Financial New Year’s resolutions are one of the most common as nearly one-third of Americans plan to make one in 2019 according to a Fidelity survey. While wishing to strengthen your financial situation in the new year is a good first step, actually following through on this can be difficult. Everyone’s situation is unique, but let’s take a look at a few of the top areas to address when crafting your 2019 financial game plan.
Reevaluate your savings strategy
The start of the new year is a great time to take a step back and reevaluate your current savings strategy. First, consider looking into your retirement savings options. If you have not already, maximize the match your employer offers for 401(k) contributions. One in five workers are not contributing enough to get the full match from their employer according to research from benefits administrator Alight Solutions.
Additionally, consider sitting down with your financial advisor if your goals or needs have changed recently. Perhaps you have a new child on the way and want to begin an education savings plan, or maybe you have set a resolution to make a big purchase in the new year. Whatever your new goal may be, being prepared for the financial commitment ahead of time will be a big help in achieving it.
Learn and build your credit score
Your credit score is a constantly evolving number that banks and other lenders use to decide whether to approve you for a loan or line of credit. If you do not know your current score, it can be easily checked for free on a number of sites such as annualcreditreport.com or creditkarma.com. Checking your score on these sites does not hurt your score since it is a soft inquiry. A hard inquiry, on the other hand, is done by banks or lenders when you apply for a new loan or credit card. Too many hard inquiries in a short period of time can have a negative impact on your score.
Once you know your current score, there are many different actions you can take to improve it. The most impactful however is to improve your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you are currently using comparative to your available line of credit. For example, if you have a $1,000 line of credit and just made a $900 credit card purchase, this will likely have a negative impact on your score the longer it remains at this high ratio. Paying off current credit amounts not only helps reduce this ratio but can help you save money lost on accumulating interest charges. Consider consulting your advisor on additional tips to improve your score and pay back debt.
Identify areas to cut back
Perhaps the simplest financial goal you can make for the new year is to reduce spending on non-essential purchases. One of the most popular ways Americans are cutting monthly costs is by getting rid of traditional cable. Though streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are far from brand new offerings, the content they offer is eliminating the need for many consumers to continue spending on cable TV. This results in cord-cutters saving an average of $85 per month even including the amounts spent on internet and streaming services according to Fortune.
In 2019, do not underestimate the savings that can be had in other purchase areas like restaurants and entertainment. Forbes contributor Priceonomics found that it is almost five times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant than to cook at home. Of course, completely ditching all restaurant and entertainment expenses is not a realistic goal, but saving money on these occasions is still possible. Before planning a night out or heading to a restaurant, scan coupons sites such as Groupon and RetailMeNot for deals.