We all know the importance of staying on top of our game, especially when it come to our finances. We’ve created a new resource to help you keep financially fit every month in 2014. Each month we will compile a checklist of financial to do’s to keep you on track to reach financial freedom and financial security. (More Financial Checklists)
♦ Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Resolutions, *sigh*. Everybody’s setting them. No one’s doing them. Except you!
Set financial goals that are S.M.A.R.T.
Example: I want to pay off $6,000 in credit card debt by Dec. 31st, 2014.
Specific – “$6,000” and “credit card debt” are specific things.
Measurable – You can measure your progress by setting dollar amounts.
Attainable – $6,000 over 12 months is a goal that might not be easy, but it’s definitely in reach. Sure you want to be debt free, but saying you will pay off a debt of $30,000 in 12 months isn’t realistic for most people and will most likely cause you to give up early.
Relevant – Getting out of debt is directly related to your financial freedom and security.
Time-bound – People need deadlines. If we don’t have an end date, we will always put things off. Extra credit – break down your goal into smaller time frames to keep it in front of you. (Pay off $500 of credit card debt this month)
For more reading on the importance of SMART goals, click here.
♦ Review Your Holiday Spending
Most people don’t like to look at our credit card statement in January, but it’s necessary to know where you came out after the dust clears from your Christmas spending tornado.
Did you stay within your holiday budget? Did the sales get the best of you this year? It’s important to review this while it’s still fresh in your mind, and write down do’s and don’ts for next December.
♦ Make a Budget for the Year
With your S.M.A.R.T. goals in mind, create a budget that works with your current income and includes your goals. Make sure all your money is going somewhere, even if it seems insignificant, give it a category. Ask yourself tough questions, and be realistic.
♦ Start Automating
After you’ve completed your goals and budget, it’s time to automate. Anything that can be automatically set up, especially savings and giving automation, DO IT!! It’s easy to get to the end of the month and see the extra $200 sitting in the account and use it for a new “toy” instead of putting it into your long term savings accounts. If it’s automatic, you take the emotion out of the equation, and give yourself a better chance a success!
♦ Organize Your Tax Documents
April 15th will come quicker than you think. Be better prepared than years past by organizing your tax documents as you receive them over the next several weeks. The more organized you are, the less stress you will endure in April!
♦ Check Your Credit Report
Get into the habit of checking your credit report as often as you can.
There are three major credit rating agencies (Transunion, Equifax, & Experian). Set up a schedule to check your credit report once every four months. Each agency will let you check your report for free once a year, so take advantage. Check your credit in January, May, and September with a different agency each time.
If you see any errors on your report, file a report with the agency immediately. Incorrect information on your credit report can do a lot of damage when you want to apply for financing.
♦ Change Your Financial Passwords
Most computer experts recommend changing your passwords once every three months. The longer you keep the same password, the more chance there is of someone hacking it and accessing your private information.
The hassle of changing a password is much less of a nuisance than having a complete stranger buy $4,658 of 3-ply toilet paper while you’re still using 1-ply.
Keep a record of your changed passwords in a excel document if needed to insure you don’t get locked out of your own accounts. Keep the document in a secured Dropbox folder for safe keeping and you will be able to access it wherever you are. You can also password protect a Excel workbook to keep prying eyes away from your important information. (Click here to learn how to protect an Excel workbook.)
Below is a link to download a copy of our Personal Financial Checklist for you to print and use. Be sure to stop back next month for another checklist and more tips to help you become financial secure!