If you’ve ever found New Year’s resolutions pointless, anxiety-inducing or impossible to keep, maybe you just needed a little help.
Following are several worthy and attainable financial goals for the new year, and a bunch of tools to help you get there. Start this decade off right!
1. Put your savings to work
Many online banks can do much better. CIT Bank, for example, currently beats the national average interest rate on savings by 20 times over. Open an account with just $100 and deposit at least $100 per month to keep that rate, with no account opening or maintenance fees to worry about.
2. Pay down debt
Perhaps your goals for 2020 include eliminating your outstanding debt.
Let’s start with credit card debt. If you have run up large credit card balances and are paying interest on them, that is a very costly way to go. Tackle this high-interest rate debt first.
One option, depending on your circumstances, is to apply for a credit card that charges 0% interest on balance transfers for a period of time — typically between six and 18 months.
Occasionally, you can get a balance transfer card that does not charge a fee for the transfer. More typical, however, is a 3% or 5% fee on the balance moved over from the higher-interest card. So, if you transfer a $6,000 balance, the fee would be $180 at 3% or $300 at 5%.
Important: A 0% interest credit card gives you breathing room, but it’s critical that you can pay off the balance before the grace period ends. After that, the interest rate will soar.
If a balance-transfer card is not a good fit for you, consider other ways to replace expensive debt. For instance, if you are a homeowner outright or with some mortgage debt, then you likely are qualified for a loan based on how much equity you have in your home.
Learn about this and other options in this post: “How to Get the Best Loan for Your Needs.”
If you’ve got more debt than you know how to handle, check out the Money Talks News Solution Center. Our partners at Debt.com can help you come up with a plan to tackle student loans or credit card debt, and you can get a free evaluation from a certified credit counselor.
3. Improve your credit
For many reasons — including your access to mortgages and the best credit card terms — you want your credit score to be as high as possible.
If you have decent credit but are working to pay off debt, check out Tally, an app that identifies the smartest way to pay down your debts. It offers lines of credit to help you get ahead of higher interest rates and simplify your payments.
Another helpful app is Digit, which analyzes your spending and automatically sets aside some money in a savings account for goals you specify, like paying down debts or building an emergency fund. It has a $5 per month fee after a 30-day free trial.
4. Lower your monthly bills
You snooze, you lose. But there are plenty of alarms to keep you from sleeping through rate hikes on pesky recurring expenses.
All you have to do is hand them the bills; they make the phone calls. They also can quickly find unwanted subscriptions, cancel them and get you refunds. And if they can’t save you money, that’s their loss, not yours.
Those companies will negotiate all kinds of things, from TV and internet service to pest control and satellite radio. But there are other companies that specialize in just one or two things, too.
5. Invest — big or small
If you’re ready to earn more on your savings but not ready for a big commitment, resolve to take baby steps into the investing world with micro-investing app Acorns. The app will round your credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the “change” in a diversified portfolio developed with help from a Nobel Prize-winning economist. It costs $1 per month, and there are no trade fees.
With the emergence of internet and mobile phone apps, investing in the stock market has become ever more affordable and available to those of us with ordinary amounts of money. One of the newer options, financial-services company Robinhood, is giving traditional investing firms a run for their money by offering individuals an easy way to trade stocks, ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and options — charging no commission fees — starting with as little as a $1 investment.
If you’re not ready for a stock portfolio, you can get a 5% return by investing in Worthy bonds, which the company uses to lend money to small businesses.
Interested in real estate? Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are one way to get in on these profits from an asset class that has traditionally been the province of the super-wealthy.
Fundrise allows you to get started with just $500 by providing a way for you to buy into real-estate portfolios. Their average annualized returns since 2014 range from 8.76% to 12.42%, although you can expect asset management and advisory fees to eat into a little of your return. But that’s a small price to pay to skip the legwork and get an opportunity once only available to big investors.
If you’re leery of property investments right now, here’s another way to diversify your investments: Masterworks, which allows you to invest in fine art by famous artists. It’s a way to get part ownership in blue-chip artwork that has a track record of appreciating steadily in an investment landscape that is less volatile than the stock market. (Learn more about Masterworks by clicking here.)
6. Set up a spending plan that you won’t abandon
Step one: Stop thinking of it as a budget, which conjures up images of making do with less. Have you ever heard anyone make a resolution to “suffer more”? Taking control of your spending doesn’t have to mean painfully scrimping.
Instead, the goal should be to lay out a voluntary plan for all your financial resources: a spending plan. One of the tools we like to recommend at Money Talks News is the app YNAB (You Need a Budget). Despite having “budget” in the name, the app is a painless tool that guides you through assigning every dollar a job and makes it easy to fine-tune things as life happens.
The app has a 34-day free trial and costs $6.99 a month afterward, with a money-back guarantee. The company says users save an average of $600 in their first two months and $6,000 over a year.
7. Ditch cable and get the shows you actually want
How many cable channels do you have, and how many of them do you watch? If you’re ready to drop your cable or satellite TV company in favor of cheaper streaming services, you have more options than ever.
There’s the relatively new Apple TV+ and Disney+, plus old standbys like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. But don’t think dropping cable means giving up live TV.
If there’s a particular network you like, it might directly offer an affordable service, too — like CBS All Access at $5.99 per month after a seven-day free trial.
8. Save on all your shopping and dining
If you’re resolved not to leave money on the table, cash-back portal Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is one ticket to smart shopping. Sign up for a free account and you can start earning cash rebates from more than 3,500 retail stores and restaurants.
Another cash-back service to check out is the app Ibotta, which works with more than 300 major retail, restaurant, convenience store and pharmacy chains.
9. Lose weight and make money doing it
Certainly one of the most popular resolutions every year is the vow to get in shape, which has nothing to do with money. Or does it?
A program called HealthyWage essentially lets you bet on yourself to succeed at weight loss.
You set a weight loss goal and a timetable to achieve it, then put up a monthly bet. If you achieve your goal, you end up making more than you put in. You can also join team challenges for the chance to win more and gain some accountability partners.
10. Earn extra money in your downtime
You can convert boredom into cash — or at least gift cards — by taking paid surveys. One place to do that is Swagbucks, which rewards you for watching videos, shopping online, playing games and taking surveys.
While you’re not going to make a killing, you might as well get paid while your brain is in low gear, right? InboxDollars works in a similar way, if you have time for more than one.
11. Take on a side gig
Or maybe you have an RV that you don’t use for most of the year. Instead of letting it stand idle, you can use it to generate money by renting it out to vacationers through the website RVShare. As with the home share services, RVShare allows people seeking a vehicle to connect with people who have one to rent out, while also providing a mechanism for payments and paperwork.
For loads more ideas on making extra money, check out “107 Easy Ways to Make Extra Cash.”
12. Seek reliable financial advice
If you’re not sure exactly what to do with your money in 2020 and beyond, here’s a free and trustworthy way to figure it out: Wealthramp. It’s a matchmaking service between investors and vetted independent financial advisers.
After answering a few questions, it’ll find somebody in your area who fits your preferences, and they’re guaranteed to be a fiduciary — a pro who’s legally required to work in your best interests, not a salesperson in for a quick buck at your expense.
What’s your financial goal for 2020? Share it in comments below or on our Facebook page.