With a fresh new year coming up, it’s a great time to make those lifestyle changes to improve your future. This is why many people’s New Year’s resolutions include a vow to improve their finances. Unlike the classic “diet and exercise” resolution, however, being “better with money” is a nebulous and undefined goal. Most people, though they want to be better with money, have no idea where to start. Here are three easy areas which you can start saving almost immediately and be on your way to better finances in the new year.
One area you may immediately be able to save on is your cable bill. Many people have bloated packages and end up paying for many extra channels they never even watch. Do you NEED 1,500 channels, or would, say, 250 be enough? Think about what channels you actually watch, and then call up your cable company and ask if they have a package tailored towards you.
You can even just call and ask for a discount, even if you aren’t changing plans. Often cable companies have promotions and deals which you can get hooked into just by asking. Finally, can you cut some more cable services, such as movie channels, and replace it with a cheaper alternative like Red Box, Hulu or Netflix? Check out your options and update your plan to match your actual usage, and you’ll be surprised at how much you save.
Similar to the cable bill, take a look at your phone usage. First, do you still have a landline? Do you need it? Then take a look at your cell phone; find out how many minutes and texts you use, and how much data you go through in a month. Once you know what you need, you can shop around – is your current provider the best? If it is, do they have a different plan that may work better for you? If you find someplace significantly cheaper, it might be time to switch over.
Also, check into company discounts from your employer or even alumni associations. Many companies have discounts worked out with the cell phone companies. You don’t have to get your phone through your employer, but you can get that discount on your personal phone just by working for them. Just ask.
With so many free online rate quotes, comparison sites, etc. it’s a shame to keep carrying that same old insurance you’ve had for years just because “that’s what you’ve always had.” Besides the new year being a good time to check your coverage policies and see if you are still adequately covered, it’s a good time to shop around and see if you can get a better deal somewhere. Check your home insurance, car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, and any other insurances you might have, such as umbrella insurance. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but the savings in the long run will be well worth it.
Okay, so you’ve “saved” all this money. Now what do you do next? Notice that “saved” is in quotes, because you actually haven’t saved it yet. You’ve not spent it on unneeded cable, phone, and insurance services, but if you go spend it on something else, then you still haven’t saved any money at all, you’ve just spent it in a different way! So what you need to do with that money depends on your situation. First, create an emergency fund. If you have high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, work on paying that off as soon as possible. Finally, if you have only low-interest debt, start saving that money into various savings vehicles – 401k, IRAs, CDs and index funds.
Being “better with money” is a good idea, but it’s not specific enough. Take these ideas and go do something that can help you set yourself up to save. Call your cable and cell phone companies. Compare insurance rates. Start paying down your debt and saving, and you’ll thank yourself in the future.
Guest writer Gina Hamilton is a financial advisor as well as an insurance consultant and content contributor for Kanetix, a provider of all types of insurance in Canada and the U.S. You can also check out the latest news affecting the insurance industry on their site, like this post about the surge in Chrysler sales.