5 Financial Goals You Can Accomplish in 2019

After all of the New Year’s Eve festivities wind down and midnight strikes the clock, it’s officially 2019, and like most people, you probably want to set a resolution that you can achieve in the next 365 days. Some people focus on their physical health and opt to make weight loss and a better diet their resolution while others plan to find their dream job or cross a few destinations off of their travel bucket list.

While these are all great solutions, a new year is also a great time to set financial goals. By taking charge of your finances, you can pay off debt, save more money, and increase your overall financial standing.

Here are 5 financial goals that you can accomplish in 2019.

1. Create a Budget & Stick with It

Creating a budget is a simple yet highly effective way to achieve financial success and freedom. Yet studies have found that only 1 in 3 households use a budget to keep track of their finances in an organized way. Budgeting is a great way to devise a plan on how you will spend and save your monthly income. By budgeting, you can ensure you have enough money to pay for bills while also having money left over to put into a savings account or to spend.

The good news is that in today’s digital world, budgeting is extremely easy. In fact, there are all sorts of budgeting and financial apps available to make managing your money a breeze. Top apps include:

  • PocketGuard
  • Mint
  • Wally
  • Acorns
  • You Need a Budget

After ringing in 2019, open your app store and download one of these tools. Budgeting and money management is much easier when you’ve got a trusted app to help you along.

2. Pay off Debt

Getting into debt is easy, but getting out of debt can feel like a never-ending uphill battle. Start the New Year by making a resolution to manage your finances and Get out of Debt. No matter if you’re in $5k worth of debt or $50k, it’s never too late or too soon to start chipping away at that number. Begin the new year by having a plan to reduce the amount of money you owe creditors.

To start, make a list of your debt, to include how much you owe and to who you owe. Using the list you can determine which debt to tackle first. Some people prefer to pay off their highest-interest-rate debt first while others pay off the lowest amount of debt, known as the snowballing method.

No matter how you decide to pay off your debt, the important part going into 2019 is that you have a plan to pay down and pay off debt. Even if you don’t end the year entirely debt free, reducing your debt load is a huge accomplishment.

3. Save More Money

How much money do you have in savings? If you’re ashamed of the answer, you aren’t alone. A 2016 study found that 35% of U.S. adults only have hundreds of dollars in their savings accounts while 34% have nothing saved.

Having and continuously funding a savings account is beneficial in many ways. A financial emergency can happen at any time. Wouldn’t it be ideal to have money set aside for car repairs instead of charging a credit card? Financial emergencies shouldn’t put you into debt.

Savings accounts are also beneficial in that you can start and continue good financial habits early on. By putting money into your savings account each paycheck, you can get into the habit of saving and have peace of mind that you have money available to use outside of your checking account.

4. Build an Emergency Fund

Similarly to savings accounts, people rarely also have an emergency fund. An emergency fund can be seen as a secondary savings account. With an emergency fund, you can use your savings account to save for an upcoming vacation or to pay for a large expense. On the other hand, the emergency fund is used strictly for emergencies such as:

  • Car repairs
  • Appliance repair or replacement
  • Medical emergencies

Because financial emergencies can truly happen at any time, having an emergency fund allows you to have money to fall back on during a rough patch. Emergency funds are also beneficial in the event that you lose your job or are unable to work.

In 2019, make it your resolution to build an emergency fund that can pay all of your expenses for at least three months. Happy saving!

5. Start Saving for Retirement

No one wants to work for the rest of their lives, yet it seems so many people, especially younger generations, are opposed to saving for retirement. Most Americans have less than $1,000 saved while half of all adults in the U.S. have nothing set aside for retirement.

To get the most bang for your retirement buck, utilize any retirement benefits that your company offers, such as an IRA with company matching. Even if you can only contribute 3% of your paycheck or $50 a month, setting aside something for retirement is better than nothing! Plus you can enjoy the various tax benefits of saving for retirement early on in life.

Conclusion

With the New Year right around the corner, now is the time to start thinking of what you want to accomplish in 2019. If financial security sounds good to you, try achieving one of these five financial goals.

7 Important Money Habits to Form in Your Twenties

Everyone might be saying that “30 is the new 20,” but in reality, your twenties are a prime time to start cultivating smart money habits. This is the period in which your career can really begin to grow, so don’t throw away the opportunity to save money and prepare for a financially secure future.

As you transition from being a teenager to a full-fledged adult, here are the top seven money habits you should embrace if you want to build wealth, credit, and stability.

1. Track Every Dime You Spend

If you can’t account for the last $100 you spent, then you aren’t monitoring your money closely enough. Now is the time to learn budgeting skills, and you can’t do that unless you track your spending daily. Whether you use an app that automatically logs your charges or you manually update a spreadsheet once a week, make sure that you know exactly where your money is going. That is the first, and arguably the most important, step to becoming financially responsible.

2. Start Contributing to a Retirement Fund 

When you’re in your twenties, it may seem like retirement is eons away. However, this is the best time to start saving for your future years. As CNN Money says, the best time to start socking away retirement funds is “as soon as you can.” And there will never be an easier time to save. Once you have a mortgage, kids, and tuition to pay, it will only keep getting harder and harder.

The sooner you put funds into a retirement account, the more time those funds have to grow. Aim to put away at least 10 percent of your annual income into a 401(k) or IRA account. You’ll thank yourself later.

3. Figure Out What Food Budget Works for You – And Stick to It

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical American household spends over $7,000 on food each year. While you’re still young and relatively unburdened by other expenses, learn to eat on a strict budget. Eat at home often and limit your grocery budget to necessities. The better you become at maximizing your food budget while you’re young, the more money you’ll have for other expenses when you’re older.

4. Build Up Your Emergency Fund Every Month

The median balance of all American savings accounts is only $5,200. For most, that would only cover a few months of living expenses. A good rule of thumb to live by in your twenties is to have at least six months of living expenses saved so that you can feasibly handle any layoffs, moves, or emergencies that come your way.

5. Find a Side Hustle You Can Rely On

In today’s economy, everyone should be able to make money quickly on the side if necessary. Your twenties provide a time in which you can develop additional skills and work on finding a profitable side gig that you enjoy.  Do you love writing? Look into creating content on a freelance website. Do you have an interest in music? Teach guitar lessons on the weekends. You’ll find that a little bit of extra income goes a long way, especially in desperate situations like recessions or layoffs.

6. Try Not to Spend Money You Don’t Have in the Bank

Unless you’re applying for a car or home loan, you probably shouldn’t be spending more money than you have. That’s why credit cards are so dangerous; people see their high spending limit and wind up with a bill that’s higher than their bank account balance. High-interest rates cause you to eventually pay off your balance, plus some extra. Be safe and only spend what you can afford to pay off today.

7. Learn to Ignore Peer Pressure in Regards to Spending

Just because your friend drops $70 at the bar every weekend doesn’t mean that you should. Your twenties can be challenging because everyone is at a different financial point, but the important thing is to find a budget and lifestyle that works for you. Don’t let the spending habits of others pressure you into making poor financial decisions.

As long as you abide by these seven habits, you’ll find that saving and avoiding financial trouble is entirely doable, even on a low salary. Remember that being financially-responsible doesn’t mean that you’re wealthy; it means that you’re smart with the money you do have.

How to Better Track and End Automatic Sneaky Subscription Services

What better way to lose money than forget that you’re paying it? Many subscription models bank on two fundamental principles to squeeze extra payments from their customers. First, these companies hope that you’ll forget about that recurring credit card charge. Second, they make canceling a hassle, and hope that customers will give up instead of canceling their service.

Subscription services appeal to our love of convenience. Thousands of companies now offer a variety of subscription services. Companies such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Hungry Harvest deliver ready-to-make meals or produce to your doorstep for a recurring weekly or monthly charge, while other niche companies offer a variety of useful services. Have a dog? Bark Box will deliver treats and chew toys. Need to shave? Dollar Shave Club delivers shaving products straight to you at a discount. Pretty much anything you need can be delivered to your door.

Subscription-based companies hope you’ll love their product indefinitely…but that’s likely not the case. And when you’re ready to cancel, they hope that you’ll forget so they can squeeze a few more deliveries and earn those extra few dollars out of you. Here’s how to better track and end automatic subscription services.

Identify all Subscriptions Services Now

Before adding any more, sit down and identify all the subscription services you currently use. While most of us have entertainment subscription services (cable, shows, phone, music), you may currently enjoy others including some of the following:

  • Food: Blue Apron, Imperfect, MunchPak, MistoBox, Bon Appetit
  • Clothes: Stitch Fix, Kidbox, Trunk Club, Wantable
  • Pets: Kitnip Box, Bark Box, Rescue Box, Loot Pets, Pooch Perks
  • Personal Hygiene: Dollar Shave Club, Sudz Club, Smile Box
  • Creativity: Kiwi Crates, Darby Smart, Sketch Box, Creation Crate
  • Niche: Vella Box, Hippie Holiday, FabFitFun, BeautyArmy

Once you’ve identified them, quickly chart which services are weekly, biweekly, monthly, every three months, every six months, or yearly. Gather all the info, and then get ready to…

Read all the Fine Print

Before you agree to any subscription service, it’s imperative to read the small print. How often will your card be charged? When will it be charged? How do you cancel? When do you need to cancel to avoid an unwanted delivery? Know the rules before you sign up, or review the rules if you’re already signed up.

Immediately Make a Calendar Note

While knowing when the company will charge your card for their services for budget purposes, it’s more important to know when you need to cancel. So for example, if the company charges your card on the 15th of each month, but you need to cancel two weeks before this charge, you should make a note on your calendar that you’d need to cancel the service on the 1st of the month. You could also set a helpful reminder with Alexa or Siri. Forgetting this information would lead to an extra delivery or a late termination fee. Highlight this date so it pops and set it as a recurring notice. Review your calendar monthly to decide if you need to cancel any subscriptions.

Just Do It

When you decide to cancel, do it immediately. Don’t hem or haw. Be prepared to endure a maze of pressing buttons and waiting to talk to someone on the other end. Unfortunately, many services don’t allow customers to simply click and unsubscribe from their services; it’s part of their business model.

Trim

Trim exists as an AI assistant that works on your behalf to identify and cancel unwanted subscriptions and negotiate lower rates when possible on monthly services like cable. It was developed to help individuals stay on budget. Users must link accounts such as credit cards, so do your research to determine if Trim would be right for you. Reviews span the spectrum from great (saved the user money) to horrible (attempted to negotiate cable bill without user’s approval). The program is currently free to download, but will take a percentage of profit if it successfully lowers a bill.

On a final note: many companies offer discounts when you sign up if you subscribe on a three month, six month, or yearly basis. Watch for these subscriptions as the charges are easier to forget when they only happen twice or once a year. You may save on the monthly deliveries, but it’s easier to miss the cancelation period.

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