Many of us have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this new year. However, setting a big or bold new year’s resolution may not feel quite right for 2021. In fact, a recent New York Times article suggested “This Year, Try Downsizing Your Resolutions.” We could not agree more, especially if one of your goals is getting your finances in better shape. Small steps and small habits can have a big impact over time.
Why is now the time to focus on financial health?
There is a clear link between financial stress and our physical health. With the importance of health playing a bigger role in our daily lives, now is the time to look for new ways to alleviate your worries about money and the ailments that can result from higher stress levels.
Here are just a few steps you can take today to rid yourself of excess debt and start on the path to a financially healthier 2021:
Consider Debt Consolidation. If you have multiple loan payments, consolidating those debts into a single, lower-rate loan may be a huge stress reliever as it can reduce monthly payments and help you get out of debt faster. Contact your local financial institution to find out what options you have. For homeowners, a lower-rate home equity loan or line of credit may be the best approach. While a lower-rate personal loan may be the best option for renters.
Start Saving. Did you receive a second stimulus payment recently? If you are fortunate enough to not need the money immediately, creating an emergency savings account could help you avoid or reduce future debt. Another great way to build savings is by putting away a small dollar amount each month. This can add up over time and help you cover the flat tires, household repairs and other needs that are bound to arise. Emergency savings also help you avoid taking out new loans to cover unexpected expenses.
Avoid Monthly Fees. If you are paying account maintenance or other monthly fees, it might be time to switch to a free checking account. They still do exist and may even offer other convenient money management features such as early direct deposit, which could hit your account up to two days faster. See what your local bank or credit union has to offer and do not forget to look at their surcharge-free ATM locations. Many smaller institutions offer free access through shared networks that may offer greater convenience and help you avoid ATM fees throughout the year.
Read the Fine Print. Take a close look at your current credit card and other loan statements. What interest rate(s) are you paying? Are additional fees accruing? How long will it take you to pay off the debt at this rate? Taking stock of where you are currently is the first step to finding a better solution and setting achievable goals for the year.
Choose the Right Partner. Fees, interest rates and terms can vary widely among banks and credit unions. So can their levels of commitment to financial education and the local community. Take time to find a financial institution that aligns with your needs and your values. At the end of the day, financial advice you can trust is priceless and building a stronger community is something we can all participate in when we keep our money local.
Remember, financial wellness is a journey that takes time. Each step can make a difference. Getting started today with even a few tiny steps in the right direction may be all it takes to put your finances on a better path. Wishing you a healthy and happy 2021.