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3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Finances in the New Year

3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Finances in the New Year


    Who wants to end 2012 even better financially? You need more than just a “that sounds like a good idea” attitude to make that happen.

    So let’s not waste anymore time, shall we?

    Here are three actions you can take now — before we even hit 2012 — to end next year with a better balance than this year.

    1. Know Your End Game

    What kind of financial standing do you want to end up with in December 2012? Take some time now to plan your financial goals.

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    I recommend figuring out how things went this year. What were you happy about? What could have gone better financially? Were there any bad choices made? Be completely honest with yourself.

    Now think, if you were looking back on 2012 and reveling in how amazing it was for you financially, what would it look like? No, this isn’t “pie in the sky” or “winning the lottery” type of imagining. Figure out logically what you should shoot for.

    If you make your goal too big your brain will start to stress over not yet achieving it.

    Just thinking about what you want isn’t enough though. Try to set your goal in stone.

    After interviewing 50 millionaires, I’ve learned that they do a lot after the goal is set. They use vision boards, goals written on whiteboards, or put goals on post-it notes on their laptops. Then they break down the goal to figure out what they need to do to achieve it.

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    “When I have a goal I’ve written it down and then I know I need to make this happen to achieve the goal. What my action steps are for today, tomorrow, this week, next week, for this whole month, etc.” – Vonda White, CEO of Collegiate Risk Management

    Millionaires don’t do anything crazy or different than the typical advice you have heard about setting goals. Their success lies in that they actually take action to write them down, see them every day and commit to working on them each week.

    Action: Create your End Game in visual form that you will see it every day. Break it down into weekly goals and commit to them.

    2. Get Accountability

    Finances are still a taboo subject. It may mean fighting over money with your significant other, or being hush-hush on how much money you make in the workplace. We tend to complain about money in public. It seems socially acceptable to talk about being broke, or getting good deals on stuff but not about giving advice and helping each other out.

    If you want to win in 2012 with money you can’t be silent. I know this from experience. I was $70,000 in debt and didn’t even realize it. Only when I was able to start talking about it — and doing something about it — did things change. I paid off all $70,000 in 16 months.

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    So find someone that you can talk to and keep you accountable. Find a friend that wants to work on their finances in 2012 too. If you are married, your first choice should be your husband or wife so you can create a strong bond around your finances (but if money is a sore subject though you may need to find a friend you trust instead).

    Set up a weekly or bi-weekly chat with each other. Talk about great choices you’ve made, and what you want to do better in the weeks to come. You can also help each other brainstorm about ways to hit your goals. Commit to that meeting. It will give your finances the attention they need to achieve your goal.

    Action: Email your trusted friend or significant other asking them to help you be accountable in 2012.

    3. Be Thankful

    We all want things to improve next year. I know from working with many clients, we tend to focus on what we don’t want, or how much better things will be when we achieve our goals in the future.

    It’s not about that at all.

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    It’s about appreciating your financial situation now. Even if it’s not what you want. Most likely you have a computer and are reading this on your Internet connection, or maybe even at work. That means you have much more than most people on this planet.

    Make sure your 2012 includes ways to show your gratitude for all that you have. We have so much to be thankful for and sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

    Create a thankful routine. A thankful routine is just something you decide to do when you are feeling down about your money situation, or you aren’t making as much progress as you want to. It might involve writing down a few things you are thankful for, giving a small amount of money or time to someone who needs it more, or even calling family or a friend to remind them how much you love them.

    Money isn’t everything.

    Action: Create your thankful routine. Just pick one thing you want to do when you attitude about your fiances shift negatively.

    Enjoy your 2012. What are your plans to make it the best year yet?

    (Photo credit: Calculator and Money via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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