5 Steps to a Total Money Makeover

Many of us have undergone a personal makeover, by which we change our hair, makeup, and wardrobe in order to better reflect our current station in life. This is often based on changes in the home or work sphere, such as a new baby or a job promotion, for example. You may also have completed a home makeover, turning your house into a more functional and appealing space in order to increase value and return on investment. Sometimes, though, it’s not about practicality - we just need something different. When it comes to money matters, however, you’re unlikely to perform a makeover unless you’ve spotted some kind of problem that needs to be solved. And if you’re not quite sure where to get stared when it comes to overhauling your finances, here are a few tips that can help you to enact a total money makeover.

  1. Create a budget. The place to start with any financial plan is with a budget, and it’s truly surprising how many adults fail to attend to this crucial step. But if money is coming and going and you can’t figure out why you’re in debt, it’s definitely time to start tracking your income and expenses. A budget is simple enough to create; you simply have to make a column for income that includes any funds coming in from employment, inheritance, insurance settlements, and other stable sources. Then you fill in a column with regular expenses, including monthly bills, medical payments, and so on. Whatever money is left can be dedicated to food, fuel, and other unknown expenses (i.e. those that fluctuate). Once you’ve got a budget in place you can start to see where you’re crossing the line where spending is concerned and start to tailor your habits in order to live within your means.
  2. Check your credit. If you don’t check your credit rating at least annually, you could be suffering from issues that will actually cost you in the long run. Say you paid off a debt but the creditor has yet to inform the credit bureaus. It could show up as a black mark, lowering your score and impairing your ability to get loans and other lines of credit. You need to attend to such issues. However, you could also be the victim of identity theft, a situation that you might have known about had you bothered to order a free report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
  3. Refi. If you’re looking to revamp your finances, you won’t find a better time to refinance your mortgage than right now. And if you happen to be paying anything over about 4% on your mortgage or a home equity line of credit (or both), roll them together through a refi and benefit from a lower interest rate (and lower monthly payments) for the duration of your loan.
  4. Invest in your future. If you’re not putting money into a 401K, a Roth IRA, or other investment options, you’re missing out on the opportunity to make your money work harder for you. It’s not like you have to become a day trader, either. Simply talk to a financial planner about your options, begin contributing at work if they offer a 401K plan, and find out if your employer offers matching donations (often they will match anywhere from 3-6% of your eligible salary). If you’re not investing you might as well be throwing money away.
  5. Start saving. A rainy day fund is one thing, but a total money makeover not only requires you to become aware of your finances, but also to use them wisely. So whether you’re saving up for a trip or you have no large expenditures on the horizon, you should always put a portion of your paycheck into savings. You never know when you might suffer job loss, medical issues, or other unexpected costs that could require some cash on hand. You can cut back on spending with coupons, club memberships, and instant discounts, but saving money also means pledging to keep a certain amount stashed away, and then leaving it there for use in an emergency.

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