By Tony Pica, Northern Virginia Market President, Capital One Bank
What’s on your New Year’s resolution list? To lose 20 pounds? To be more organized? While many of us may be struggling to break old habits, one resolution we should all try to keep this year is to manage our finances more wisely. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few financial tips that will get you started on the right financial foot in 2013:
- Set financial goals. Identify and write down your financial goals. Maybe they include sending your kids to college, buying a home or saving a certain amount by retirement age. Set both short- and long-term goals, and hold yourself accountable by revisiting the list monthly to ensure you’re making consistent steps—no matter how small—toward meeting those goals.
- Start saving. There are a lot of ways to start saving money. It all starts with spending less than you earn and asking, "What can I do without?" Start with opening a savings account that earns interest and schedule automatic deposits on payday that go to your savings account. Shop around for the best rate. Also, take advantage of pre-tax savings opportunities, such as an employee-sponsored retirement savings plan. Many employers match your contributions in whole or part.
- Start budgeting - NOW. Develop a monthly budget to figure out how much you realistically need to spend in 2013. Modify your budget as your financial situation changes throughout the year, and look for ways to save money (consider eliminating extra cable channels or a high-priced mobile phone plan, or cutting back on eating out). Remember that 2013 is a fresh start. Envision how you want to use your money and determine how your goals and dreams fit within your budget.
- Pay bills on time. When it comes time to pay bills, stay organized and keep track. Paying bills on time will establish a good credit history. If you plan on making any big-ticket purchases in 2013, such as a new car or home, strong credit is essential. If you don’t pay your bills on time, your credit score will fall and you’ll end up paying more than you owe because of late fees and finance charges.
- Make better use of online tools. With access to online shopping at your fingertips, it’s more difficult to keep track of how much you’re spending. Get an online banking app to access account status on the go, make transfers, etc. Sign up for text alerts about your balance, deposits or withdrawals over a certain amount.
- Start investing. Make your money work for you by investing well. Investing can be risky, so make sure you do your research, and invest strategically. Create a diversified portfolio that works to meet your long-term financial goals. Remember, investments go up and down; keep your focus on the future, and don’t get caught up in the short-term.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to becoming financially savvy in 2013. Remember, when tough money situations arise, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consider reaching out to a certified financial planner or other trusted source of financial information. Capital One Bank invests in several programs that help children, teens and adults to increase their money management skills through participation in results-oriented, interactive learning opportunities. Our goal with these programs is to take the mystery out of managing money wisely and to set individuals of all ages on the path to a life of fiscal responsibility and economic self-reliance.
In partnership with leading consumer advocacy group Consumer Action, Capital One Bank has also developed a free online tool to help consumers understand the basics of money management. The MoneyWi$e eLearning courses offer information on a variety of financial topics, including talking to teens about money, saving and rebuilding credit. The MoneyWi$e courses along with other financial education resources and information about Capital One Bank programs can be found at www.capitalone.com/financialeducation.