By Linda Descano, CFA®, President and CEO, Women & Co. and Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, North America Marketing, Citi
Save more, pay off your debt, start an emergency fund. You've heard all of the standard New Year's money resolutions before. They're all very important financial goals, but before you start tackling your long-term planning, how about starting off with a few quick resolutions that could save you time and money -- and that you might actually be able to keep for more than a day or a week?
But before you start thinking about what you might want to do differently in the New Year, take a look at where you are right now. What are your biggest pain points and time drains when it comes to money? Are you constantly forgetting to pay your bills on time and incurring multiple late fees as a result? Or maybe you're just the guilty procrastinator: You've been putting off making certain financial decisions because they seem too daunting. Think about the financial tasks you wish you could simplify, and then follow these five simple steps to help turn your goals into realities in 2013.
1. Download your bank's mobile or tablet app -- or both! Don't waste another minute waiting on hold for a customer service representative -- you'll have a record of all of your deposits, your debits, and your balance at your fingertips so that you can access the info you need, make transactions, and manage your money wherever and whenever you need it. Personally, I use Citibank Online, the Citibank Mobile app, and the Citibank for iPad app so I can keep my pulse on my money wherever I am and whenever I want!
2. Set up automatic bill pay. No more stamps, no more check writing, and no more late fees. Set all of your regular monthly expenses to auto-pay each billing cycle; it takes less time than you think to get started, and will save you precious hours every month. And just think of that extra space you'll have on your countertop after you stop cluttering it with a big pile of unopened bills!
3. Add it up. Sit down with a calculator and get a sense of your big picture -- or better yet, set up an online personal finance management tool that links all of your accounts to give you a holistic view of what you're making, spending, and saving. The more you know about how your money is coming and going and what you're actually worth, the better equipped you'll be to meet your financial goals and be prepared for any curveballs that life throws your way.
4. Sign up for a credit card rewards program. There's no reason you should be spending money on a credit card and not getting the most out of every penny. And the more you consolidate your expenses onto one or two cards, the more opportunity you'll have to rack up points -- and the more rewards you'll be able to reap. The Citi ThankYou card, for example, can earn you points that can be used towards gift cards, gas cards, electronics, toys, entertainment, even airfare - - with no blackout dates, on any airline.
5. Talk. You know there's a money conversation that you should be having -- whether it's with your parents about their long-term care preferences and plans, a talk with your partner about how you're going to work together to get out of debt, or a call to a financial adviser to help you get on the right financial path. Whatever it is that you've been putting off, resolve to start that conversation by the end of January. You may not have it all figured it out in one month, but you'll be on the road to being in a much better place by the end of 2013 if you resolve to begin those conversations today.
Don't know where to start? Check out Women & Co.'s step-by-step guide to the five must-have money conversations you should be having this year.
What's your secret for getting your money on track in 2013?
About the Author:
Linda is President and CEO of Women & Co., a service of Citi that brings women relevant financial content and thoughtful commentary. She also serves as a Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships for North America Marketing at Citi. A recognized expert on the topic of personal finance, Linda is also the featured contributor on womenandco.com and Manilla.com, for which she serves as their women and money expert. Her writing, tips and commentary have appeared in countless publications including: Huffington Post, MORE Magazine, American Banker and MSN Money to name a few. She is the recipient of a 2011 Luminary Award from Womensphere® and was the New York recipient of the 2009 Corporate w2wlink Ascendancy Award.