It only takes about 60 minutes to get a solid idea about what your financial situation is going to look like in 2017. If you’ve never taken more than a cursory look at your finances, now is the time to start.
Make a Simple Income/Expenses List
This is pretty self-explanatory, make a list of all of your monthly bills and compare it to your take home pay. Include things like:
- Insurance (health, auto, life, property)
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water/sewer, trash)
- Debt payments
- Other monthly expenses (auto loan, gym membership, etc.)
If your take home income doesn’t at least match your expenses, it’s time to either start looking for ways to make more money or start cutting expenses.
Pull Your Credit Reports
A mistake on your credit report can be a huge headache and you don’t want to find out about it when you need to use a line of credit. Finding a mistake now gives you time to rectify it. AnnualCreditReport.com is run by the three major credit bureaus to comply with the FACTA regulations that require them to give you a copy of your report every year.
Sign Up for a Credit Monitoring Service/Find Your Credit Score
Much the same way your bank might give you a call if they see suspicious activity on your account, a credit monitoring service will send you an email if any change is detected on your credit report. Almost all monitoring services also let you see your credit score, which is what most lenders/credit card companies use to determine if they want to give you a line of credit and how big that line of credit would be. A couple free ones include:
- Credit Click – Gives you all three credit scores and reports for free.
- Credit Karma – Sends occasional emails with activity on your credit report and shows your credit score.
Set a Savings or Income Goal
Give yourself something to work towards, whether that be saving a certain amount of money, increasing your income by a reasonable percentage, paying down a portion of your debt, etc. Just be sure to make the goal attainable and realistic, aim for the high end of what you think you can reasonably do.
Check your progress every month while you’re at it. A quick glance to see where you are and where you are headed can help motivate you to keep performing.
If You Have More Than 60 Minutes – Do Your Taxes
The quicker you get your taxes out of the way, the faster you’ll have your return. Most people have simple returns and can use the 1040EZ form online found at IRS.gov. If things are a little more complicated for you, make an appointment with your tax professional now to get in as soon as you can. Around the start of March most tax pros are slammed all the way through the middle of April.