Are you struggling to create or manage a budget? If so click the button above to watch the video of the #CreditChat conversation I had with the Experian team.
We discussed everything from creating a stable financial future, establishing budgeting best practices, staying on top of your credit, starting an emergency fund, and choosing the right insurance.
You can download the Budget Sanity Saver worksheet to get a head start with creating your budget automatically. You need Microsoft Word to use it.
Chat Q & A
Here are the questions that were asked during the conversation and my answers:
Q1: What are the first steps a single parent should take when creating a stable financial future for his/her family?
Access where you are, decide where you want to be and create a written plan. Ask for help. check out Financial Planning Days for free financial planning in your area.
Q2: How should a newly single parent establish a budget? What are best practices? Write all current expenses like rent, food, car, etc. Subtract those expense amounts from your income. Best practices: Live below your means. Budget each paycheck before you spend. Pay yourself first.
Q3: What steps should single parents take to ensure they are staying on top of their credit? check your credit report regularly. Your bank may offer free monitoring. Get your annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Spend only what you can repay immediately. Pay your bills on time or at least make arrangements to pay.
Q4: What financial documents should newly single parents review when creating a financial plan? Review your bank statements to see the history of your spending.
Q5: Are there any tax credits or deductions that can help reduce the amount of taxes single parents pay? earned income credit. child care credit. Student loan credit.
Q6: What are best practices for establishing an emergency fund? Pay yourself first in each paycheck. Add most or at least half of your tax refund. Sell items you don’t really need and put it in the fund.
Q7: What insurance considerations should single parents take? Term life seems to be a good policy to have since it covers you for a specific period of time while your children are still in your home.
Q8: What should single parents know about creating an estate plan? Talk with a financial planner who has information and/or an attorney. Get your will made so your family and the state knows what to do with your property and your children in case of your death
Q9: What advice do you have for a single parent who is struggling financially? If it feels like you are drowning stop the leaks. Take a deep breath. Remember it is temporary. Create an action plan to slow your spending, increase your income, focus on what you have instead of what you do not have.
Q10: Do you have any final financial tips for single parents? You have the power to become financially free. Learn all you can about money management. Focus on increasing your income rather than cutting everything from your life. Get the kids involved and teach them the value of money but more importantly the value of life and family.
Great grocery tips for single moms whether you are in school or not!
Whether you’re spending your Freshman year in off-campus housing or you just left a dorm—and meal plan—behind, one big change is on the horizon this school year: you need to make food for yourself with your own kitchen, two hands, and brain. And that means besides making time in your busy schedule to cook, you’ll also have to budget for the shopping as well, which can be tough on a college student income.
While it might seem overwhelming to feed and shop for yourself, you’ve totally got this. Let us help you put your money worries to rest with these grocery shopping tips. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to go somewhere else for help with calculus.)
1. Check Student-Friendly Stores
The easiest way to save money while shopping is to frequent local markets that offer student discounts. Usually, stores close to campus know they’ll get more customers if they offer a 5%–10% discount for those with university ID cards. Buying your weekly groceries from these shops at a discounted price is perfect for sticking to your budget.
2. Buy Generic or Store Brand Products
Most supermarket chains offer generic packaged products. These store brand products are usually cheaper than brand name products, even though they’re virtually the same. To save some cash, switch to store brand whenever possible.
3. Shop (Mostly) Vegetarian
Besides being bad for the environment, meat is pretty expensive. So whether you plan for Meatless Mondays or go completely vegetarian, you’ll definitely save money. And if you do buy a little meat, avoid steak and expensive seafood entirely, as those purchases will take up a lot of your budget.
4. Buy Frozen Vegetables
Perusing the produce section might be fun, but buying frozen vegetables is often the best way to go. Bags of frozen veggies are cheap, and as a busy student, you’ll save time by not having to chop and prep anything. Frozen vegetables still have lots of nutrients, so you can easily eat healthy with minimal effort.
5. Plan Your Meals (and Stick to That Plan)
One of the most important things you should do before grocery shopping is plan out your meals for the week. A meal plan will help you stay on track and (hopefully) under budget when shopping because you’ll know exactly what you need. You can save a lot of money—and start to drop that Freshman 15—by skipping over those impulse buys like Cheez-Its and Oreos.
6. Use Coupons—Seriously
While it might seem silly to pick up a newspaper or coupon booklet, you should make the effort to clip coupons before shopping. You can plan your meals around items that are on sale, and you might even end up trying a new food or recipe. The cents and dollars you save will really add up. Plus, even if you’re against wasting paper or money on newspapers, you can still find plenty of coupons online.
7. Save Money on Bags
Some states have implemented bag taxes to reduce waste, meaning plastic bags at the grocery store cost money. Bring your own bag (any free bag from a college club will do) to both save the environment and save money. Those few cents would make a dent in your wallet after a few weeks.
8. Eat Before You Shop
Studies indicate that being hungry while looking at food only leads to greater perceived hunger—which could lead to more impulsive thoughts about food. Make sure to grab a snack at home or have a friend grab you something from the dining hall before you head to the store. That way, you can avoid spending more on things that excite your hungry stomach.
9. Use Technology to Your Advantage
These days, there’s an app for everything. Grocery shopping is no different. As a tech-savvy college student, you can easily download several apps that help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, budget effectively, or eat healthier. There are quite a few different apps out there, so give several a try to find out which ones make your shopping experience easier.
10. Don’t Waste Anything
Along similar lines, you should use Supercook.com to turn whatever’s left in your fridge and pantry into a meal. All you have to do is plug in what you have, and then your edible odds and ends can be used instead of thrown away. It’s easier than you’d expect to make food—even older food—taste good.
11. Check Out the Dollar Store
Surprisingly enough, you can actually find plenty of affordable groceries at the dollar store. If there’s one near campus, make sure to frequent it to get great deals on basic necessities like bread, milk, and peanut butter. If there isn’t a dollar store nearby, make a trip every once in a while to stock up on shelf-stable food items like pasta or canned goods.
12. Shop Alone
Going shopping with friends can be fun, but shopping on a budget is not a social activity. If you’re serious about saving some cash, hang out with your friends another time. Shopping with others will increase the number of unplanned purchases you make, whether that’s desserts, extra snacks, or weird produce they want you to try on a dare.
13. Buy What’s in Season
Produce that’s out of season can be unreasonably expensive, so you might not want to buy strawberries year-round. Instead, check out the USDA’s website to see when your favorite produce buys are in season.
14. Freeze Anything and Everything
Yogurt, bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, you name it—almost everything lasts longer when you throw it in the freezer. Freezing leftovers from meals works great, too. Put some individual servings in the freezer to eat when you have to cram instead of cook.
15. Be Alert at the Cash Register
Make sure all the sale items you purchase are sold to you at the correct price. Be attentive when you’re checking out, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. After all, everyone knows college students work with slim budgets. If a can of beans or a bag of frozen chicken rings up incorrectly, simply ask the cashier to double check the price.
16. Avoid Perishable Bulk Item Deals
While some deals might seem really tempting, it’s not worth it for a college student with limited space and money to buy four gallons of milk, 10 pineapples, or seven cucumbers just to get a cheaper price per unit. The food will definitely go bad before you use it up, and then you didn’t really save money at all. If you want to buy in bulk, opt for nonperishable items like oats or rice.
If you’ve used all these steps and are still worried about your food budget each month, a credit card—used responsibly—could be the answer. Many cards offer rewards for groceries, which could help you earn a bit of cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Read our guide on Credit Cards for Students, and don’t forget to check your credit report for free at Credit.com before applying.
If saving money was easy, everyone would be doing it. Unfortunately, the excuses for not are easy to stack — what with mortgage or rent, utilities, kids, student loans, pets, food and just the slightest social life, it can seem like there isn’t a penny to spare.
The trick to saving more is to make it simple, make it automatic and make it something you never have to think about. Still not convinced you can hack it? Check out some of these easy ways to save more every month and you might be surprised how much your bank account grows.
1. Sign Up For an Account That Automatically Saves For You
Many banks make it easy for customers to save these days by doing it for them automatically. For example, enroll in Bank of America’s Keep the Change program and for every purchase you make using a Bank of America debit card, the bank will automatically round your purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference from your checking account to your savings. How easy is that? Check with your own bank to see if they offer a similar program.
2. Automate Your Savings Yourself
If you’re more of a “do-it-yourself” kind of person, automate your savings yourself by signing up for a monthly transfer directly from your checking into your savings account. You’ll know the transfer is coming every month, which will make you feel good, but you won’t have to go in and physically make the transfer yourself, which will feel even better. If you can, try setting up multiple savings accounts for your different goals (i.e. house, travel, emergency, etc.). By purposefully diverting your hard-earned money into specific buckets, you’ll feel more like you’re working toward an actual goal, rather than just generally saving for a rainy day.
3. Use a Financial App to Track Your Progress
If you find that it’s hard for you to save because you aren’t seeing your progress at any given time unless you log into multiple accounts, there’s an app for that. Download a budgeting app and you can connect all of your banking in one area for ease of use. Don’t feel comfortable with an app? Your bank may offer something similar on their website. Now every time you make a purchase, put money into savings or take cash out of the ATM, you’ll be able to see exactly how your money moves have affected your current savings, goals and budget.
4. Make the Most of Your Credit Cards
If your current credit card isn’t garnering you some type of rewards, it may be time to make a switch. These days, credit cards offer such great incentives through rewards programs, so unless you’re prone to carry a balance on your card from month to month (rewards cards can come with higher annual percentage rates, which can cut into any rewards you earn), you could be missing out on some serious savings. If it’s pure cash that you’re interested in, check out Credit.com’s guide to finding the right cash-back rewards credit card.
5. Learn to Haggle
Remember, cars aren’t the only things you can haggle over. Check with your internet and cable provider and call your cell phone company to see if the price you currently pay is the best they can do. Ask for discounts on items in the grocery or retail stores, too. Take the difference between what you would have been paying and the final price you end up with and stock it away in savings.
6. Avoid Paying ATM Fees
You might think ATM fees aren’t worth worrying about, but those quick trips to the ATM can really add up. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid paying ATM fees.
Remember, you’ll save money on everything from your mortgage and auto loan to credit card interest if your credit scores are good. If you don’t know where yours stand, you can find out by taking a look at your free credit report summary.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
Last summer, the New York Times ran a piece about families who can’t afford summer camp or other programs for their kids. It highlights a problem for many working parents: Summertime care for kids is expensive.
This is especially true if your kids are in public school during the year. You suddenly go from paying nothing to have your kids cared for all day to paying a whole lot of money. Many parents may not have much choice but to find summertime childcare.
If this is the boat you’re in, here are a few ways to find a summer camp for your kid and options that may make it more affordable.
1. Check Online for Summer Camp Options
These days most states and major metropolitan areas have parent blogs or magazines devoted to the local area. In my local Indianapolis, for instance, we have Indy’s Child magazine and IndywithKids.com. Both feature a listing of local summer camp options.
Chances are you can find something similar for your area. If you can’t, there are national resources, too. The American Camp Association has a database for finding day and overnight camps in your area. It leans towards ACA accredited camps, though it will list some not accredited. When I ran it for our area, it turned up some but not all the options I know are available. Still, it could be a place to begin your search for a summer camp.
2. Choose a Less Expensive ‘Base Camp’ Option
One thing that makes summer camp expensive is the specialized options. I’ve seen sports camp, Lego camp, technology camp, horse camp and more. If your kid goes to these specialty camps for the summer, you’ll undoubtedly spend more money.
However, many local YMCAs, schools, daycares, churches and city parks programs offer more traditional summer camps. Our daughter’s daycare, for instance, offers a school-aged summer camp program where they hang out at the daycare for much of the day, but also take trips to local parks, libraries, and pools. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s safe, fun, affordable childcare.
If you can find an option like this, build your summer around it. Then you can splurge on a week or two of more expensive specialty camps for your kid.
Where do you find these less expensive options? Check out the following:
YMCA: The Y runs summer camps all over the U.S., and sometimes offers a sliding scale fee to make things more affordable. While they offer more expensive specialty camps, most local Y’s also offer traditional day camp options.
Churches and religious centers: Many churches and religious community centers offer summer-long day camp options that are quite affordable.
Schools: Local schools with before- and after-care programs may transition those into affordable summer camps with fun activities for kids.
Parks and recreation: City and county parks and rec departments also run summer camps, and these tend to be more affordable than other options.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: If your child is a scout, look into their summer camp options. These are often overnight options, but they tend to be very affordable.
Local businesses: Sometimes local businesses offer summer camp-like programs that are for mentoring older kids who may want to become entrepreneurs. These camps may be based on an application process, so be on the lookout well ahead of time.
Local colleges: Often local colleges and universities provide camps as a way to get their own students teaching, leadership and coaching experience.
3. Consider a Nanny Camp
Can’t find any affordable summer camp options in your area? Consider putting together a “nanny camp” with friends or neighbors. This is basically a summer-long nanny sharing program.
You’ll hire a nanny to take care of a reasonable number of kids — say four or five — and the nanny can do some summer-camp activities, like going to local parks and pools. This works best if the kids in the nanny camp are around the same age, and if you can provide the nanny with a safe way to get the kids around town.
4. Ask for Assistance
If you can’t afford even the least expensive camp option on your list, ask for financial assistance. Many summer camps offer scholarships for enrollment fees. Sometimes the information about these options isn’t easy to find, so ask about it. Even if you feel like you make too much money to qualify, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
You should also check for discounts. Some camps offer early registration discounts, and others will give you a reduced rate if you pay for the whole season at once. Tons of summer camps also have sibling discount options, which is why it often makes sense to enroll your kids in the same summer camp.
Making summer camp fit into your family’s budget can be tough, especially if you’re not already used to paying for full-time childcare. But there are plenty of excellent, affordable options out there if you just know where and how to look.
Cell phone bills can be expensive, on par with the monthly costs of powering your home or keeping your car gassed up. Of course, your cell phone can help you build your credit, but only if you aren’t strapping yourself with too large a bill every month.
So if you’re sick of shelling out a small ransom to call, text and watch YouTube cat videos on your smartphone, you should know there are ways to cut your bill. Here are 11 options:
1. Choose the Right Plan
If you’re signing up for a new cell phone plan, make sure you’re only paying for the plan you need. Unlimited texting, calling and data plans are nice, but you may use your phone less than you think.
Take a look at your phone usage over the past few months to determine if average usage is way under the allowances you’re paying for. If so, you can save some money by switching to a downgraded plan.
2. Keep Your Phone Longer
Many wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T dangle the carrot of a new phone upgrade every year or so. Of course, you like new devices, but you might end up shelling out hundreds for a new phone or rolling the cost into your wireless bill, which sounds tempting in the store but will add to your monthly cost.
If your current phone works, hold onto it to save money.
3. Skip the Insurance
Device insurance sounds appealing when you’re about to drop hundreds on a new phone. But in many cases, it isn’t worth the cost.
“At $11 per month from Verizon, you’d still need to cough up an additional $50 to $200 for the deductible, depending on your device. It’s more cost-effective to invest in a sturdy, protective case and screen cover and treat your device with care,” said Kendal Perez, Savings Expert at CouponSherpa.com.
It’s also worth checking with your credit card issuer to see what, if any, kind of extended warranty options they offer on new purchases made with your card, or if you pay your cellular bill with your credit card. Learn more about your options with this handy guide to getting your money back when you break or lose your phone.
4. Use Family Plans
If you need more than one phone line on your plan, you may want to check if your wireless carrier offers family plans. Family plans offer savings for additional phone lines, decreasing the average cost of each line. In some instances you may be able to split the costs with a friend or family member you trust.
5. Don’t Surpass Your Data Limit
Seriously, don’t do it. Wireless carriers often impose steep fees when you surpass your data limit, so if you’re regularly bumping up against your limit, you may want to comparison shop for an unlimited plan. It could end up being cheaper than going over your limit several times.
6. Reduce Data Usage
If that’s not an option, consider reducing your data usage. Use secure Wi-Fi wherever available, especially when you’re engaging in data-heavy activity like downloading podcasts or watching videos. If you can reduce your data, you can potentially switch to a plan that charges less.
“Unlimited data plans are making a comeback…however, it’s better to track your usage and pay for the data you actually use. Compare plans between carriers and read the fine print,” said Perez.
7. Do a Bill Audit
Many providers charge for things you’ll never use or already have, such as emergency roadside assistance or 411. Next time you get your bill, go through every fee and charge to make sure you know what you’re paying for. Some unused services could be removed from your bill.
8. Look for Employee Discounts
Many employers and jobs have discounts available with major wireless carriers. Examples may include active-duty military members or state government employees. Find out if your employer or wireless carrier participate in such plans.
“If your employer has a business plan with a carrier, employees are typically eligible for a discount,” says Perez. “Ask your supervisor or HR department about this benefit and the amount of the discount.”
9. Make It Tax Deductible
If you have a home business and use your phone to conduct business calls and emails, you can deduct some or all of the cost of your wireless plan at tax time. This will indirectly reduce the cost of your cell phone bill.
10. Cost Share with An Employer
You also may conduct business on your personal phone for your employer. This could include phone calls, email and any other work activity. Ask your employer if they participate in phone reimbursement or cost-sharing policies.
11. Negotiate With Your Provider
Like many other service providers, wireless carriers face stiff competition from other wireless giants and smaller providers. As a result, they may be willing to negotiate to keep your business. Call your wireless carrier, tell them your bill is too high and that you’re thinking of switching to another provider. You may want to be ready with offers from other wireless carriers, and you’ll have some negotiation power if you’re a long-time customer and always pay your bill on time.
Also, keep in mind, the better your payment history, the better chance you have of negotiating, so don’t wait until you’re making late payments to begin talking. If you’ve already made some late payments, for your phone or other bills, you can see how they’re affecting your credit scores by reviewing your free credit report summary on Credit.com.
Switch Wireless Carriers
Competing wireless carriers are constantly trying to lure customers away from each other. If you can find a better offer from another carrier that provides the service you need, you have a compelling reason to switch. You can even look for budget alternatives, such as prepaid plans.
“Prepaid, no-contract plans from Boost, Virgin Mobile, Ting and Page Plus are all cheap alternatives to big-carrier plans… compare costs between big carriers and no-contract providers before you buy.”
The idea of doing something for an entire year is both daunting, unpractical and, frankly, a little boring.
So let’s try something new this year. We’re going to take a single resolution – getting your finances in order – and break it up into 12 easy-to-accomplish, month-long goals.
By setting up a series of manageable tasks, you’ll be able to make real month-by-month progress while staying motivated and mindful of the big picture. Because, really, what good is starting something if you can’t finish it?
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to take stock of your financial past, present and future. Start by looking back at the previous. Was last year a success from a financial goals standpoint? Next, talk to your partner about where you want to be financially both today and tomorrow. Make sure your short-term plans are nested directly within your long-term view and both are leading to the same endpoint.
You should consider creating SMART goals for your finances. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based (SMART). You could make a goal this year to finally get out of debt or build a fully-funded emergency fund. Or, you could save for a down payment on a house.
A short-term goal could be paying for all of your Christmas gifts next year with cash. If that’s actually one of your short-term goals, now is the time to start. Look at how much you spent last year on Christmas gifts. Set a budget now of what you’ll spend in December and start saving each month for that goal.
Short-Term Goal — Pay for Christmas 2017 With Cash!
Specific. Set a specific dollar amount to save. The average American spends about $460 on gifts for family members.
Measurable. Look at what you spent in 2016 and use that figure to budget this year.
Achievable. If your budget is $600, you need to save $50 each paycheck.
Realistic. Yes, you can get it done in a year if you start now.
Time-based. You have 12 months to save for next Christmas.
2. February: Increase That Emergency Fund
It’s important to have at least three to six months of living expenses saved for the unexpected. Maybe even more if you have a large family to provide for. An emergency fund helps keep you out of debt or prevents you from increasing debt in the event of something unforeseen like the loss of a job or an unexpected home or car repair.
Facing off with debt (credit card or otherwise) can be daunting. But not dealing with it can be crippling when trying to achieve your financial goals
Debt affects your credit and that, in turn, affects other aspects of your financial life, such as life insurance premiums, car insurance rates, job prospects, and more. (You can see how your debts are affecting your credit, for instance, by viewing your free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
Take March and start a debt snowball There are two philosophies when it comes to paying off debt. You can either start your debt snowball by tackling your smallest debt first. Or, many financial experts recommend starting with the debt that has the highest interest rate first.
Starting with the smallest debt and paying that one off first (while making all of your minimum payments on your other cards) instead of the one with the largest interest rate has a psychological effect. It’s a quick win that will build momentum. It’s amazing to see yourself pay off debts. It’ll keep you motivated and hungry to pay off more.
Paying off your debts with the highest annual percentage rate (APR) is more cost-effective, since it can save you on interest.
4. April: Time for a Last Will & Testament
It’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but you don’t want to die without a will. It can often lead to your final wishes not being followed and put additional stress on your loved ones when they’re already suffering.
Having a last will and testament ensures that your desires are known and carried out correctly. Who will take care of your children if you die while they are still minors? Who will take care of them if you and your spouse die at the same time?
Children are just one of the many reasons that you should have a will. Whether you’re single, married, or have children, you don’t want the probate courts deciding important manners about your belongings and wishes.
If you don’t want to spend money on an estate attorney just yet, there are numerous online wills or forms that you can use. These resources can provide a solid starting-off point, and then you can hire an estate lawyer on an hourly basis to ensure you’ve considered everything.
Whichever route you choose for creating a will, just make sure you have a witness present and that you sign in front of a notary.
5. May: Assess Your Life Insurance Needs
Life insurance helps ensure that your family will be financially protected if you die. (Full disclosure: Haven Life, the company I work for, sells life insurance.)
If you have loved ones who depend on you for financial support and you don’t have a policy outside of work, then you’re probably not adequately covered.
Most employer-sponsored life insurance coverage only provides one or two years salary for a death benefit. That may seem like a lot to some, but the recommended amount of coverage is usually five to 10 times your annual income. And it’s important to remember that employer-sponsored coverage usually doesn’t go where you go, which means coverage usually ends when you get a new job.
Life insurance should help cover:
Day-to-day living expenses
A mortgage and other debts
College costs for children
Future healthcare costs
Funeral and final expenses
Any legacy you want to leave
6. June: Consolidate Your 401K Accounts
Young workers move around and take a lot of jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 20% of Millennials have job hopped within the last year. But, with all of this moving, what happens to your retirement plans? Many workers simply leave their 401K retirement plans spread across their many former employers. If you’ve changed jobs recently, March is a good time to turn your attention to consolidating your 401K retirement plans. Roll over the old accounts into your new employer’s 401K or a Traditional IRA.
By keeping all of your retirement savings in single place, you’ll have better control and more investment options at your disposal. Consolidation will also help you maintain the right asset allocation based on your current risk tolerance.
7. July: Increase Your Retirement Contributions (But Not at Your Budget’s Expense)
You can boost your retirement savings without killing your budget if you increase your contribution with every pay raise earned.
If you get a pay raise of 2%, consider increasing your monthly contributions to your 401K or Roth IRA by 1%. It’s a sneaky way to trick yourself into saving more for your retirement without feeling the pain. Especially if you can time this increase in retirement savings before you even see the larger paycheck.
8. August: Open a 529 Account
A 529 College Savings Plan is a great tool to help you save for your children’s college education. As soon as your newborn receives his or her Social Security number, consider opening a 529.
Parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members) can contribute after-tax dollars to the plan, which typically offers a number of different investment options. Your contributions can grow over time, and earnings are tax-free as long as you use them for qualified higher education expenses when withdrawn. You can also receive a deduction on your state income taxes in many states for 529 contributions.
9. September: September Is for Shredding
Financial statements are like weeds. If left unattended, they can grow, multiply and before you know it, take over your desk completely.
Knowing which financial documents to keep and which to shred is key.
You can shred receipts for items you aren’t going to return as soon as the purchase has posted to your account. You can destroy credit card monthly statements after you’ve received them and reconciled your purchases.
Better yet: Consider switching to digital statements. Start going through your bank, credit card and investment accounts and opt for digital statements instead of paper copies. This way, you’ll help save the environment and keep desk clutter to a minimum.
Remember, it’s important to keep monthly investment statements until you receive your year-end statement. You should keep year-end statements for at least seven years in case you get audited. The same is also true for all tax documents. You should keep supporting tax documentation for at least seven years.
Shredding your financial documents or having a digital safe haven is one of your best defenses against identity theft.
And, hey, shredding a stack of papers never stops being gratifying.
10. October: Build Your Financial Team
We all need some help in our corner and trusted advisers we can turn to.
A financial team can be a sounding board for ideas and can help you stay on track with your financial goals. You may want to consider working with a financial planner, a tax professional, insurance agent, mortgage broker and/or real estate agent. If your financial life is an enterprise, this is your personal board of directors to assist you.
Get your team in place now and then turn to them throughout the year when you need help with things like filing your taxes, adjusting your investments or even insight on if it’s a good time to put your house on the market.
11. November: Stop Giving the Government an Interest-Free Loan
Your goal should be having little-to-no income tax refund each year. Having a small refund means that you’re getting the right amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck each month.
A large income tax refund is equivalent to an interest-free loan to the government. According to IRS records, the average income tax refund in America is $3,120. That equals $260 each month that you could add back to your monthly paycheck.
Too many Americans look at an income tax refund as a year-end bonus, but it’s an overpayment of your taxes every month. What could you do with an extra $260 each month?
Take some time in November to check in with your HR department about changing your withholding and updating your W2.
12. December: Rebalance Your Investment Portfolios
Many investors do not get a higher rate of return on their investment portfolio because their allocations get out of whack. December is the perfect time to rebalance your investments.
Investors should rebalance once a year to optimize their desired investing mix based on their investing timeframe, objectives and tolerance for risk. Rebalancing helps you stick to your investment plan and avoid potential anxieties as the market fluctuates. Many financial experts recommend rebalancing once a year either during the new year or in the investor’s birthday month.
Mix, Match & Reorder to Suit Your Needs
So, there you have it. Not all to-do lists need to be a mile long. The point is, where possible, divide your financial goals so that you feel like you’re making progress during the entire year versus a mad dash to accomplish everything this month.
Feel free to mix, match and reorder these tips to best suit your family’s needs. If you’re like me, while working on this, I decided to increase my retirement contribution by 1% now versus waiting longer into the year.
Ultimately, what matters most is that you’re working toward tackling your financial goals and setting yourself up for long-term success. A month-to-month to-do list could be the best way to keep yourself on track.
(Note: While we hope this information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation.)
Hank Coleman contributed to the reporting of this article.