Everyone wants to make big change in the new year. We want to quit smoking, start reading more novels and stop spending so much time on our phones.
But many of us also want to use the new time as an excuse to fix our finances. If you spend most of your days avoiding your bank account balance or refusing to open your credit card bills, then make 2019 the year you change.
Here are the best ways to take control of your finances in 2019:
Start Tracking Your Expenses
The most basic way to control your finances is to track how you spend money, whether it’s a $3 croissant or a $300 TV. Tracking your money will notify you of any trends in your life and help you find your financial weak spots. There are many apps available you can use to track or simply track on a spreadsheet or journal.
After you’ve tracked expenses for a while, you can start a budget or plan to minimize your spending and maximize your savings.
Create a Debt Payoff Plan
If you have any non-mortgage debt, make 2019 the year you finally tackle it. Make a list of what you owe including credit cards, student loans, car loans and personal loans. If you have extra discretionary income, decide how you want to conquer your debt.
There are two debt payoff methods: the snowball and the avalanche. The avalanche means paying off debt in order from highest interest rate to smallest. This strategy will decrease how much you pay in total interest.
The debt snowball method encourages people to make extra payments on the smallest balance first. When you do this, you’ll pay off individual debts faster and gain more momentum.
Shore Up Your Retirement Accounts
Most of us have no idea how much we have in our retirement accounts or how much we need to save. The best action you can take in 2019 is to determine how much is in your retirement accounts and if you need to do more.
List all your retirement accounts including your RRSP and TFSA and their current balances. Note any pensions that you might receive in the future and what you need to qualify for those.
Start Estate Planning
One personal finance topic that people usually ignore is estate planning. No one wants to think about their death or their spouse’s, so they ignore it. Unfortunately, avoiding the problem doesn’t make the process easier.
If you’re married or have a family, now’s the time to create a will. A will can speed up the probate process and prevent any snags when distributing assets.
If you don’t want to hire an estate lawyer, you can use a service like LegalZoom to create a will for a fraction of the price. Make sure to be thorough as possible when creating a will and list all of the assets you have. If possible, go through all your accounts and designate a beneficiary. That will also accelerate probate.
About the Author
Zina Kumok is a trained journalist and has covered everything from professional sports to murder trials. Now, she specializes in personal finance and has written for brands and publications such as Mint, Investopedia and Discover. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.