Just over a third of the respondents to a recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) blamed their financial problems on job loss, medical issues, or other things out of their control. The rest (63%) admit that their financial problems are no one’s fault but their own. Disorganization and overspending were cited as top causes of self-inflicted financial distress.
The NFCC offers this month-by-month plan for consumers who want to turn over a new leaf this year:
- January: Get your annual free report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and make sure all information included is accurate.
- February: Find out your credit score to help you know what sort of credit cards and loans you qualify for.
- March: Pay down debt and stop charging if you aren’t able to pay in full each month. Transfer balances to a 0% APR credit card if you’re paying high interest rates.
- April: If you don’t have a savings account, open one. Set a goal and arrange automatic transfers to attain it.
- May: Get your financial documents in one place for better analysis whether you use a paper filing system, online financial tools, or a software program.
- June: Set up online bill payment to put a stop to late fees.
- July: If you’ve set up automatic bill payments and paycheck deposits, make sure the dates don’t overlap and cause withdrawals before funds are available.
- August: Track your spending all month. Write down every cent that you spend, however small. When you add it all up, you may be surprised to see how it stacks up.
- September: Make a budget and stick to it.
- October: If you aren’t contributing the maximum amount to your retirement plan at work, start doing so. Also, find out about Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Accounts that could lower your taxable income.
- November: Make sure you aren’t over-insured or under-insured for health, life, car, and home. See if you are eligible for discounts through bundling policies or loyalty incentives.
- December: Check out the possibility of refinancing your home to get a lower monthly mortgage payment.