How to Get Your Finances in Order for the New Year

Business
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Evan Arnold-Gordon
Golden Gate Better Business Bureau

A new year can mean a new start when it comes to your finances. It can be easier said than done, but improving your finances and increasing your savings can go a long way for having a successful 2019.

Consumer debt is more prevalent than ever as it has grown every year since 2012 and reached a new high of $4 trillion at the end of 2018. Furthermore, according to the US Federal Reserve Center for Microeconomic Data, “total household debt rose by $219 billion to reach $13.51 trillion in the third quarter of 2018—an increase of 1.6 percent.” It’s never too late to start turning your finances around and with the right help and advice, you can begin the path to financial freedom.

Get 2019 off to a productive start by following these BBB tips on getting your finances organized:

  • Take a closer look at your credit cards. Credit cards are known for their high interest rates, and this can waste a lot of money over time. See if you can use a balance transfer offer to switch to a card with a lower rate. Do your research on bbb.org first; consumers nationwide filed more than 11,500 complaints against credit card companies in 2018. Make sure to read the terms and contract very carefully – there may be big penalties if you miss a payment. If you have multiple cards, decide which debt-paying strategy suits you. Some experts recommend paying off cards with the highest interest rates first, but others recommend paying off cards with the smallest balances first – figure out what works best for you. Additionally, try sending in payments throughout the month. Put the $5 you would have spent on a morning coffee towards your debt instead.
  • Don’t waste money on unethical businesses or scams. When making a purchase or choosing a business, always check with BBB. Making careful decisions now can save you time, money, and headaches later. Research all companies at bbb.org, and check BBB Scam Tracker regularly to see what scams are happening in your area.
  • Take advantage of free tools. There are many online tools that can help you manage and reduce your debt. A great place to start is the BBB Financial Building Blocks website, which helps consumers evaluate their finances, learn how to stay debt-free, and protect themselves from scams and illegal collection calls. Additionally, you can use the free and easy-to-use debt solution tool to find options for managing your debt.
  • Start budgeting. Creating a written budget and tracking your spending is one of the best ways to save money and stop spending more than you earn. First, figure out how much debt you have; you need an accurate picture before you can figure out your budget. Note the difference between fixed expenses, needs, and wants. If you have debt, include repayment goals in your budget. If you can, try to factor in retirement and emergency savings as well. Save money by giving up your morning coffee and cooking at home instead of getting takeout. Factor in any alternate income that you can think of, like selling unused items or part-time work in the gig economy.

Remember to always report scams.  If you’ve been the target of a scam or suspect scam activity, report it to authorities and  BBB Scam Tracker  to warn others. 

You can reach your BBB at info@bbbemail.org or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting bbb.org

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