Make these 8 money moves now to get 2021 off to a strong start
Make these 8 cash movements now to get 2021 off to a great start
It's been a long, strange, and stressful year and many of us are eager to leave 2020 in the rearview mirror.
After all, there's a lot to expect in 2021: the launch of the vaccine, maybe even more stimulus checks, and potentially tens of thousands of dollars in student debt relief.
But despite those glimmers of hope, not all financial problems will go away when you hang a new calendar on your wall. The pandemic is likely to have widespread effects over months - possibly years.
Here are eight money movements you can make today to prepare for the coming New Year.
1. Build up your emergency fund further
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If the lockdowns and layoffs taught us anything, one of the smartest financial decisions to make is having a solid emergency fund.
Most financial professionals recommend having enough emergency savings on hand to cover your regular expenses worth at least six months, including your rent, groceries, and other recurring monthly bills.
Even if your emergency fund survived 2020, you should try replenishing it - especially if you have the money parked in a high-yield savings account.
With a high-yield account, your money earns far more interest than with a conventional checking or savings account at one of the major banks.
2. Check your credit score
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You may not think your credit score is all that important, but if you ever need to take out a loan to cover an unexpected expense, a bad score can leave you without many options.
Don't worry if you haven't checked your credit score in a while (or ever). There are several online services available that will allow you to see your score for free in just a few seconds.
A solid credit score doesn't just help you get an emergency loan. It will also unlock the best interest rates on a wide variety of financial products, including mortgages and credit cards, potentially saving you thousands.
Many websites that offer free credit scores also offer free credit monitoring services. They will notify you as soon as your score changes and send you personalized tips on how to increase it if it is lower than you want.
3. Erase your high interest debt
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If you've been relying on your credit cards a little more than usual this year, you've probably got a bunch of interest.
Credit card interest rates can be ridiculously high (over 20% in some cases) and they hit even harder as they go up. That is, if you don't pay off the full balance each month, you'll end up paying interest on your interest.
For a fresh start in 2021, consider paying off your credit card debt with a debt consolidation loan.
As long as your credit rating is reasonable, consolidating all of your existing debts will allow you to exchange all of your existing debts for a single loan at a much lower interest rate. You could save thousands of dollars in interest and get debt free years sooner.
4. Give your budget an tweak
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You may have already adjusted your budget during the pandemic - possibly more than once - but towards the end of the year it is worth taking another look at your bills to make sure you are not spending more than you need.
You might be able to lower your grocery bills by trying a few different stores in your neighborhood. Prices can vary greatly between chains and you might find that your usual point of contact is not the best option.
The same logic can be applied to your other monthly expenses, such as: B. Your car insurance. Check how much you are currently spending, then compare rates from at least three other insurance companies to make sure you are getting a good deal.
Comparing the free online pricing can potentially save you up to $ 1,100 a year.
5. Get your retirement plan going again
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As anyone with a 401 (k) can tell you, 2020 was a bumpy year for retirement planning.
If the pandemic has thwarted your plans, you should reach out to a certified financial planner (CFP) to help.
A CFP can create a personalized retirement plan for you based on your current situation and long-term goals, and provide valuable insights into how to get the most of your money in 2021.
Working with a financial planner is surprisingly affordable and nowadays it can be done entirely online after a free initial telephone consultation.
6. Refinance your mortgage
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Mortgage rates kept falling in 2020. So, if you are a homeowner and haven't gotten a refinance, the first thing you should do is in 2021.
Refinancing your mortgage can save you hundreds of dollars a month - and tens of thousands over the course of your loan. Good candidates should have solid credit ratings and at least 20% home equity.
It is important that you shop around first before committing to an offer. A study by the state-sponsored mortgage agency Freddie Mac found that comparing the interest rates of at least five lenders can make a $ 3,000 difference in how much you save over time.
7. Price check when shopping online
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This year, more Americans than ever before shopped online every day. With lockdowns dragging on through 2021, you can expect online shopping to remain the preferred method for the foreseeable future.
Amazon and Walmart.com make it easy to get everything you need in one place. However, if you don't check the price of every item in your shopping cart at multiple online stores, you may be able to spend more than you should when you hit the checkout button.
Fortunately, a free browser extension is available that allows you to instantly compare the prices of everything in your shopping cart to thousands of other online stores.
It only takes a few seconds to download and install and could potentially cut your online shopping bills by hundreds of dollars in the New Year.
8. Supplement your income with a side appearance
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If your regular income has been disrupted by the pandemic or you just want to give your bank balance a boost in 2021, turning your hobbies into cash has never been easier.
An online freelance marketplace can help common people find buyers for all kinds of talent, from web design to blogging to personalized portraits.
Best of all, many of these side gigs can be done from the comfort of your home.
Spending a few hours a week on side appearances can also expand your network and build your resume. Both of these can be important factors when deciding on a new job in the future.
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