With 2016 underway, you probably have a resolution or two — lose weight, exercise more, finally ditch that one bad habit of yours. While you’re setting goals to have your best year yet, don’t neglect one key aspect of your life: your finances.
Your money situation affects all other areas of your life, yet it can be easy to disregard or put on the back burner. However, if you want to have a prosperous 2016, it’s time to get your finances straight. Here’s a monthly budget calendar to help you get your finances on track this year.
As the new year begins, it’s a good time to create a budget. Maybe you have one already or maybe you’ve never budgeted in your life. Regardless of your status, it’s a new year, with new goals, so it’s time for a new budget.
A budget is essentially a spending plan to help guide where your money goes. In each spending category, you’ll allot a certain amount of money.
Start by listing your fixed expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, transportation, and food. Then look at your variable expenses such as clothing, entertainment, extra-curricular activities, etc.
A successful budget can help you with two things: spending less than you earn and giving every dollar a job. Isn’t it a good feeling knowing where your money is actually going?
Is your debt repayment on autopilot? Or are you panicking about your debt and have no plan at all? Now is a good time to fine-tune your debt repayment by doing a debt audit.
To start, tally up all of your loans and interest rates. Once you have the numbers in front of you, there are a few things you can do to spruce up your debt repayment plan.
- Sign up for auto-pay. Most lenders offer a 0.25% interest rate deduction for student loan borrowers who opt into automatic payments.
- If you have credit card debt, call up your lender and see if you can lower your interest rate.
- Student loan borrowers can look into consolidation or refinancing to make managing payments easier. Through refinancing, you may be able to get approved for a better rate.
- Borrowers with credit card debt can look into getting a personal loan to consolidate their debt and save money on interest.
- If you can, put more toward your debt repayment than the minimum. Your game plan for this year should be to lower that debt as much as possible. As long as you’re in debt, your money is never truly yours.
This year you are going to become a debt repayment beast! Don’t let that borrowed money boss you around. Show ‘em who’s boss!
Now that you have a plan for your money and a plan of attack to get rid of your debt, it’s time to check your credit health. Why? Because your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life.
Your credit score affects whether you can get approved for things like student loan refinancing, a car loan, home loan, or even an apartments. You can check your credit scores for free using Credit Karma and get your free credit reports from the three major bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you’re concerned about keeping your credit in good health, remember to always make on-time payments and keep your credit utilization low. It’s best to use less than 30 percent of your credit limit or you may be perceived as a risk to your lender.
In April, you might be betting on a sweet tax refund. But while it’s nice to get a refund each year, as it feels like “extra” money, what if that money was disbursed in your paychecks instead?
Imagine what you could do with a little more money each month — pay off debt, put money toward your emergency fund, invest, or even just use it for something fun.
This month look at your tax situation and tax withholding to see if you should receive more income throughout the year instead of waiting until tax day to get money that already belongs to you.
It’s time to spring clean your finances and save some more money before the summer is here. This month, make it your goal to evaluate all of your expenses to see where you can save. Are you not using your gym membership? Cancel it and pocket the savings. Try calling your internet and phone provider to find out about lowering your rates as well.
Essentially, you want to challenge everything. At the end of the month, add up all the money you have saved and either put it toward your debt or put it in a savings account.
It’s time for fun with friends, BBQs, beaches, concerts, and more — which often means an increase in spending. Instead of focusing on pinching pennies, this month focus on getting a side hustle to earn more money.
Some things that you can do this month to start making money right away:
- Become a brand ambassador. This has been my main side hustle and typically pays between $15 to $25 per hour. Essentially, you give out free stuff at fun events like concerts, tournaments, festivals and the like. Look for gigs on Craigslist, EventSpeak, and on Facebook under “Brand Ambassadors of [Your City]”
- Do you have a car and a good driving record? Consider becoming a Lyft or Uber driver.
- If you don’t have a car, but you have a bike, consider becoming a Postmate or renting out your bike on Spinlister.
- Complete various tasks for others on TaskRabbit.
Having a side hustle can earn you a few hundred dollars per month, boost your confidence and enhance your social network.
In July it’s time to focus on celebrating your own Findepedence (financial independence)! Imagine a day when you don’t have to rely on your day job or worry about when your next paycheck is coming. Imagine NOT working until you die and retiring when you want. Sounds like a dream, right?
Through investing and saving for retirement, you can make this a reality — you just have to start. This month, put more toward your retirement. Be sure to contribute to your employer-sponsored 401(k) or IRA, especially if you receive a match.
Consider diversifying and also opening a Roth IRA, which can save you money on taxes later on. In addition, you can open up an investment account with a robo-advisor such as Wealthfront or Betterment to put your money to work. This month create a plan to grow your wealth and be consistent with your contributions.
As the summer comes to a close, it’s time to purge. Go through all of your belongings and commit to getting rid of things you no longer use. If you haven’t used something in six to 12 months, it’s a sign you don’t really need it.
Getting rid of physical clutter can help you feel less mentally cluttered. Not to mention, you could be sitting on a cash pile. You can sell your used items such as clothes, books, movies, appliances, etc. on Craigslist, eBay or by having a garage sale.
Clearing out old items and selling them can help you remove clutter from your life and make a few extra bucks so you can put more money to debt, savings, or fun.
This month focus on September Savings! Setting up a savings plan is so important for your financial well-being. Having money saved up for emergencies can mean the difference between an inconvenience and a crisis.
Saving regularly for your goals can help you stay within budget and get what you want out of life. This month, put your savings on autopilot and allot a certain percentage of your income to be automatically withdrawn from your checking account into a separate savings account.
Ten percent is a good number to shoot for, but if you can, save even more. Putting money away automatically and in a separate account can make it harder to access — which is what you want. Your emergency fund is for emergencies only! Not going on a last-minute vacation.
In addition to saving for an emergency, consider saving for your hobbies and goals through targeted savings accounts. I personally love Capital One 360 and have savings accounts for items such as “Travel,” “Moving Fund,” and “Taxes.”
This month, make sure you have a savings plan in place and make putting away money a priority.
In October, make sure your bases are covered from an insurance perspective. Hopefully you have health insurance through your employer, but if not, it’s time to get coverage during open enrollment.
Search for an affordable health plan that will protect you in case of illness. Make sure you understand what your insurance covers and what your costs are out-of-pocket.
In addition to health insurance, having renter’s insurance can help protect your belongings in case there’s an incident at your apartment or you are the victim of theft.
Life insurance is a must if you have children or are the sole breadwinner in your family. In addition, disability insurance may be a good option. Consider pet insurance to help lower the costs of unexpected vet bills.
This month, go through your insurance and assess what types of insurance you need and get covered. Ask yourself, “can I afford not to be covered?”
If you’re like me, you love going out to eat. I love restaurants, trying different foods, and the experience of hanging out with friends over a good meal. But let’s face it, restaurant spending can be a budget killer. This month, focus on batch cooking at making your meals at home.
Bring a brown bag lunch to work and cook ahead for the week so you have dinner ready for days. For one month, commit to using the extra savings to put toward debt.
December is a great time to give back. You can make your end-of-year contributions to your favorite charities which can serve as tax deductions, helping you out during tax time. Donate what you can and be sure to save your receipts. Giving back is a great way to embrace the holiday spirit while also getting a nice tax deduction.
The new year is a great time to take control of your finances. While you’re focusing on your health and career as well as other resolutions, you can improve your financial situation, too.
Improving your finances might seem daunting, but with this handy monthly budget guide, you can take simple steps each month of the year to rock your finances in 2016. Here’s to your best year yet.
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