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On the list of most popular resolutions, saving money is number two being edged out only by weight loss.
If you want to get your money right in 2021, here are 12 New Year’s resolutions to consider.
1. Build your emergency fund
This is a must.
If you don’t already have an emergency fund in place, set one up now. Like, right now.
To start, open up a separate account. A high-yield savings account is best (you’ll earn more money through interest as your emergency funds sit there).
Then, transfer a lump sum of money to it on a regular basis. You could put $100 a month into your emergency fund, for example.
Here’s an emergency fund amount guide to help you find out how much you should sock away.
2. Save more
As the most popular resolution, we had to list it here. But “save more” is pretty darn general.
The secret to success is to force yourself into it. And the easiest way to force yourself to save is to set up a recurring (e.g., monthly) automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account.
3. Get your tax materials in order
Gathering what you need to file with the IRS shouldn’t be a huge hassle.
As you get your W-2 or 1099 forms from anyone who paid you this year, file them.
This doesn’t mean stacking them on some table. Establish a system for filing tax documents like these.
Also, if you have information about any stimulus payment you received this year, add it to the file. This could come in the form of an IRS Notice 1444 or any document that outlines an economic impact payment (EIP).
Don’t wait until April to try to hunt down these docs. File them as they come in the mail and taxes will be a lot easier this year.
4. Make donations to causes you care about
Speaking of taxes. if you’re going to itemize your deductions, consider making charitable donations.
You can get a pretty hefty tax deduction this way.
Plus, after a hard year, wouldn’t you rather give that money to people in need than the IRS? (No offense to the IRS.)
5. Save for retirement
If you’re not saving for the future, resolve to open up a retirement saving account in 2021. Once you do, make strides to get on track so you can retire on time.
6. Work on your credit score
2021 is a perfect opportunity to improve your credit score.
If you don’t know your credit score, start there.
Check your credit report. A lot of banks and credit card companies will now give you a credit report for free.
The three-digit number on that report matters. If you plan to get a credit card, buy a car, buy a house, or even finance a piece of furniture this year, a better credit score will help you save money by avoiding interest.
When you check your credit score, look at the categories where you’re strong and where you need some work.
If you’re using too much of your available credit, work to pay off your credit cards.
If you missed some bills in 2020, set up autopay or a reminder system for yourself.
Make an effort so you end 2021 with a higher credit score.
7. Make a debt plan
Figure out how much debt you have.
Then, figure out how long it will take you to pay it off.
Looking at that timeline, you might decide you want to get more aggressive. Or you might let it ride.
Either way, make sure you’re informed about the progress you’re making on your debt. Just as importantly, make sure you know how and when you’ll get it all paid off.
This includes credit card debt.
8. Do your taxes early
Accountants get busy in April.
Resolve to do your taxes by February this year and save yourself some headache.
9. Make budgeting easier
10. Switch from plastic to paper
If you have credit card debt, resolve to make a simple change to keep that debt from growing.
At stores, use cash instead of card. You’ll be forced to only use the money you have.
11. Review your insurance policies
You could be paying too much.
Specifically, if you bundle your car insurance with your home or renter’s insurance, you could probably save a fair chunk.
Look at your options so you’re not overpaying for your policies.
12. Get smarter
Personal finance shouldn’t feel mysterious. It’s your money, after all.
What money topic is most daunting for you?
Whether it’s taxes, saving for retirement, or something else, resolve to learn about it this year.
A few hours reading articles or taking an online course makes a huge difference. You can finish 2021 feel more informed and better able to champion your money.
Here’s to a financially successful year ahead!
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