2021 is here, bringing exciting opportunities to make changes for the better. Are you ready for a fresh start with your finances?
Take a look at these ways to achieve greater financial flexibility and freedom in the new year:
Build a better budget
The new year is a perfect time to create or revisit your monthly budget. The purpose of budgeting isn't to limit your fun; it's about creating a plan for your spending so you can make the most of your hard-earned money. Budgeting doesn't have to be complicated, either. Start by tracking all of your expenses using a journal, spreadsheet or free budgeting tool like Money Management from Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU). When you see where your money is really going, you can make a plan for where you'd like it to go instead!
Make money management even easier by enrolling in Bill Pay through WPCU's Mobile and Online Banking. With Bill Pay, you can set up recurring automatic payments to almost any place you would usually pay by check. You'll save time and stress less about missing a payment!
Set money goals
A new year also means it's time for new goals. Like any goal, they should be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and timely (SMART). To get started, think about what you want to achieve this year. Here are some examples of great money goals to consider:
Goal: Spend wisely.SMART Goal: I will make a monthly household budget and track my spending each week.Goal: Pay debt down and off.SMART Goal: I will create a debt payoff plan and pay my balance(s) down to $0 by December 31, 2021.Goal: Start saving for retirement. SMART Goal: I will contribute 10% of my salary to my work's 401(k) plan.Goal: Save more money.SMART Goal: I will add $100 to my savings account each payday.
Goal: Spend wisely.SMART Goal: I will make a monthly household budget and track my spending each week.
Goal: Pay debt down and off.SMART Goal: I will create a debt payoff plan and pay my balance(s) down to $0 by December 31, 2021.
Goal: Start saving for retirement. SMART Goal: I will contribute 10% of my salary to my work's 401(k) plan.
Goal: Save more money.SMART Goal: I will add $100 to my savings account each payday.
Once you've identified your money goals, set a timeline for completing them. Make a plan to reach your goals, whether it's by saving more money, cutting expenses or earning extra income. Check out our helpful Goal Planner worksheet to get started!
Plan for rainy days
2020 taught us all the importance of being prepared for anything. Even with careful budgeting, unexpected events can happen at any time. Throughout the pandemic, we've seen how emergency needs, loss of income and uncertainty for the future make the need to save more critical than ever!
This is why everyone needs a “rainy day" or emergency fund. In 2021, make it a priority to start or build an emergency fund with enough to cover three to six months of essential living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries and transportation.
Keep your emergency fund in a safe, accessible account such as a WPCU's TrueSaver® savings account or a Money Market Account to grow your savings with some of the best rates around. Having a rainy day fund will give you peace of mind knowing you have a financial cushion for whatever the future may hold!
Pay yourself first
If you're saving up for something specific in 2021, like a new vehicle, a down payment on a home or a special vacation, try the “pay yourself first" strategy. Instead of waiting until the end of the month to save whatever you have left of your paycheck, think of your savings as the first bill you pay each month. This way, you'll build your spending around how much you save, not the other way around!
To keep your savings organized, open separate savings accounts for each goal. You can make saving each month even easier by scheduling automatic, recurring transfers to each savings account using WPCU's Mobile and Online Banking.
If you receive extra money through a year-end bonus, side hustle or economic impact payment (“stimulus check"), it's important to make a plan for your additional income. If you don't, it's tempting to spend it all right away! It's okay to use some of your extra money for fun spending, but consider setting aside a portion for future expenses or goals.
Check up on your credit
When is the last time you looked over your credit report? If it's been a while, check your report and make sure it's accurate at the start of the new year. Your credit report is a summary of your credit activity, including open and closed accounts and your loan payment history.
You can request a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. (Due to the pandemic, you can now request free credit reports each week through April 2021.) Access your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, and then review them for inaccurate or outdated information. An error on your report could impact your credit score, and it might even be a sign of identity theft. If you find mistakes on any of your credit reports, dispute them with the credit reporting agency right away.
Financial Flexibility and Freedom in 2021 and Beyond
No matter what the next year may bring, Wright-Patt Credit Union is here to help you Save Better, Borrow Smarter and Learn a Lot so you can live the life you want to live! For more helpful money management and budgeting tips, tools and advice, visit our online Education Center.