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Here are 5 Suggestions For a Financially Smart Year

 

Tom Hartford, Senior Editor

April 16th, 2020

Affected by COVID-19? Here are a few resources to help during this unprecedented situation.

CARES Act

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law to aid individuals and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill is the largest of its kind in U.S. history.

Direct Stimulus

Individuals will receive tax credits in the form of a check or direct deposit. No action is required to receive this benefit. This includes $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to individual filers earning less than $75,000 annually, along with other stipulations. Track your Stimulus Check here.

Unemployment Assistance

This CARES Act also includes expanded unemployment benefits. Requirements now include self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and more. To apply, contact your state unemployment office. Find their contact information on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Mortgage Assistance

At this time, mortgage lenders and servicers can provide payment deferral of up to 180 days on federally backed loans. If needed, contact your mortgage provider to discuss deferring mortgage payments.

Rent Assistance

If you cannot pay rent, talk with your housing provider, as you may be protected under the CARES Act. Read more about COVID rent relief here.

Let’s face it. It’s been a rough year for us all. And perhaps you made a few poor financial decisions last year that cost you. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. The good news is there’s no better time to start fresh than today. Let’s get those finances back on track in 2020.

 

If you’d like to leave bad decisions in the past and you’re ready to turn over a new leaf, we’ll talk you through 5 easy tips to having a financially smart year.

 

Tip #1: Review Your Cash Flow

Before you do anything, you need to take a hard look at all your monthly expenses and your income.

Not sure where your money goes? Stop throwing receipts away and track everything. If you buy it, write it down. Determine how much you spend on groceries, gas, utilities, phone service, eating out, rent, and donations so you know exactly where every dollar goes.

You also need to take a hard look at every dollar that comes your way. If you work an hourly job, it can be tricky knowing your average pay. One good way to do this is to add up the total earned over the last six months and divide that by six. That’s your average monthly income.

 

Tip #2: Build a Budget

The word budget may make you bristle or recoil in fear, but a budget can be your friend. Having one, understanding it, and using it every day can move you toward a lifetime of financial freedom. It’s incredibly important to follow your budget with discipline.

Once you understand the amount of money you make every month and what your required monthly expenses are, write out a budget that ensures you can save as much as possible. To avoid blowing all your extra cash at once, give yourself a small weekly or monthly allowance. Let this be the only money you spend on extra non-essential items.

See something you really want to buy, but it’s a little outside of your budget? Save your allowance until you have enough to buy it. Here are a few of our favorite budgeting spreadsheets.

 

Tip #3: Shop with Purpose

If only we could purchase whatever we wanted without thinking about the consequences. Unless you’re filthy rich, that’s not the best route to a financially smart year. Instead, try to put thought into every single purchase you make.

If you’ve got a budget, you’re a step ahead. But it doesn’t stop there. Clip coupons, buy generic, and don’t buy so much food that it goes rotten before you get to it. Remember, you’re shopping with a purpose, and that purpose is to have a financially smart year in 2020 and beyond.

 

Tip #4: Change Your Pay Dates

Do you struggle to keep up because your bills are all due at the same time each month? Request that your payment dates be changed. With a phone call to your landlord, credit company, or utility provider, you may be able to change the day your monthly payment is due.

Our Suggestion:Try staggering your bills so some fall after your first payday, while others follow your second payday, and so forth. Do this and you won’t fear the first, fifteenth, or thirtieth of any month.

 

Tip #5: Negotiate on Everything

Did you know that most businesses have flexibility on their prices? From retail to service providers, asking for a better price often works. Has your refrigerator kicked the dust? Ask the manager of the appliance store how low the price can go on a replacement. Considering a cheaper cell phone provider? Call your current provider and tell them. Then, ask if they’ll drop your rate.

Often they will, but you’ve got to ask first. And if not, don’t be afraid to shop around. Most businesses match their competitors’ rates and are eager to get your business.

 

We hope these five healthy financial habits will help you to live your best financially smart year yet. Make 2020 the year you finally get your finances in check.

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