Remember those New Year's resolutions to save more and spend less?
Needless to say, 2020 really hasn't worked out according to most of our plans. For many of us, those New Year's resolutions changed the day the global Coronavirus pandemic landed on our front doorsteps, upending all of our best laid plans.
Now that many of our local businesses are reopening and we have a slightly better idea of what the rest of 2020 might have in store, it's a good time to go back to January and update our financial plans, hopes and dreams with the "new normal" in mind.
Maybe that vacation you planned has been postponed. Maybe your income or job situation has changed. Maybe the low mortgage rates available right now offer an opportunity to refinance or take advantage of a cash-out home equity loan.
Here are a few things you might consider doing to get back on track, even if your financial road-map looks a bit different:
Revisit Your Budget
Take some time to review your monthly budget, including your expected income and expenses. Don't have a budget? Be sure to sign up for our budgeting webinars. They're free and coming up this week. You can learn more at www.cofcu.org/events. By creating or reviewing your budget, you can avoid falling into mindless spending and you'll know where your money is going.
Anticipate Large Expenses
Take a moment to list any large expenses you anticipate having in the next six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing, expensive car repairs that will likely become necessary or an anticipated medical expense that may not be fully covered by insurance.
Once you have this information in hand, determine which spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Do you have a rainy-day fund that can pay for one or several of these costs? Can you use the money in your emergency fund? Make the decision about sourcing this money now so you don’t make the wrong choices when you may be stressed and pressed for time in the future.
If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget now so you have the funds available when you need them.
Check Your Credit Score
Your credit score is like your money management grade, indicating the degree of your financial wellness and responsibility. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.
On the flip side, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Are there any errors you’ll need to contest with the Federal Trade Commission? Is there a credit card bill or another line of credit you’ve been neglecting that is dragging your score down? Are you having trouble remembering to pay your monthly bills in a timely manner? Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting a charge, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often.
Tackle Your Debt
List every single outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and loans. Designate one debt to tackle first, either choosing the one that carries the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance. Next, work on a plan to get rid of your chosen debt, being careful not to neglect the others.
Review Your Long-term Goals
What are your dreams for the future? Did you want to start saving another $200 a month? Is your goal to retire comfortably at age 55? Take some time to review these goals and to determine whether you are indeed taking the steps necessary for making them happen. Be sure to sign up for one of our Budget Workshop webinars on June 17 and June 18 or our Financial Planning webinars on June 16 and June 19, where you can learn new strategies to make those dreams a reality — even if the unexpected happens. Register for those webinars via our events calendar on our website here.
Now that you’ve given yourself a financial summer checkup, you can kick back and enjoy the sweetness and the sunshine of the season, guilt-free.
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