Every year, one of the top New Year's resolutions for Americans is to get their finances in order. With our busy lives, it's easy for another year to go by without charting your spending, saving for retirement, and setting financial goals. Make this the year you stick to your resolution and get started with these easy steps.
Before diving into a budget, the first thing you want to do is to take a good, hard look at your spending habits. Take some time at the beginning of the month to write down all of your expenses and income to have a big picture look at your finances. Most credit card companies and banks have websites that let you effortlessly track your spending and even categorize your purchases. Looking at the big picture can help you set financial goals. Whether you want to get out of debt, save more, or make a significant investment, you need to know how much is coming in and how much you are spending to begin to make changes.
Once you have an idea of your income and spending, look for ways to decrease your expenses. Some expenses are fixed, meaning they don't change from month to month, like your rent, cable, and utilities. Look at these fixed costs and see if there is any way to cut them down or do without them. Can you get rid of cable or lower your cell phone bill? Once you have cut back where you can, look at your discretionary spending to see where your budget is taking a hit. Are you eating out more than you should? Are you spending more on clothes than you need to? These are the areas you should be able to scale back on each month so that your budget works. If you have cut fixed and discretionary spending and are still spending more than you make, it's time to think about ways to increase your income or lessen expenditures like a cheaper car or living situation.
Now that you have an idea of your income and expenses and you have whittled down your costs, it's time to complete your budget. There are countless budget apps to make tracking your spending accessible and less time-consuming. Here are a few of the best budgeting apps of 2017. Mint, an oldie but goodie, takes the hassle out of making a budget. Just connect the Mint App to your bank, and the app can use your details to create a personalized budget for you. Pocketguard, a budget app that also connects directly to your bank accounts, lets you see your money in simple terms and analyzes your spending to plan for recurring payments to better understand your cash flow. If you don't want your budget app connected to your bank accounts, try the ever-popular You Need a Budget (YNAB). YNAB is a system that helps you create a budget you can follow and teaches you to live on last month's income.
Like so many other areas of your life, AAA is here to help you get your finances in order and ready for the new year. We offer various options to get your financial life in order, from Discover Bank CDs and IRAs to great deals on annuities and products like LifeLock and TurboTax. And it's always a good idea when reviewing your finances to make sure your insurance policies are in order and up to date. Locate your local AAA Insurance Agent or give us a call at 1-866-315-1252 to find out more.