by Christine Alexis
Yes. I’m serious about my New Year’s resolutions this year and when my friends ask me about them, here’s what I say:
1. In 2015, I’m going to make healthier diet choices.
2. I’m going to go to the gym regularly. No excuses!
3. I’m going to travel and find new hobbies.
4. And of course, I’m going to save more money.
Saving comes in at No. 4. But I mean it, and a lot of people have goals just like mine.
A recent Fidelity Investments study shows consumers want to achieve financial stability in 2015. Fidelity found 31 percent of Americans made financial resolutions. And 41 percent say they feel more confident than they did around this time in 2013.
We all know that resolutions often fade by mid-February. But maybe if we start 2015 the right way, we’ll actually get to establish a foothold on the ladder to financial security.
As a former student-athlete, I know a good goal needs an effective game plan and that’s why we came up with 5 game plan tips to keep financial resolutions in 2015.
5 GAME PLAN TIPS TO KEEP FINANCIAL RESOLUTIONS
1. Open up all your bills.
Sure, we all wish we didn’t have bills to pay. But staring at the daunting pile of bills that we let add up won’t make them go away. Open each bill.
Make sure you pay each one on time. Write due-dates on your calendar at home or smart phone with alerts to remind you when the dates draw near.
Late payments negatively affect your credit score.
Even parking tickets and hospital bills that we forget about can have a long-lasting effect.
2 .Don’t let those interest charges add up
If you find yourself behind, you can do something about it now.
You have options!
The New Economy Project, an economic advocacy group, suggests that you contact your creditor when you miss payments, or believe you might.
Tell them that you had a setback and are temporarily unable to make payments, but also say that you want to repay them as soon as you can. This can stop creditors from passing along your debt to collection agencies who may harass you.
The New Economy Project also recommends that you contact a community development credit union in your area. Member-owned community development credit unions serve specific neighborhoods and really want to work with you. They offer members a broad range of services, including financial counseling. If you qualify, they may also help you consolidate your debts and offer a fair interest rate.
3. Use a free online credit-report service.
Beware of sites that ask you to pay for your credit score. Credit bureaus are required by law to give you one free credit report a year. AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to view all three of your credit score reports for free.
Your credit score is based on your credit history and that’s listed on your credit report. Credit scores affect a lot of things in life. Employers consider them. Landlords check them and financial institutions look at credit reports before they give you credit or a mortgage.
It’s important to know your score so you can see if there is anything you need to correct, and knowing your score can help you understand where you need to make financial adjustments. ConsumerMojo has more information about this here:
And if you can’t seem to get your credit report online, here’s why and what to do. Why Your Credit Report May Not Be Available Online.
4. Have a student loan debt repayment plan.
If you’re a recent grad, chances are you may be obligated to begin repayment on your loans in January. Research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that 13.7 percent of borrowers defaulted on repayment of student loans. Many were unable to meet deadlines for repayment.
ConsumerMojo recommends that borrowers take a closer look at their student loan debt. Get in touch with your loan servicer and explore repayment options that fit your budget. You can avoid financial hardships by staying informed about what you owe, and make plans to repay in a way that’s right for you.
If you took a federal loan, studentloans.gov has a list of income-driven repayment options to help you stay on track.
5. Be realistic and have a Plan B.
Set aside money for a day when you need it. Remember, simply saying, “I want to save more money” isn’t going to make the numbers in your account go up.
It’s smart to sit down and make a list. See where your money goes each month. Decide where you can afford to cut back and come up with a realistic amount to save based on your income.
Many of us fall off the financial planning wagon when we get discouraged. You planned to save $200 this month, but something came up and you saved only $90. Congratulations! $90 is good.
Things happen. Do better next month. But stick with it.
STAY CONNECTED WITH US
Tell us about your financial journey. Which techniques work for you? We want to know!
Best of luck in 2015!