Get Fiscally Fit for the New Year

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, UF/IFAS Extension

The holidays are behind us and we are into the New Year which means resolving to do better. Over half of us, about 54 percent of Americans, make financial resolutions. Whether your resolution is to save more, spend less, pay down debt or create a financial plan you can stick to, you need to get organized and know where you stand. Here are some practical ideas to help get you started.

Get yourself organized

Create a simple, easily accessible filing system. To begin, set up either paper or electronic files for your financial and tax records, putting all your important documents (birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, loan documents, insurance policies) in a secure place like a safe deposit box. For information on maintaining and keeping records UF/IFAS has a publication called Financial Recordkeeping: Organizing Your Financial Life. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY37400.pdf

Track your expenses  

Track your expenses for about a month. This will help you know where your money is going so you can create a spending plan. Don’t forget the small stuff that adds up. Do you buy a $4 latte every morning or spend $1 every afternoon buying a snack from the office vending machine. Make sure to include those little almost-invisible charges and expenses to find your budgetary leaks. Keeping track of what you spend will help you know how much money you need every month to support your current lifestyle and what you have to do to plug the holes in your budget.

Develop and stick to a spending plan

Commit to taking a realistic look at how you spend your money. Itemize your monthly expenses (both fixed and flexible) and subtract them from your income. If you need to cut back, prioritize your spending. Make sure to pay yourself first.

Schedule a money date

Spend some time each week updating your spending plan, reviewing expenses and talking about financial goals with your family. This will help you stay committed to the plan you put in place.

Stay on track with the UF/IFAS Money Management Calendar

Use the calendar to organize your income and bills. You can list your bills on the dates they are due or when you need to pay them. Write down the dates you get paid and what the amount will be. This will let you see a clear picture of your finances from month to month by showing when and where your money goes.

For a free copy of the 2014 Money Management Calendar email njensen@pinellascounty.org and I will drop one in the mail to you.