Your Personal Finance Checklist

Spring is the perfect time to reflect on your past goals and create a plan for the year ahead. From simple objectives like spending less on clothing to larger aspirations like paying down debt or starting a retirement savings account, resolutions can set the pace for a positive year ahead.

At Origin Bank, we encourage you to make positive financial change one of your goals for the year. Here’s a checklist to get you off on the right foot.

Personal Finance Checklist:

1. Upgrade your organization system. The best organization system is the one you actually use. Envelopes, file folders, computer spreadsheets, and phone apps are all great options on their own or in combination, but the key is having a system you understand and use consistently. It likely needs to account for both printed and electronic documents. It should also include all personal finance information like insurance policies, mortgages, loans, and investments. Store it all in a single, safe place like a filing cabinet or desk drawer.

2. Prioritize your debts. Paying off credit cards and large bills might take years, but having a plan of attack is critical. List your debts in order of annual interest rate, starting with the highest. Generally, it’s best to focus on those debts at the top and work your way down. The average credit card interest rate is just over 24 percent. If two or more debts carry higher rates, consider talking to an Origin expert about a detailed repayment plan. You can also use budgeting tools to exercise more control over your finances.

3. Pay attention to payments and paydays. This is a great time to evaluate how money flows into and out of your hands throughout the month. Ideally, bills are spaced evenly around paydays, which prevents stress and allows for better planning. Businesses are usually willing to change your billing cycle, especially if it means getting paid on time. So if a different schedule would benefit your cash flow, don’t be afraid to ask.

4. Close unused or unneeded accounts. Do you need multiple credit cards? There may be exceptions, but the answer is probably “no.” Each card or account generates fees and interest, which is money you’re giving away. Having multiple accounts also increases the possibility of fraud and abuse. Take a long, hard look at your accounts and see which ones you’re actually using, then take steps to close out those you don’t need.

5. Take advantage of technology. Smartphones and laptops place incredible power in your hands – so use it. Origin’s personal financial management tool keeps you on top of budgeting, account aggregation, auto-categorization of transactions, and debt management. You can also stay organized by using a calendar feature for reminders about upcoming payments. Setting up automated payments and transfers offers another layer of protection and is a great budgeting tool.

6. Start saving for retirement. When it comes to building financial independence, time is your biggest asset, so take advantage of it. An individual retirement account, or IRA, builds your wealth over time and offers important tax advantages. Origin’s financial planning experts can match you with the right kind of IRA and help determine a savings plan that fits your budget.

7. Start an emergency fund. An emergency fund can help cover unexpected expenses, from medical and dental bills to home and auto repairs. It can also ensure you’re able to pay for necessities after a layoff. Putting away even a small amount each month is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay in control of your finances. Experts recommend saving a total of three to six months’ worth of living expenses. And if you have the means, saving up to a year’s worth provides a valuable financial cushion in times of instability.

Need help planning for the year ahead? From budgeting insight to savings advice, Origin’s trusted advisors are here to help. When it comes to personal finance, we can set you on the best path toward your goals.