Money 2017: How to Start the Year Off Right

If you haven’t already made yourself a new year’s resolution – don’t worry, I’ve got one for you. Make 2017 a year of better financial footing. All you have to do is kick the year off on the right foot and make some adjustments for better finances. There are a ton of things you can do to get yourself on the right track, but we will focus on a few of the bigger ones in order to make the largest impact.

Reevaluate Goals

The first step in tackling your financial new year’s resolution is reevaluating, resetting, and creating goals. Goals are the finish line of your resolution, but you can’t possibly get where you want to be without knowing the end. Goals also give you something to work towards. They will keep you on track and motivated to reach a better financial foundation. Set both large and small goals. Be care to not shoot for unattainable things though, because they aren’t going to do you any good.

Automate Saving and Bill Pay

The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to automate as many payments as possible. One of those payments should be to your savings account. Most living expenses and monthly bills offer an autopay option, so take advantage of it. This will help you pay bills on time and never leave you paying a late fee ever again. Additionally, schedule payments or transfers from your checking to savings. It’s a good way to consistently build up your saving with little effort on your end.

Cash Budgets

Another thing you can give a shot is a cash budget. Many people say it’s much easier to lose track of spending when you use plastic. It makes a lot of sense. Paying for things in cash helps you visualize exactly what you have left to spend. It may also deter you from making certain purchases. You can start small and set a cash budget for things like eating out. If you keep cash on you that only can be used for food that week, you’ll be surprised at how much you save by sticking to it!

Bill Due Dates

Another way to balance your finances is to change bill due dates. Depending on your pay periods, it may be easiest to pay half your bills at the beginning of the month and the rest in middle. Right now you may be tight for the first half of the month because all your bills are stacked at one time. Requesting a change in due dates will help you budget better and leave you with more money each paycheck.

Documentation For Tax Season

For some, it may be the most wonderful time of the year- Tax Season! Whether or not this is true for your situation, filing taxes is a civic duty, therefore there is no way out. Here are some of the most common forms of documentation you will need in order to file your taxes. Happy filing!

Personal and Identification

First and foremost, the most important thing you’ll need to have alongside you when filing your taxes is your social security number. This is a form of identification that is used to identify you as a taxpayer, and without it, you will not be able to file your taxes. If you have misplaced your social security number, be sure to contact your social security office. Bringing a copy of last year’s taxes may be helpful to you as well, especially if you’re filing on your own. This will help you answer any simple questions that you may have during the filing process. If you’re expecting direct deposit, bring along your bank account and routing information for an easy way to receive your processed return.

Earnings

A W-2 Form is required to file your taxes as this form shows how much money you’ve earned throughout the year. As long as you bring this form along, your taxes will be simple to file.

Investments

The tax filing process begins to get tricky after you learn where you’ve spent your money throughout the year. If you have any type of investments, such as property, stocks/bonds, or have done any type of freelance work, you should receive a 1099 form in the mail. This form will be required for the tax filing process, as you will enter how much of your earning from your W-2 was paid into taxes for your investments.

Education

If you are recently attending a higher education institution, you will receive a 1098-T form. This from is used to show how much you paid to higher education which will be written off when you file your taxes.

Interest Calculation

A 1098-E form will be sent to you if you have a mortgage, private loan, or debt (such as educational loans).

Records

Throughout the year, it’s important to keep track of records, whether digital or print receipts. Records should be kept for the following; job search/ work expenses (that you paid yourself), medical care payments, contributions or donations, childcare, rental expenses, educational expenses (supplies, transportation, etc.).

Additional

If you receive any additional forms or records in the mail from the IRS, you should bring them along. Your account will be able to determine which forms will be needed, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

5 Ways To Cut Costs & Save More Each Month

Do you feel like it is impossible to get ahead with your finances? The problem may be that you are paying a lot more than you should be each month on necessary expenditures. These expenditures could include your housing, food, utilities, and insurance. Recurring expenses tend to consume the bulk of your budget, making it difficult to set aside money for your savings and retirement. However, there are actually many ways you can trim these costs down, leaving you with more money each month to invest in your future. Here are 5 ways where you can cut costs and have more money each month.

1) Change How You Buy Groceries

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a family of four spends an average of $1,300 a month on food for the home. This can take a huge chunk out of your monthly budget. A great way to reduce these costs is to stock up on nonperishable items and frozen foods when they are on sale rather than buying just what you need for the week. After buying items on sale and building a stockpile of these goods, you can plan your weekly meals based on the items you have and what perishable items are on sale at the supermarket that week. TheGroceryGame.com members report savings of  $523 a month for a family of four by stockpiling sale items and using coupons.

2) Reduce Credit Card Payments

You can dramatically decrease the amount you pay each month on credit card payments by taking advantage of a 0% balance transfer offer. You will need a credit score of at least 680 to qualify, but if you qualify the savings are incredible. For many credit cards, the interest rate is around 20%, so by transferring a $10,000 credit card balance over to 0% rate, you could be saving around $160 a month! Check to see how much you could save by transferring your balance here.

3) Eliminate Your Landline

Nowadays almost everybody has a personal cell phone which allows you to be accessed essentially anytime and anywhere. As cell phones have grown in popularity, many people have decided to abandon their landline service, and for good reason. According to the Labor Department’s most-recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, consumers spend an average of $357 a year on residential phone service. You could save as much as $30 a month by dropping your landline and joining the 45% of the population who use wireless phones only.

4) Adjust Your Tax Withholdings

The average tax refund is about $3,000. This is a sustainable amount of money that you could be receiving in your monthly paycheck instead of a payment at the end of the year. While there is nothing wrong with a large payment each spring, you can establish a more effective saving strategy if that income is distributed throughout the year. In order to do this you will need to file a new W-4 form with your employer and claim more allowances. The more you claim, the less tax is withheld.

5) Cut Your Electric Bill

A great way to lower your heating and cooling costs is to install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature in your house. It is possible to see savings of around $180 a year ($15 a month) in energy costs by using a programmable thermostat. In addition, you can save money by unplugging devices that use electricity even when they are turned off. These devices, which account for as much as 20% of your electric bill, includes things such as cable boxes, televisions, DVD players, computers, modems, stereos and more.

By applying some of these tips hopefully you will begin to see some dramatic changes in how much money you have each month. A few hundred dollars a month can go a long way when it comes to saving for your future. If you want to learn more about how to save money each month check out GoBankingRates.com.