I think we will all welcome 2021 with open arms after the year we’ve had, right? As you set your intentions (aka resolutions), pay close attention to your finances and the money moves to make in 2021.
Let’s all use this new year to make a fresh start financially, and start the year off right.
1. Create a budget.
I know, it’s a dirty word, but we all need one. If you have a budget already, revisit it. See where you can cut back, make changes, and improve your overall finances. By that I mean, find areas you can save whether for short-term, mid-term, or long-term goals.
2. Fix your credit report.
From now until April 2021, all consumers get free weekly access to their credit report. Use this time to see what’s going on with your credit. Then set goals. Figure out how you can fix things and set a timeline to make them happen.
3. Get banking alerts.
Even if banking stresses you out, get alerts. You can set up alerts for all spending or just spending over a specific threshold (say $50). Use it as a way to stay more accountable. At first, it may seem stressful, but it will help you be more aware of your spending.
4. Negotiate your credit card APRs.
If you aren’t eligible for a 0% APR balance transfer card, negotiate lower APRs with your current credit card companies. If you have a solid payment history, they may be willing. You won’t know unless you ask!
5. Automate your savings.
Stop ‘forgetting’ to save. Put it on autopilot. Set up direct deposit with your employer or set up automatic transfers from your checking account. Take the thinking out of it and make it happen every week, every other week, or once a month.
6. Cut out unnecessary expenses.
This is one of the most important money moves to make in 2021. Start with the big expenses. Can you cut cable? What about memberships or subscriptions? Look at areas you overspend and see how you can cut back. If you don’t have any large expenses to eliminate, look at things like Starbucks, shopping, or nail appointments you can cut.
7. Contribute to your 401k
Even if you live paycheck-to-paycheck find a way. At a minimum contribute the amount your employer will match. If it’s 3% of your salary, then find a way to save 3% of your salary. Break it up monthly and make it easier on yourself.
8. Shop for cheaper insurance.
Are you insurance poor? Look around for lower rates. Oftentimes we stick with the same agent and don’t realize the higher premiums we pay. Changing companies may help you realize significant savings.
9. Set a 48-hour rule when shopping.
Don’t impulse buy. Instead, give yourself 48 hours. Chances are you’ll stop thinking about it and will save yourself the money. If you’re still thinking about it, then find a way to make it happen, but don’t charge it.
10. Pay off credit card debt.
If you choose only a few money moves to make in 2021, make this one of them. Set yourself up on the debt snowball method and pay your debts off fast. All you need is a little extra money on top of your minimum payments each month to get it going. Make 2021 the year you get this process going.
11. Open a high-yield savings account
Make your money work for you by opening an online high yield savings account. The APYs aren’t drastically different, but every bit counts. You can still access your money, but it’s a little tougher, so it may help you avoid spending it.
12. Check your cell phone plan
Are you paying for services you don’t need? 2021 is a great time to shop for a cheaper plan or at least see what services you don’t need to pay for any longer.
13. Start investing.
You don’t need to be rich to invest. You don’t even need to know what you’re doing. Sign up with a robo-advisor (many have $0 minimums). The computer program creates and manages your portfolio. It doesn’t get much easier.
14. Set short-term goals.
Think about what you want to achieve financially in the short-term. Is there a trip you want to take? Do you want to buy a house or a car? Are you thinking about going back to school? Set your goals and a plan to achieve them.
15. Start or build an emergency fund.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one. If you have one, keep adding to it. At a minimum, save 3 to 6 months of expenses, but you may want more during the pandemic because no one knows what might happen.
16. Check your bank fees.
Do you know if you’re paying bank fees? Look at your latest statement and it will tell you. If you are, find a new bank account. Even $10 a month adds up – why waste $120 a year when you could get an account for free?
17. Pay more toward your mortgage.
Work an extra principal payment into your mortgage. Even if it’s $50 a month or it’s an extra payment one time a year. The earlier in your mortgage you start this, the more money you’ll save in the long run.
18. Check up on your retirement plan.
If you have a retirement plan, check on your portfolio. Has your risk tolerance changed? Is your portfolio on track for where you want to be when you retire? If not, figure out what changes you can make.
19. Evaluate your tax liabilities
Do you dread tax day? Start evaluating your financial situation and how you can lower your tax liability long before April 15 so you can put the plan into action.
20. Talk to a financial advisor
The start of a new year is a great time to get with a financial advisor. Who couldn’t use extra advice on how to deal with their finances?
21. Stay strong!
Budgeting, saving, investing, and goal-setting is hard work. Give yourself some grace if you mess up – we all do. Look at the big picture, to the little details that may or may not be wanted you wanted.
Make 2021 your year for financial freedom. Take even a few steps to get yourself started on these top money moves to make in 2021. As you see progress, add more until you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Financial freedom is within reach – it’s up to you to take the first step.