Start the New Year by being honest with yourself. Ok, really honest. Did you keep a budget last year? Did you track your spending, even for a month? Have you tried to make a dent in your credit card debt? Yeah, serious is super hard. I know.
But if you can't answer "YES" to these questions, then NOW is the time to get real with your finances and fix the money issues you created in 2016. These five financial kickstarters can kick your money woes so you can start the year in fine form and finish with money in the bank.
1. Negotiate Your Repeatable Expenses.
I often call my cell phone, internet, and utility bills "repeatable offences" because I'm offended when I get hit with these repeatable expenses every month. Rather than blindly paying the bill, go ahead and comparison shop the competition and price check the packages on offer. Service providers want your business and may cut a deal if you ask.
2. Be the B-Word.
New year, new budget.
A budget is a financial plan for tracking the flow of money into and out of your life. A budget highlights the spending habits you’re not aware of and helps you better plan for future spending. The hard part is getting started, so check out my free budget spreadsheet for the details and learn how to track your spending and income. Totally doable.
3. Make a Flipp List.
Using the grocery aisle displays for dinner inspiration is a surefire way to blow your food budget before the week is up. With food prices on the rise, it pays to plan meals and build a grocery list to account for your brunch, lunch, and dinner needs.
Flipp's Shopping List is a crazy flexible feature. Use the Flipp app to tap and add grocery items on the go, or snap a pic of your paper list and let Flipp transcribe the details for you. Families can even collaborate and combine lists through Facebook and Google. I'm into it!
4. Pay Off Your plastic.
Credit card debt is an expensive debt to carry. With interest rates on many cards near 20%, paying just the minimum balance only prolongs the agony and increases the amount paid to the bank.
Paying off a $5,000 credit card balance at 21% today could save you $3,719 in interest if you're just scraping together the minimum payment each month. If your balance is higher then you could easily save a thousand dollars each year just by increasing your minimum monthly payment.
5. Avoid the Lost and Found.
If you parent preschoolers to near teens, then you know the price of hunting for lost kids' gear in the school's Lost and Found -- I call it the "Lost and Costly". So before sending your spawn to school in new gear gifted from the holidays, be smart and label everything with their names.
Kerry K. Taylor is a consumer expert at Squawkfox.com.