The start of a new year is a common time to take stock of your achievements and identify areas of improvement for the year ahead. That’s usually the easy part: the tough part is sticking to your plans so you can make your New Year’s resolutions a reality. If you have one or more financial resolutions on your list this year, here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Before you can get to where you want to, you need to know where you are. Make an inventory of your income and expenses. One of the best ways to do this is to look at your account statements for the past couple of months. Online Banking and eStatements make this an easy task. If you don’t use either of those, start to in 2018. It will make it much easier to monitor and manage your finances, which we’ll talk about a little later on.
2. Set SMART goals
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You can use this method to articulate your goals, focus your efforts and increase the likelihood of realizing your goals. Here is an example of setting a financial resolution using the SMART method:
- Specific: Establish a $600 emergency savings fund
- Measurable: Set aside $50 each month
- Achievable: Prepare a bagged lunch 2-3 times a week instead of ordering takeout and make a cup of coffee at home in the mornings
- Relevant: Building up an emergency savings fund will help avoid additional debt when an unexpected expense comes up
- Time-Bound: Emergency savings will be fully funded in 12 months
Keep in mind, this method is not only applicable to your financial resolution(s) but any other type of goal as well.
3. Save more
No matter what your financial resolution is, it’s more likely than not that saving more can help you achieve your goal. Here are some quick tips on how to do just that:
- In an effort to create customer loyalty, many retailers and businesses offer cashback and reward programs. These programs provide cash incentives or discounts at the places you regularly shop and dine, which means more money in your pocket. Don't miss out on these opportunities.
- Take advantage of high yield savings accounts, especially if they have no minimum balance requirements. That way your money is working even harder for you by earning more interest. You can find such accounts at your local bank or online. To check out Pentucket Bank’s own savings account options CLICK HERE.
- Get thrifty! Use popular sites like Groupon and Living Social to find deals on local eateries, activities and even consumer products. You can also download Honey to use when shopping online. This becomes embedded in your internet browser and automatically searches for and applies discount codes to your shopping cart. Or, perhaps try clipping coupons if you prefer more traditional methods.
- Avoid or reduce unnecessary ATM fees by withdrawing cash from ATMs within your network or getting cashback when you make your next purchase (available at most retailers).
4. Use tools to stay on top of your finances
Once you have set your goals and determined some strategies to achieve them, you have to keep track of your progress so you can either celebrate your achievements or adjust course if needed. This is where widely available online tools can help streamline this very important task.
- The most basic online tools you should be using are Online Banking and Mobile App. Nowadays many people don’t use a check register or reconcile their checkbooks. However, it’s still very important to stay on top of your accounts to ensure you have sufficient funds and avoid any overdraft fees. These online tools will help you confirm which transactions have been posted to your account in real-time. And if you do need to transfer any funds, you can do so quickly and conveniently without even stepping foot in a branch.
- Most bank accounts allow you to set-up email and text alerts through their Online Banking or Mobile App. For example, account balance updates can help you see how far along you are to reaching savings goals or when you might be at risk of incurring an overdraft fee if your balance is low.
- Have several bank accounts? No problem! A personal finance management tool, such as FinanceWorks, helps you monitor all your accounts from one convenient location. They also allow you to view other accounts, such as loans, credit cards and investments, to get a full picture of your finances. Another advantage to using a personal finance management tool is that it can automatically analyze your income and expenses and track your progress towards several financial goals.
5. Protect your money (and identity)
All your efforts towards achieving financial resolutions can be derailed in an instant if someone gains unauthorized access to your accounts. Here are some quick and easy ways to help you protect your money and identity:
- Change your passwords. Just because accounts don’t require you to change your password often, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Also, you can make it harder for unauthorized persons to gain access to your accounts by combining upper/lower case letters, numbers and special characters to create strong passwords.
- Request a free annual credit report from each of the 3 credit reporting bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. Review it carefully and report any discrepancies. Catching early signs of account and identify fraud could save you plenty of time, money and headaches.
- For more tips go to https://www.pentucketbank.com/online-and-mobile/protect-your-money-and-identity.
At Pentucket Bank we offer a full-suite of Online Banking services and deposit accounts that can help you stay on track with your financial goals. We are a local bank with branches in Haverhill, MA, North Andover, MA, Salem, NH and Hampstead, NH. Send us an email or call us today at (978) 372-7731 to see how well our accounts and online services match up with your banking needs.