. Typically, this means credit card debt. Once you tackle your credit cards, consider paying down auto loans. If you can only afford to pay one or the other, you may want to consider the opposite strategy: pay off the secured debt first (auto loan) and then your unsecured debt (credit card) so that you don’t risk losing the asset tied to the loan. There are other, less obvious ways to lower your debt. You may be surprised to discover that some creditors are willing to negotiate and decrease your financial burden.
Read: The average American continues to suffer as cost of living rises faster than wages
2. Close accounts you don’t need or use. Remember when you opened that credit card to take advantage of a new customer perk? Or when you opened that extra checking account that you never use? What about all those subscriptions you forgot to cancel after the trial ended? In addition to the burden of keeping track, most of these accounts and subscriptions carry fees, an unnecessary expense for accounts you don’t use.
3. Take stock of your financial standing. Having a good credit score is more important than you may think. Your credit score affects more than just your ability to get a loan. It’s used to set your insurance premium and to determine your interest rate on your mortgage. It’s even used by landlords to determine whether they want to rent a home to you. Having a low credit score can actually cost you money so it’s important to see where you stand and make a plan to improve it.
4. Create a reasonable budget and do your best to stick to it. Now that it’s so simple to pay for things, we rarely have to use cash anymore. Although this makes life more convenient, it also makes it more challenging to keep track of spending. With an array of helpful apps available to consumers, it’s easier than ever to spend less and save more. Download any one of the powerful budget apps, set goals and start tracking.
See: Why people who earn a lot of money still can’t pay the bills
5. Stop overpaying for monthly services. Whether it’s subscriptions or high wireless and cable bills, Americans overpay by about $50 billion a year. Consumers often miss the hidden fees and charges, tacked onto their bills by corporate giants. Research shows that even when consumers do discover opaque billing practices, there is little effort to decrease their costs. Long hold times, poor customer service and inconsistent results are major deterrents for busy consumers. Fortunately, companies like Billshark can save customers time and money by lowering monthly bills in just a few minutes.
This year, change your mind-set. Be aware, set reasonable goals and resolve to have a year with a strong personal finance strategy.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
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