Before you know it, the holiday season of 2011 will be over and 2012 – with all its potential and opportunity – will be staring you in the face. If you’ve never had to think about budgeting, or have never been completely satisfied with the budget you have, the beginning of a new year is a great time to make some financial changes.
Building a better budget can be empowering. Fortunately, it can also be easy.
So while everyone else around you is singing “Auld Lang Syne,” pop in your “hits of the ’80s” CD (or queue it up on your iPod), and start singing along to that Howard Jones anthem of optimism that promises “things can only get better.”
Here are four ideas on how to budget your money better 2012:
1. Complete a Budget Worksheet - Whether you do it online or by hand, filling out a budget worksheet can really help you bring your finances into focus and clarify what your financial goals will be for the New Year. Finding a good one is as simple as typing the terms into a search engine. Sites like BudgetWorksheet.org, NFCC.org (the homepage of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling) and Kiplinger.com all offer free worksheets that will help you keep track of income and expenses.
2. Write Down Your Financial Goals - Anyone can say they’re going to improve their financial habits, but putting them in writing can make those goals feel real. When you’re thinking about how to budget your money in the new year, keep pen and paper in front of you. Jot down your goals and list at least one thing you can do to help achieve them in 2012.
3. Take Advantage of Automation - Missed or late payments are one of the worst things that can happen to your credit score. With the hectic pace most of us keep, it’s not difficult to forget to pay a bill occasionally. One way around the problem is to set up automatic payments for bills that recur every month, from your mortgage to your cable bill. Most banks that offer online banking services will allow you to establish recurring payments that automatically pay bills on the date of your choice every month. Likewise, automating deposits – such as having your paycheck directly deposited and divided between checking and savings accounts – can help curb overspending and increase savings.
4. Make Friends with Your Credit Score - Credit can be a good friend to you, if you treat it right. If you don’t know what your credit score is, find out, even if you have no plans to make a big credit purchase – like a car or house – in 2012. Keeping a friendly eye on your credit score throughout the year can help ensure you won’t have any nasty surprises when you finally do need it.