2020 was a tough year. Many of us were hit hard emotionally and financially. We did what we had to do to make it through, and many of us were forced to make some really difficult decisions.
If your financial standing declined in 2020, we're here to help you get back on track. Check out these three big money no-no's when it comes to the new year.
1. Not Paying Attention to the Market
If you're a homeowner with a mortgage, not keeping up with changes in interest rates means you could be missing out on opportunities to save.
By refinancing when rates are low, there is the potential to save thousands of dollars.
Refinancing isn't reserved for those who want to secure a lower interest rate. It's possible to shorten your term to own your home sooner, lengthen it to enjoy lower monthly installments, change the type of loan you have, or several other adjustment possibilities.
If you're currently struggling to keep up with your mortgage payments, don't wait until you're past due to reach out to your lender. Lenders are very willing to work with their borrowers; no one wants to deal with a foreclosure situation, so keep those lines of communication open. In some cases, loan modification may be more beneficial for you than refinancing.
Since you're able to refinance through your current lender or another who may offer more competitive rates and terms, it's imperative that as you head into the new year you're well-versed on the terms of your mortgage. By keeping up with changes in the market and periodically comparing lenders, you set yourself up to be able to snag more favorable terms when the opportunity comes along.
2. Not Contributing to Dedicated Accounts
Yes, 2020 hit most of us hard. It's near impossible to put money aside while living paycheck to paycheck. But if there's one thing you can take away from this pandemic, it's how to save.
You're here. You made it through. You know exactly how much money you need to survive each month, and know how to go without. In many ways, this pandemic has taught - or rather, forced - many of us to learn how to budget, how to eliminate everything that isn't vital to our survival. As things start to open back up and we get back to work, many will become more financially stable. But we can use those hard-learned budgeting skills to create good money-saving habits that we can carry throughout 2021.
As the year continues and your income starts to get back to what it once was, be sure you're setting aside everything that you're able to. Contributing to both a savings account and an emergency fund can help financially protect your family should your situation change down the road.
Be sure to set realistic, achievable goals. It's often helpful to break things down into more manageable steps. For example, putting aside one hundred dollars a month may seem like a big goal for you right now, but saving 25 dollars a week may seem more manageable, even though the end result is the same.
3. Stocking Up on Credit Cards
No one can blame you if you come out of 2020 with some debt and a handful of new credit cards. It wasn't just a tough month or two; it was a difficult year.
If you were forced to open credit cards so that you could survive, you are not alone. We all did what we had to do to get by. Now it's time to get on the road to recovery.
Again, it's important to set achievable goals for yourself. During the first week of 2021, make time to organize your finances. List out everything you spend money on, including credit card payments, and be sure to include interest rates on those cards.
Then, see what debt you can tackle. What cards have the highest interest rates? Are there any balances you can significantly pay down in the next month? While credit cards may have been your key to survival, they aren't something that should be depended on for years to come.
Credit cards typically come with high interest rates, especially for those with lower credit scores. You want to avoid paying those high fees whenever possible, so focus your repayment efforts on the cards with the highest rates.
While having a few credit cards is great for emergencies and for building credit, having multiple can be costly, with payment schedules being difficult to keep track of. Work at chipping away at those debts so that you can start contributing more to savings and emergency accounts.
Let's Look to the Future
If you made some hard choices in 2020 that resulted in your financial health taking a hit, it's important to forgive yourself and look to the future. Debt doesn't have to last forever; high interest rates don't have to last forever. Coming out of 2020, you're stronger than you think you are.
Take the survival skills you learned during a pandemic year and apply them to 2021. Stick to a set budget, explore refinancing options when the time is right, set achievable goals for paying down credit cards, and contribute what you can to a savings and an emergency fund.
Fight the temptation to compare yourself to others.
We're all in different places financially. As you head into the new year, focus on your unique situation and what steps you can take to ensure 2021 is a healthy year for you, physically, mentally, and financially.