Trimming the Financial Fat

dollars - pixabayJanuary is when we are bombarded with fitness and diet ads, and gyms are suddenly packed with people looking to trim down and tone up. Tending to your health is important, but the start of the New Year is also a perfect time to tend to your financial health. Here are some tips to get a fresh start, trim financial fat, and prepare your wallet for a financially healthy 2015.

  • Check your credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once a year, and you can request them through Looking at your report won’t give you your score, but the report does provide the base for your score. Checking it gives you the opportunity to spot errors and catch instances of fraud. If you find errors, it is your responsibility to contact the credit reporting companies to have them fixed.
  • Check your subscriptions and memberships. Examine your cable, streaming, and magazine subscriptions. Have any gone up in cost unexpectedly? Are you really reading the magazines you get in the mail and fully utilizing your streaming services? If you don’t watch most of the cable channels you are paying for and that stack of magazines is collecting dust, it may be time to cut back. Also, think about scaling back on any health club or other memberships that you are not utilizing.
  • Start a financial journal. Keep a small notebook in a handy location, whether that be in your car, your purse, or on the kitchen counter, so you remember to write down what you spend. For a techy alternative, you could set up a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint to keep track. Do this for at least one full month so you have a complete picture of where your money is really going—what you see may surprise you!
  • Get in touch with your wants vs. your needs. Be mindful about what you are spending, and re-establish what you truly need this year versus what are just wants. Perhaps you have a financial goal in mind, like buying a home or taking a family trip, that will require some extra discipline with your dollars. Writing down your financial needs and goals and posting them in a visible place is a great way to set your focus for the year.
  • Conquer your credit cards. If you are carrying credit card debt into the New Year, resolve to pay it down, especially if you have a high interest rate. Make more than the minimum payment whenever possible so you avoid paying just interest and not making a dent in your principle. Avoid relying on cards to pay your daily bills and instead trim extra costs so you have the funds to meet your living expenses. Avoid opening and closing cards often.
  • Pick one of your financial pitfalls and do a month-long “cleanse.” Maybe you make a daily coffee run, eat out more than you would like, or spontaneously drop money on department store “deals.” We all have those little financial blind spots that can add up. Trying quitting yours for a month and see how much you can save. For some visual motivation, put whatever cash you would have spent on that habit in a jar to see the savings add up. Take the process one step further and put whatever cash is in that jar toward your financial goal for 2015. After a month of foregoing your spending habit, you might find you don’t miss it!
  • Resolve to learn. If you are not used to watching or managing your finances, it can seem overwhelming. Knowledge is power! Find a fun financial blog or app to keep you up to date, sign up for a financial education class (check with local banks and credit unions or a HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agency), and give your brain a workout by learning something new. The financial know-how you gain will only help your future.

Have you made financial resolutions for 2015, or are you trying out new money habits? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.

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1 Comment

  1. The secret is to live below your means. Easier said than done sometimes but so worth it!


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