The year is almost over — but there’s still time to make progress toward your financial goals. Let’s jump right in with 30 simple steps you can take in 30 days to end the year on a financially high note.
1. Review your budget.
Make sure you use your budget to help you spend on what you value and cut costs that don’t bring you joy. See if there’s any place in your current budget where you can eliminate expenses and save that money instead.
2. Set your savings goals (or make sure you’re happy with your existing goals).
Do you have your savings goals set for the new year? If not, think about what you want to accomplish and consider what it will take to get there.
If you have existing goals you’re in the process of working toward, take a moment to revisit them and make sure you still feel good about them and are on track to reach them.
3. Increase your retirement contributions.
Set your savings up to keep pace with your earnings. Go ahead and increase your retirement contributions — even if it’s just by a percentage or two. If you’re feeling really ambitious, make sure you max out these accounts!
4. Review your insurance policies.
Do you have the coverage you need? Do you need to update existing policies to provide more protection — or is it time to reduce how much coverage you pay for? Review your insurance so you know you have what you need.
5. Negotiate your bills and go rate shopping.
Speaking of insurance, set aside one day this month to gather all your bills (including what you pay monthly premiums on) and call up your service providers. Ask about discounts or cheaper service options that will help you save a little more money each month.
You can also browse around online and check out the rates of competitors. If someone offers the same service for less, use that as a bargaining chip — or cancel your existing service and get the better deal somewhere else.
6. Evaluate your emergency fund.
Do a quick rainy day fund check-up. If you used some of your emergency funds to take care of an unexpected expense in the last year, make sure you top off the account and replenish the fund. If you don’t have emergency savings yet, make a goal to put aside at least $1,000 for emergencies to start. Then work toward saving 3 to 6 months’ worth of income in your emergency fund.
7. Automate your savings.
If you haven’t put your savings and investment contributions on autopilot yet, do so now! Automating your savings means you can’t forget to fund your goals, or feel tempted to spend that money instead.
8. Think about new ways to save.
Do you have a 401(k) but not an IRA? Open up a roth individual retirement account (if your income allows) and start contributing there, too. Did you add to your family this year? Look into a 529 plan and start your college savings fund now.
9. Make a plan to increase your income.
Savings is (obviously!) important to financial success. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on how much you can save and neglect the other side of the coin: how much you earn.
Before the end of the year, brainstorm some ways you can increase your income in the next 12 months. That might mean negotiating for higher pay at your current job. You might want to explore new career opportunities. Or you can think about a side hustle, like freelancing — or even starting your own business.
10. Keep up your motivation.
Reaching financial goals is hard work. If you feel exhausted just thinking about all your to-dos (or the work you still have to do to reach success), find ways to keep your motivation high. Consider creating a vision board or making a list of your goals and placing them on the fridge so you can remind yourself what you’re working so hard for each and every day.
11. Pay off your debt.
Okay, maybe you can’t pay off all your debt in a single day. But you can devote some time to evaluating your balances and creating a repayment strategy that helps you pay it off faster. Paying off balances starting with the highest interest rate loan first will help you save the most money on your debt.
12. Get help with your student loans.
As part of the process of evaluating your debt, do a quick check into student loan repayment programs. If you qualify for a program that might make it easier for you to repay your debt, consider if it makes sense for you to enroll.
13. Sell your stuff.
A new year means a fresh start, and that can apply not only to your finances but to your home, too. Take a day to go through rooms and closets and declutter. You’ll probably want to trash or give away most of your clutter — but if you come across higher-value items that you could resell, go for it and make a little extra cash.
14. Rebalance your investment portfolio.
You have an asset allocation you want to stick to with your investments. But as the market moves throughout the year, that allocation can drift away from your ideal target (of, for example, 80 percent stocks and 20 percent bonds).
Check out your investments and rebalance your portfolios as needed to get back to the asset allocation that’s right for your goals and timelines.
15. Make use of your FSA funds.
If you have an FSA, make any appointments you may have been putting off now and use the money that’s in your account. FSA funds are a “use it or lose it” benefit, meaning they won’t roll over into the new year. Use them now!
16. Do some tax-loss harvesting.
As I explained for Kiplinger, tax-loss harvesting “is when you offset the taxable capital gains that you’ve had throughout the year on your investments by selling investments that have lost value. The realized capital losses help to reduce the taxes owed on the gains.”
17. Set up money dates with your partner.
Communication is key to financial success when you’re working toward it with a partner or spouse. Go ahead and block off times in your calendar to have monthly money meetings, where you can review your finances, talk about money, and ask important questions or make decisions together.
18. Get a little more for every dollar you spend.
If you know how to use credit cards responsibly, consider getting a rewards card that offers cash back or points you can use on something you value like travel. This will help you get about 1 to 3 percent more for the money you planned to spend anyway.
19. Learn more about money.
Knowledge is power. Check out some important personal finance books that can help you better understand your money and what you want to do with it.
20. Request your free credit report…
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request a free copy of your credit report. You can get the report for free once per year (after that, you need to pay a small fee to access it). Once you have the report, check it for errors. If you find a mistake, you’ll want to dispute it with the credit bureaus.
21. …and check your credit score.
Your credit report and your credit score are two different things. Get both to get a better understanding of the health of your credit. Many credit card companies now show you your FICO score with each statement.
22. Make any last-minute tax planning moves.
A lot of tax-related actions need to be taken before December 31. Call up your CPA and check to make sure you’re caught up on what you need to do to get the tax breaks you deserve when you file next April.
23. Cancel subscriptions and memberships you don’t use.
Yes, you might have paid for monthly passes to that trendy acro-yoga studio with the best intentions. But if you haven’t been to a class in months, it’s time to cancel that subscription and save your money instead. Look at all your recurring charges and cancel the ones that you don’t actually use.
24. Check your bad (and expensive) habits.
This is a good time to pause and reflect on your habits — and what you might want to change. Could you stop smoking or cut back on drinking? Is it time to challenge yourself to learn to cook a few basic meals at home instead of relying on fast-casual food?
The cool thing about dropping some of your bad habits and looking for ways to improve your life is that not only will you likely feel better physically and mentally, but you’ll likely give your financial health a boost too.
25. Know your paycheck inside and out.
If you only care about the number that goes into your bank account when you cash your paycheck, it’s time to get to know your pay stub better. Use this post to help you analyze your pay stub like a financial planner would.
26. Update your apps.
Do a quick review of what apps could help you better track, save, and invest your money in the new year. While you don’t need every app on the market, a simple budgeting app that makes it easy to track your spending can help you become more mindful and aware of how you use your money.
27. Get your estate plan in order.
Yes, you do need one. An estate plan protects your stuff, your assets, and more importantly, your loved ones should something happen to you. Talk to your financial planner to get a recommendation for an estate planning attorney, and start the process of setting up these important legal documents.
28. Determine if you’re better off financially now than you were at the beginning of the year.
Measure your progress by looking at your net worth. Did it increase? You can also ask yourself things like, did I pay off debt? Did I earn more money (and save more)? If you say “yes,” that’s a good sign you’re on the right financial track.
29. Treat yourself.
After all this hard work, make room in your budget for small treats every now and then. It could be as simple as buying a cupcake from your favorite bakery, or you might want to pamper yourself a little more with something like a massage. It’s important to prioritize your savings. But you also need to make some space for the fun stuff, too.
30. Talk to your financial planner — or set up an appointment to consider working with one.
You might want to check in with your financial planner to make sure you’re not missing any important money moves you need to make before the end of the year. Or, if you still don’t have a planner on your team, schedule a session to chat about your options for doing more to work your wealth now.
I’m so excited and honored to be selected as one of the California ambassadors for this ambitious financial education program, Women’s Money Week 2017 (#WMW2017) and I wanted to make sure you’re clued in to all that’s taking place from January 1st-7th. Check out the information below and head here to receive FREE Daily Action Kits and Event Tickets to enrich your financial life.
Why Women Need a Money Week
- 66% (that’s 2/3rds) of Household breadwinners and co-breadwinners are women. – The Shriver Report
- 1 in 3 women lives in or on the brink of poverty. – The Shriver Report
- 3 out of 5 women over the age of 65 (married or single) cannot pay for her basic monthly needs.
- The median earnings for all women are $638 a week, compared to $798 for men–approximately 80% of what men earn on average – The Bureau of Labor Statistics
- If Women were paid the same as men for the same job, poverty in America would be reduced by 50% – Women21.gov
- Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases on everything from autos to health care including 89% of Bank Accounts. – Marketing to Women Conference
- 84% of Women feel misunderstood by investment marketers – Marketing to Women Conference
- Fewer than two in 10 women feel “very prepared” to make wise financial decisions. Half indicate that they “need some help,” and one-third feels that they “need a lot of help.” – Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women 2010−2011
- Women own 40% of all stocks. – A.T. Kearney
- The average woman spends15% of her working years outside of the workforce caring for children and elderly parents compared to the average man’s 1.6%. – Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement and National Center for Women’s Retirement Research
- Nearly two-thirds of U.S.women ages 40 to 79 have already dealt with a major financial “life crisis,” such as job loss, divorce, the death of a spouse, or serious illness. – AARP, “Understanding Women’s Financial Needs and Behavior,” 2007 survey.
- 80-90% of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives- mainly due to divorce and the fact that on average women outlive men by seven years – National Center for Women and Retirement Research
- Even though women have a longer life expectancies, when asked how much they were aiming for in retirement savings, women aimed lower, with a median goal of $200,000 versus $400,000 for men. – Retirement Fitness Survey 2010
What Women’s Money Week 2017 (#WMWeek17) is About:
Women’s Money® Week brings together the best and brightest in personal finance in the beginning of January to discuss money issues as they uniquely relate to women. It’s about taking control of your finances and reshaping your financial future.
National Women’s Money® Week is a free national, non-profit public awareness and education campaign from January 1-7, with the mission to reduce the communication gap women experience and help you move from being financially fragile to becoming financially resilient.
Women’s Money Week Participants get:
- One Action Kit per Day of Women’s Money Week
- The Action Kits are delivered daily to your inbox from January 1-7.
- You’ll receive exclusive Women’s Money Management Tools
- Stop by the Women’s Money Week Website Every Day for Inspiring Reading
#WMWeek17 Topic Schedule
- Sunday, January 1: Relationships & Money / Financial Organization
- Monday, January 2: Goals / Taking Action
- Tuesday, January 3: Entrepreneurship / Earning Your Worth / Making Money
- Wednesday, January 4: Budgeting / Saving / Spending
- Thursday, January 5: Managing Debt / Savings
- Friday, January 6: Credit / Identity Theft
- Saturday, January 7: Investing in Your Future: Retirement / Investing / Insurance / College Planning / Home Owners
Head here to receive FREE Daily Action Kits and Event Tickets to enrich your financial life and get involved with Women’s Money Week!
The information in this article was sourced from the Women’s Money Week 2017 website.
So, you want to learn more about finances. You care about your financial well-being and want to make sure you’re making the right money moves. That’s great news! It should be easy enough to find answers in our overly connected world since a quick internet search can pretty much lead us to resources for anything we’re curious about. However, leveraging the internet to solve some of your problems can quickly escalate into information overload as you probably know by trying to fix any career, health, or money problem you’ve come across through the input of strangers. In order to guard you from the overwhelm of options available, and since April is financial literacy month, I thought now would be a great time to give some pointers on how you can take the reins of your financial literacy. Here are some immediate steps you can take in building your financial knowledge:
· Ask Questions
The first step to taking control of your finances is to ask yourself some important questions. The most important one to start with is “Why”? Why are you are ready to take the reins of your finances? Are you trying to overcome debt? Make sure you have a sound savings strategy? Trying to reach a very specific money goal? What are those pressing financial questions you have and why are they important? – These are the types of questions that will help you find the right answers for you and your situation. Once you’ve determined your “why,” start asking questions of your financial habits, of the decisions that have lead you to where you are and also ask questions of any professionals you work with.
· Grab a Few Books
Having sound resources handy will go a long way in providing you with the information you need to gain more understanding around important financial subjects. A few good financial books can offer clear explanations of complicated topics, advice on how to approach your finances, where to start, examples of concepts and real-life stories, and even helpful worksheets and resources that go along with the topics the book covers. The good news is that books about personal finance are getting better! They aren’t all boring text-book style anymore. In fact, you can get your hands on my new book: Work Your Wealth: 9 Steps to Making Smarter Choices with Your Money (shameless plug!) that I wrote as a useable resource that cuts through the crap, lays out an organized plan of attack, breaks down your financial steps into specific homework assignments along the way, and leaves readers with clarity and confidence in their financial life. I definitely recommend hopping over to Amazon.com to skim personal finance best-sellers for more book options!
· Seek Online Resources
We are lucky having so much information available to us on the internet and online is a great place to go for continued learning. Between continuously updated blog sites like gogirlfinance.com and larger media companies like U.S. News & World Report and Yahoo! Finance, you can get your eyeballs on plenty of helpful articles on anything you may want to know more about by skimming the latest headlines. Other sites, like mint.com, provide tons of information and also make it easy for you to organize all your financial information in one place. Mint is an app that helps you effortlessly keep on top of it all and provides a lot of advice and guidance along the way.
· Have Money Conversations
There really is a tremendous amount of learning that happens when we open up and talk to other people about finances. Whether it’s having money conversations with your spouse, financial advisor or even your boss – it’s important that you feel comfortable talking about money and asking questions. The more money conversations you have, the more comfortable you will become and the more you gain to learn about finances in general, as well as about what’s important to you. You will even learn how you value your time and talents when you talk with employers about compensation and other work benefits. Never pretend you know something when you don’t. Ask your CPA, your boss, your attorney, your financial planner or whomever you have money conversations with for clarifying answers and information. Money conversations serve as a conduit for greater understanding and clarity around your finances.
· Do Money Dates
These can be as fun as they sound if you let them! A money date is a time when either you by yourself or you and your spouse get together for an hour or two to review your finances and have an open and honest conversation about what is going on in terms of spending, savings and goal progress. Put your money dates on the calendar the same day every month and set it as a recurring meeting. Take the date seriously, but try to enjoy the transparency of what money dates provide: the ability to keep a pulse on how things are going so you stay on track and reach those important goals. P.S. no one said your money dates couldn’t include a glass of wine!
· Check-in Every 6 Months
Being intentional about your financial education is the secret to your success. It’s what will keep you mindful about your money and always alert to powerful questions that help you become more informed to make the best financial decisions for you. Be sure to check-in with yourself every 6 months. This is intended to help you take stock in where you started, what you’ve learned in the last several months, the progress you’re making and new questions you may have about finances. Taking the reins of your financial literacy is a choice you make and one that takes courage and dedication, and I’m so excited for you if you decide to take control in this important area of your life. Here’s to you and a successful financial journey.
Get your hands on a copy of Work Your Wealth: 9 Steps to Making Smarter Choices with Your Money and a ton of other worksheets, templates and guides that go along with it here!
Keeping track of your finances is easier than ever, with your computer, smartphone, and tablet all allowing you efficiently manage your money. Today’s apps are even better at helping you stay on top of every aspect of money coming in and going out. The following 10 money apps are some of my favorites, and they’ll help you conquer your finances in 2016. Ready to get on track for a successful 2016? Start downloading these money apps today!
One of the most popular finance trackers out there, Mint is simple to set up and intuitive to use. Mint syncs all of your accounts to give you a comprehensive picture of how much you’re saving and spending throughout the year. The app sends you reminders before bills are due, and offers alerts on where you can save money. In addition to helping you keep track of your bills, loan payments, and personal savings goals, Mint also summarizes your net worth for you. If you input everything you own, including your car, house, and student loan debt, Mint will synchronize those accounts to determine your net worth. Each month, you can watch your net worth grow as you continue to make good savings and investing decisions.
2. Your Bank’s Mobile App
Whether you bank with one of the big companies or a local credit union, almost all banks have a mobile app to help keep you connected to your money. Some institutions’ apps are increasingly sophisticated, too, using fingerprint or eye recognition technology instead of passwords for your login. With many banking apps, you’re able to deposit checks, transfer money, and pay bills. If you’re ever out and remember you needed to transfer money, you can now do it — all with the touch of a button.
While not technically a money app, Waze can save you in drive time. With the price of gas, that can really be helpful! Waze serves as a GPS navigation system, but what makes it unique is the fact that it’s a crowdsourced platform. Open the app, type in your destination, and drive with the app open to get alerts from other drivers about accidents or road closures along your route. Waze helps you to avoid those troublesome spots by giving you alternate, faster routes.
4. Hotel Tonight
Formerly a “tonight only” hotel deals app, Hotel Tonight now let you book rooms 7 days in advance at deeply discounted rates. Hotel Tonight is ideal for last-minute travelers and planners, those who like to show up in cities on a whim and no scheduled hotel room. Hotel Tonight is also a terrific idea for those looking for staycations. If you’ve ever wanted to stay at a fancy hotel or resort in your city, but never thought you could afford it, check out Hotel Tonight tonight and track how low prices are for a room at the resort. You’re likely to find the cheapest rates during the week, but you can still find lower rates for booking last minute during the weekend, too.
GoodBudget is an excellent money tracking app based on the envelope budgeting method. While the envelope budgeting method is excellent for planning out your spending, it’s not exactly practical to carry around $300 cash in an envelope. GoodBudget takes the envelope budgeting method and brings it into the 21st century. By splitting out your estimated expenses for the month, GoodBudget keeps track of your spending and subtracts it from its electronic envelopes. This app takes an excellent money planning method and makes it mobile, which makes it easy for you to stay on top of your finances.
6. Gas Buddy
The Gas Buddy app is based off the robust Gas Buddy website, and now it’s even more helpful as an app on your phone! The Gas Buddy app can show you the closest, cheapest gas station to you. Gas Buddy is based on user contributions, and when you report the lowest or updated gas station prizes, you’re entered to win $100 in free gas.
7. Level Money
Level Money is a budgeting and tracking app, especially designed for those of us who prefer a visual representation of our money to straight numbers. After linking your bank accounts, Level Money shows you how much is safely spendable, tracks your expenses, and helps you plan your monthly budget. As you spend throughout the week, your full circle chart decreases as the amount you have left to spend is decreased. This not only helps you see exactly how much you’ve spent so far, but also how close you are to being at $0 left to spend. Level Money is an excellent money app for those who prefer a visual representation of their finances.
Much like their excellent site, RetailMeNot.com, the RetailMeNot the app is an excellent aggregation of almost all the coupons out there for your favorite stores. Unlike other coupon apps that only give you discounts on things you don’t really want, RetailMeNot has coupons for almost all major retailers. Before you go out shopping, check out your RetailMeNot app to see if there’s a discount for you.
The DealNews app is an incredibly comprehensive money app designed to get you the best deals on quality items. With the DealNews app, you can read reviews on hundreds of discounted items, save deals for later, and create alerts for similar deals if you’re not ready to buy right away. Best of all, DealNews also has an app specifically tailored to Black Friday shopping. Get all the latest updates on Black Friday deals before they happen, so you can plan accordingly for your holiday gift-giving.
If you’re one of those people who has receipts for your business or to save later for taxes, Shoeboxed is for you. All of us have some type of receipt clutter around the house, and instead of saving everything in a shoebox in your house, save them in this electronic shoebox! Shoeboxed scans your receipts and keeps track of everything for you once you tag a receipt as “business expense,” “charity,” and so on. You can scan receipts and documents with your phone or at home with your scanner and, best of all, export this data to QuickBooks, Evernote, Excel, and more. Shoeboxed makes finding and storing your important documents easy. 2016 is the year to take control of your finances — so why not let technology make it a little easier on you? By using these 10 money apps to track your budget, save on shopping and gas, and possibly indulge in a deserved (and affordable!) staycation, you’ll conquer your finances in the new year and enjoy doing it.
As an entrepreneur, it’s up to you to bring in the money in your business. And as you know, it’s up to you to manage the money to help the business grow.
It’s no different outside of your work with your personal finances. If your own finances are in order, you’ll protect your family, reduce stress, and free up time to help you focus on your business. Take these steps to better manage your money at home.
1. Separate Your Business and Personal Finances
If you’re a new entrepreneur, you might have fallen into the trap of not separating your personal and business accounts. It feels more convenient now, but it makes keeping track of both difficult. Keeping separate checking, savings, and credit card accounts makes tax time easier, too.
And in some cases separating your assets reduces your liability risk of losing everything if something negative were to happen down the road.
2. Track Your Income, Expenses, and Cash Flow
You need to be crystal clear about whether or not your business is making or losing money. Once again, it’s just the same in your personal finances. You can get that clarity by tracking your income, expenses, and cash flow. If your expenses are regularly exceeding your salary from the business, you need to know so you can make changes sooner rather than later.
As an entrepreneur, you probably have a variable income. That’s why you have to take it one step further and plan your cash flow. Cash flow can be tight when a large expense and a lower income month hit at the same time. It’s not just how much you make and spend; it’s also about when the income and expenses hit.
Take a look at the whole picture so you can see if you need to save in advance for a big purchase. Paying attention to both your income and cash flow will make it easier to meet your monthly obligations and still have some left for fun, too.
3. Create a Budget That Works on a Variable Income
Managing cash flow on a variable income is not a simple task. A budget helps make it easier.
Separate your expenses into necessary expenses, discretionary expenses, short term savings, and long term savings. You now have a monthly income target. If you ever have a lower income month, you’ll know exactly what you need to pay the bills. Then you can allocate the rest according to your priorities.
4. Build Up Your Emergency Fund
As an entrepreneur, you will probably have some months where you make less money that you’d like. Your emergency fund is your first defense against an income that changes from month to month with slow or busy periods.
The general rule of thumb is that you keep at least 3 to 6 months of expenses saved. Since your income is more volatile, you deal with more risk — and that means creating a bigger fund. Aim to save 6 to 12 months’ worth of expenses to protect yourself against the unexpected.
5. Take Advantage of Retirement Accounts
Even though you’re not an employee and can’t use a 401(k), you need to save for your future. In fact, that makes it all the more critical for you to do so — it’s up to you to put aside some for the day you can’t or don’t want to work anymore.
Make the most of your hard-earned income by tucking away your savings into tax-advantaged retirement accounts. You can start by putting away some income into a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a traditional IRA. If you’re self-employed, you can also contribute to a Solo 401(k). If your business has just a few employees, or you are self-employed, you can also choose to contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP).
6. Protect Your Income with Proper Insurance
As a business owner, there’s a lot at risk. If you were to pass away, become disabled, or even make a honest professional mistake, both your business and your personal assets could be at risk. Protect your income by making sure you have the right insurance.
At a personal level, consider homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, and umbrella insurance. The exact specifications about what you need will depend on your personal situation. Consult with an experienced financial advisor to make sure you have what you need to protect your future at a reasonable cost.
7. Automate Your Finances
When running a business, there’s always something that needs your time and attention. There’s no need to spend your precious energy doing work that can be eliminated altogether.
Automate your finances so the whole system runs without you. Set up your paycheck to be sent to your bank account automatically. Set up your regular bills on auto-pay. If the company doesn’t have an auto-pay option, look into sending a check from your bank. Make your investments automatically, and you’ll dollar cost average into the market as well.
8. Hire Professionals
As an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats to keep everything running. But you probably get paid by adding value to clients by doing something really, really well. Let financial professionals help you in the way you help your clients.
Build a money team for yourself, consisting of an accountant, financial advisor, bookkeeper, and attorney to make sure you are covered in every aspect of your business. You’ll protect yourself from trouble and save money in the long run.
9. Outsource to Free Up Time and Energy
As your business grows, you will be often be stretched for time and energy. When you are, take a look at your workload and see if it makes sense to outsource.
Consider both your home and business responsibilities. Maybe it’s time to hire someone to clean your home, or perhaps it’s time to bring on an assistant in the business.
Hiring another person does cost money. But it enables you to focus on higher level tasks to help you earn more and scale your business.
10. Reinvest in Yourself
Your business will always need money, time, and attention to grow. But you are the driving force behind the business. That’s why you must reinvest in yourself.
Go take a course or attend a conference. Set aside some savings so your future self can take advantage of big opportunities. You’ll grow as a person, and your business will grow, too.
The Next Step
Take the time to bring your personal finances to a better place. By managing your money well, you’ll reduce your financial worries so you can focus on taking yourself – and your business – to next level.