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How to get, and keep, your finances in order

Rebecca Gramuglia

Special to the Village News

January marks “Financial Wellness Month” and as we begin 2023, it’s important to take this month to prepare your finances for the year ahead.

To get your finances in order, here are three ways to help strengthen your current financial situation:

1. Maintain a budget. Budgeting is key to making sure that you have enough money to cover current expenses as well as future ones. By understanding how much you currently spend compared to your current income and what your goals are, you can identify areas that you need to either contribute more or less to.

For example, you may find that you are spending more on subscription services that you don’t use. In this case, you can cancel some of the accounts and put that money towards a different goal.

Pro-tip: Adopting a specific budget formula, like the ‘50/30/20’ rule, helps keep you on track financially. With this particular budgeting technique, you’ll want to spend 50% of your after-tax income on necessities (i.e., rent, utilities, food, etc.), 30% on personal expenses (i.e., dining out, activities, etc.) and 20% on financial obligations (i.e., debt repayment, savings, etc.). There are various other budgeting formulas out there, so find what works best for you and try to stick with it.

2. Keep your credit in check. Paying your bills on time (even if you can only pay the minimum) and regularly reviewing your credit report are important in making sure all of your hard work is paying off.

You can request a free copy of your credit report from one of the nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion). Compare your own records to the reports and be sure to verify that all the info listed is accurate. If something is off or missing, file a written report of the inaccuracy to a credit reporting company as well as the initial information provider.

Pro-tip: Try to get in the habit of paying off your credit card in full each month if you can. Not only will this save you the stress of racking up debt, but it will also help you avoid additional interest on the total balance due.

3. Build your savings. The first step to building your savings is to save money wherever possible. No matter where you’re shopping, always look for relevant coupons and discounts before buying. And if you shop online, use a cash back site, like TopCashback, which guarantees the highest percentage of your money back on qualifying purchases from 7,000 retailers nationwide. You can put the money you saved into a savings account so it can start accruing interest.

Pro-tip: Use a rewarding credit card whenever you shop to earn cash back, points or miles on your purchases – depending on your card’s program. Once the billing period ends, see if you can apply those rewards as a statement credit or take the amount you saved and transfer it into your savings account to keep funding your goals.

To make sure you’re staying on track with your finances when shopping in 2023, here are four more tips.

1. Review your expenses. Every few months, review your finances to ensure you aren’t paying for services you don’t use or need. Often, subscriptions are set on autopay, which can be convenient to avoid missing payments, but it will cost you more when forgotten about. And if you’re signing up for a free trial, set a reminder to cancel the subscription prior to the end date – unless you’d like to keep it.

2. Make a list. Regardless of what you’re buying, don’t forget to make a list. It’s important to plan your shopping ahead of time along with any coupons you intend to use. Planning ahead saves you time and cuts down on spontaneous purchases, and therefore helps you maintain your personal budget.

3. Stay true to you. Make sure you’re working towards a goal that you want to achieve – regardless of your age. The key for financial goals is to make them measurable within a specific time frame (ex: Save $1,000 by March 2023). When mapping out these goals for the year, also be sure to outline any action steps that will help you reach your goal.

Pro-tip: If your goal for the year is to build your savings, look into automating your income to not only go into your checking account, but also into your savings. By doing this, you’ll be funding your goals and you won't be tempted to spend the money elsewhere.

4. Save wherever possible. When you’re looking at your finances for 2023, consider all the ways you can save in each category. Do some research on your top-purchased items and research the sales for each store so you know the best time to shop (i.e., does this store have an annual sale or host ‘friends and family’ promotions?). And when it’s time to buy, use a cash back site, like TopCashback, which guarantees the highest percentage of your money back on qualifying purchases at over 7,000 retailers nationwide.

Rebecca Gramuglia is a consumer expert at TopCashback.

 

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