Whether your aim is to manage your money better or to eliminate financial guilt for good, the only way to make that scary goal seem a little more achievable is to map out a path to success.
If your financial goal for 2018 seems like more of a pipe dream than simply a task on your to-do list, then that’s good. It means you’ve set your sights high and are poised to push yourself to make it a reality.
Ready to take control of your finances in 2018? This is your six month plan.
January: Review Your Credit Cards
A 2015 study reveals 31% of Americans have no idea how much their current credit card costs them in fees. Yes, credit card fatigue is real, and it could be costing you hundreds of dollars.Use this month to gain a better understanding of your bank, credit card, and ATM fees. Scan your bank statement to find out what your most common fees are, and then work to either refute or avoid them in future. If you have a credit score over 690, you could be eligible for top-tier credit cards with better rewards.
February: Address Any Debt
Debt can seem impossible to climb out of, but avoiding student loans or credit card debt isn’t the solution and could harm you in the long-term. Dedicate this month to addressing debt, and put measures in place to start paying it off.
Tip: Collect statements to get a real grasp of your debt. That includes medical bills, student loans, mortgage, credit cards, and personal loans – everything. Use credit score services like Credit.com to check the accuracy of your debts, like late payment fees and credit limits.
March: Do a Money Cleanse
You’ve set a savings goal, drafted a budget, and created a plan to pay down debt. Now, it’s time to supercharge your savings or debt repayments.
Challenge yourself to eliminate all unnecessary costs for the month of March. Think of it as the financial version of Dry March. Trade dining out for potluck nights, suspend your Netflix account, and resolve to brew coffee at home rather than indulging in a daily cup. It might seem small and insignificant, but stripping back your spending habits will make you realize how many day-to-day purchases are unnecessary. That’s a valuable lesson that will stay with you far beyond the monthlong cleanse.
Tip: What’s your most common non-essential daily or weekly expenses? Find out how to cut them from your routine.
April: Learn About Your 401(k)
There are multiple options to make sure you’re prepared for retirement, so it’s crucial to understand what 401(k) plan your company offers (if any) and how to take advantage of it.
Tip: Schedule a one-on-one with your employer’s HR or financial manager, and use this 401(k) cheat sheet to improve your knowledge. If you want to be involved in the investment process, then ask to chat about selecting individual mutual funds to make up your own portfolio.
May: Boost Your Income
While outgoing expenses are important, you can also boost your bank balance by focusing on the flip side: your income. Use this month to explore new ways to generate income. How can you make money outside of your day job? A simple side-hustle like tutoring, selling unused clothes and furniture, or renting a room on Airbnb could fast-track your savings goals. If you’ve been putting off investing your money, now is the time to start. And you don’t even need to be wealthy to invest – $500 is all you need to get started.
Tip: Use this investment guide to find out about the different options available to you, and schedule a meeting with a financial planner for tailored advice.
June: Review and Re-strategize
You’ve set a budget, reduced your spending and more – way to go! Now that you’ve touched on these different facets of your finances, it’s time to reflect on your habits and re-strategize. Ask yourself: what goals did you achieve, and what could you have done better? Take these learnings into the next six months of the year, and take pride knowing that you’ve done all that you could to take ownership of your financial future.