The year 2013 might be one quarter over but it’s still not too late to take steps that could help you improve your finances this year. You should definitely do the obvious such as do discount shopping year round, and I hope you’ve already prepared for this year’s tax changes. But there are 8 other things you could do to improve your financial picture.
1. Pay off debts slowly
If you’ve managed to accumulate a large load of debt, it’s practically impossible for you to pay it off overnight and if you try to do this it can be very frustrating. The first thing you should do is change your spending habits and then set up individual savings accounts for each of your goals. You can then start paying off debts when you get these costs under control.
2. Upgrade your bank
The policies of banks can be a lot different. Some will offer interest rates on savings accounts that are better-than-average, while others will make it easy to create and manage a budget with online tools. You should think about how you live and then try to find a bank that matches your lifestyle. For example, if you travel a lot you probably would want a bank that has ATMs all over the U.S. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase your savings, you should choose a bank that offers the best savings rates.
3. Ask for a raise
The economy seems to be making something of a comeback so this might be a good time for you to ask for a raise. You could check www.salary.com and payscale.com to determine whether or not your income matches up with those of other people in your occupation. If you find it’s less than theirs, you should review what you’ve accomplished in the past year, then show these to your manager and ask that your salary be raised.
4. Cook more
If you don’t know how to cook, you should learn. If you do home cooked meals in place of restaurant and take out meals, you could save lots of bucks this year alone. You say you don’t feel very good trying to cook? Spend some time browsing foodie blogs or with the food channel. This should help you feel better about cooking. You could also invest in good quality pans, pots and even cookbooks, which would make cooking seem more enticing.
5. Do home improvements that have an ROI
Leaky attics, doors and windows can drive your energy bills through the roof. Think about adding more insulation and buying a programmable thermostat. This alone could cut your energy cost by as much as 30% a year. You might also buy some of the new intelligent power strips that will cut the power to your electronic devices when they’re off. Another good option is to buy some LED lights.
6. Learn the fine print of your homeowner’s insurance policy
You don’t want to wait until your home suffers water damage before discovering that your policy won’t cover it. Many homeowners just don’t know about the holes in their homeowners’ policies, which can cause some very unpleasant surprises. For example, most ordinary policies won’t reimburse you for flood damage, earthquake damage or water damage caused by the backup of a sump pump. If you haven’t gotten competitive bids on your homeowners insurance this year, you should definitely do this. Insurance companies are competitive and some will offer amazingly great rates in order to attract new customers.
7. Ask tough questions before you go shopping
Let’s face it. We’re surrounded by temptations and blandishments that make easy to buy an item without thinking seriously about it. There are some questions you should ask yourself before you go shopping. For example, you might ask yourself “can I borrow one, make one or find one used rather than buy it?” “Is this an item I really need?” “If I buy this will it enhance the joy and meaning in my life?” If you can’t answer these questions accurately, you should pass on the item.
8. Make free donations
It’s not necessary to be famously rich to make donations to worthwhile charities. You could donate your blood, CDs and books that have been gently used or some of your time. Many people form “giving circles” with their friends. This would allow you to power up your dollars by giving to good causes together.