Family Budget Tips: Start New Year the Right Way By Michelle P. Sharrow, MBA
Start Year the Right Way
By Michelle P. Sharrow, MBA
Do you feel like you could have done better saving, staying on budget, or spending wisely last year? Rather than beat yourself up about it, here are a few things you can do this month to get your 2009 off to a good start.
Revisit your budget
If you found it hard to stay on budget, now is a good time to assess every outflow to determine where you went wrong. Consider things such as whether you used to low of a figure when you budgeted for expenses such as electric, gas, and telephone services. If you found it difficult to budget for these types of services that fluctuate from month to month, now is a perfect time to consider signing up for a budget payment plan. With a budget payment plan (available through some service providers) you pay a set amount every month regardless of your usage. While there may be some months that your payment exceeds your usage, over a 12 month period things will even out and you’ll have better control over your budget throughout the year.
Additionally, January is a good time for you to really give some thought to whether you are spending your income wisely. If you failed to meet your savings goals last year, are there some services that you could cancel or modify so that you can shift those savings to your bank account? With falling gas prices, is there more money there that can be allocated to your savings?
Review Your Account Terms
If you have outstanding debts including a mortgage, car loan, or credit card, pay special attention to the current rate of interest that you are paying. Now is a good time to consider refinancing your home or car. Additionally, due to deterioating economic conditions, many credit card companies are now increasing interest rates on even their best customers. For this reason, it is very important that you open each and every statement and read all of the inserts. If you find that your creditor is increasing the rate, do not act hastily by closing the account as this could have a tremendously negative impact on your credit score if you have an outstanding balance. In this situation, your best bet is to stop using the card and make every effort to pay it off as soon as possible.
Clean Out Your Closets
Another good thing you can do while you are gearing up for a divine year is to go through all of your closets and remove items that you don’t use, can’t fit, or forgot you had. You can donate these items and save the receipt for your charitable contributions for the 2009 tax year. Or you can save them for a spring yard sale or sell them on E-bay.
Organize for the Tax Season
If you haven’t already set aside your receipts for completing your 2008 tax return, spend some of this month sorting through your collection of mail and receipts and place everything you’ll need to file your taxes in a single folder.
A few other things to remember as you kick off 2009 are to continue to shop with a budget and always comparison shop for the best deals and maximum costs savings. Lastly, your household budget is a living document and as such, you should modify it throughout the year as necessary.
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