Just like that, January has come and gone. Poof! It was only a few short weeks ago you probably sat down and made a few financial resolutions. Save more. Spend less. Pay off debt. Whatever your resolution, how are things going after the first month? Are you on track or have you already bailed on them just like your diet resolution?
If things aren’t going as planned, no worries. Remember that improving your finances is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s a long road and there’s plenty of time to get back on track. So, here are four things you can start working on today to get back to where you need to be.
Put your tax refund to use. With the tax deadline looming you’re probably already in the beginning stages of getting your tax return completed. And if you’re like many Americans, you’re expecting a refund. So put that refund to use. Don’t go out and blow it on a new HDTV or a vacation you otherwise couldn’t afford. Not that you don’t deserve those things, but if you have lingering debt or no savings set aside for an emergency, that’s where you need to put the money. It won’t be as exciting as splurging, but it will pay huge dividends down the road. Filed but looking to track that refund? Find out where your refund is here.
Take advantage of the 2011 payroll tax holiday. If you haven’t already noticed, you’re getting a payroll tax break this year. For this tax year thanks to the new tax bill you’ll be paying 2 percent less in taxes with each paycheck. This could mean an extra few thousand dollars in your pocket over the course of the year. But instead of just letting it hit your bank account and getting spent with the rest of the money, consider putting that 2 percent towards debt, into a savings account, or into an IRA. Consider this: if you put that money into a Traditional IRA or 401(k) you’ll also get a tax deduction on top of everything else! Talk about really putting your money to work.
Automate your bills. Life is stressful enough without having to worry about paying bills, so why worry at all? Nearly all major bills can be paid automatically, either through a bill pay system with your bank or through the company itself. Don’t waste time each month manually paying bills online or writing checks. Put it on autopilot and you’ll not only free up more time, but never have another late fee again.
Re-balance your portfolio. In case you missed it, the last two years have been two of the best years ever for the stock market. Sure, it came on the heels of two of the worst years, but it goes to show you that the past doesn’t necessarily predict the future. And when you have wild swings like we’ve seen it can really mix things up in your investment portfolio. You may now be too concentrated in stocks, or maybe you changed your investment strategy when the market was down and have been missing out on recent gains, etc. Either way, it’s time to take a look at your investments and re-balance if necessary. As I recently pointed out, during the lost decade of investing, by simply maintaining a diversified portfolio and re-balancing regularly, you turn ten years of no gain in the market into a respectable gain in your portfolio.
The little things really do start to add up. Whether it’s being able to save an extra $25 a month, paying off a high-interest balance on a credit card, or just tweaking your investment holdings, you can make a big difference in your financial future.