As you make plans for your New Year’s celebration, take a moment to think about what comes after the dinners, the parties, and the hangover.
On January 2nd, life will resume—and that means getting out of the holiday bubble and facing your finances. But that doesn’t have to be overwhelming or a downer. You just need a game plan.
You had a holiday gift list, right? You ticked off the items one-by-one and got everything done. For the New Year, make a must-do list of small financial steps you can take that will make a big difference next year and beyond.
Here are some things to add to your list.
1. Look in to refinancing your student loans
Need more wiggle room in your monthly budget so you can increase savings or pay down other debts?
If so, check in to refinancing your student loans. Not only do most people reduce their monthly payments by more than $200 a month, but they save close to $20,000 over the life of the loan. If you have decent credit, there’s nothing stopping you from getting in on those savings.
2. Call your creditors (yes, really)
You know what they say about the squeaky wheel…
Pick up the phone, call your creditors and ask for a lower interest rate. There’s a good chance they’ll say yes.
Credit card companies are competitive. If you let them know you’re flooded with offers from other card issuers for cards with rates lower than yours, they may take the bait because they don’t want to lose your business.
3. Set up automatic bill payments
How many times have you meant to pay a bill and forgot, and next thing you knew you were a few days late? Late fees aren’t cheap, and over the course of a year they add up. You don’t want to be late, period.
Plus, if you’re 30 days late or later, those delinquencies may show up negatively on your credit score.
Set yourself up for success by setting up automatic bill payments. If you’re not comfortable with that, at least set up alerts on your computer or phone to remind you when bills are due.
4. Build an emergency fund
As the last few years have shown, all kinds of crazy stuff can happen in the world … and sometimes in your life.
Prepare in advance just in case you experience a job loss, there’s a downturn in the economy, or some other wild possibility comes to pass.
Strive to save enough cash to cover three to six months of expenses. Be sure to put that money in a separate account, so you don’t keep pinching and pinching away at it until nothing is left.
5. Increase your retirement savings
Right now, retirement probably feels like a lifetime away. Warning: it comes much faster than you can imagine. If you have a job that offers a retirement plan, take full advantage of it.
Shoot to contribute 10% of your gross income. At a minimum, make sure you get enough to qualify for an employer match, if your company offers one.
If you’re doing your thing in the gig economy, you have options, too. Consider a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP-IRA). This is designed for the self-employed and small business owners. You get a tax-deferred benefit when saving for retirement.
Remember, the earlier you start saving, the longer your money has to compound and ride out the ups and downs in the market.
To get a jumpstart on your 2018 resolutions, check out our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to find out how much you could save on your student loans.