Whether you're reading this in January, July, or even in December, here are five personal finance moves that could propel you to a better place.
- Command your cash flow. Get a handle on your money this year by recording everything you spend, every day. Categorize expenses and total them up weekly. Put pen to paper or use online tools to help you do the tracking. After a couple of months, scrutinize each category for places to cut back or cut out altogether. Finally, save what you've cut each month.
- Demolish your debt. Who's the biggest winner in the consumer debt game? It's probably not you. Become the victor this year by eliminating or significantly reducing your consumer debts. First, make a commitment to not add any more. Then, put a plan in place to pay down what you have. It's generally best to start with the highest interest rates first.
- Brawn up your bank account(s). "Plan and save" is much better than "don't plan and borrow." Start saving now for big recurring expenses such as holidays, vacations and back-to-school shopping, so you don't have to borrow when the event arrives. Set up and name a separate savings account for each goal to help you stay the course. And remember, not all expenses are planned, so start building your emergency fund today.
- Protect your people. Does anyone currently depend on you financially? Or will someone at some point in the not-too-distant future? If so, protect them by making sure you've got adequate life insurance coverage.
- Dominate your destiny. Eliminate any uncertainty surrounding Social Security or a military retirement by not relying so heavily on them. Instead, take control by paying yourself first. Stash a little money from each paycheck in your 401(k), Thrift Savings Plan, IRA or even a nonretirement account. Whatever the way, start saving today.