To help consumers get in better financial shape in the new year, Citizens Bank is encouraging people to take time to identify their financial goals and consider some simple but effective budgeting and savings strategies as part of an annual financial tune-up. Small changes made now can add up over time and help consumers take control of their finances.
“The beginning of a new year provides a natural opportunity to review one’s personal finances and to conduct a simple financial tune-up that can help identify or reaffirm financial goals and recognize any patterns that need to be changed for the year ahead," said Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Citizens Bank and RBS Citizens for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
"We encourage our customers and all consumers to take the time to review their 2012 spending and savings records, write down their 2013 financial goals and start thinking about their household budgets for 2013."
As a guiding principle, Citizens Bank recommends that consumers build a sound foundation for financial health by saving more than they spend. Regardless of age or financial situation, the following checklist provides suggestions for an annual financial tune-up:
Identify your goals - Start by writing down your financial goals for 2013. Deciding how much to save for retirement during the year or developing a plan to pay down debt is not only smart, it's rewarding, because it can help you understand and manage your short- and long-term financial goals. Writing down your goals makes them more concrete and easier to track through the year.
Build a budget - Budgeting is not just about saving money. It also is about taking control of your spending and gaining a better understanding of where your money is going. Write down and analyze your expenses, especially small but recurring expenses like your morning cup of coffee. Compare your monthly income to what you're spending every month. And make sure your budget includes putting money into an interest-bearing savings account.
Eliminate and reduce debt - If you’re using a high-rate credit card, look for lower credit card rates and consider consolidating high balances to the card with the best rate. Every month, pay off credit card balances as much as is practical. If you are carrying balances from holiday shopping, make paying them down as quickly as possible a priority. Some cards also offer cash back on purchases.
Establish automatic savings - Pay yourself first by having part of your paycheck automatically deposited into a savings account. The most successful savers start out small and increase the amount over time.
Little changes add up - Remember that even modest changes can quickly show results. According to an Accounting Principals Workonomix Survey, two-thirds of American workers buy lunch rather than brown-bagging it, spending more than $1,900 a year. Packing your own lunch - even only a few days a week - will yield direct savings.
Evaluate your retirement savings strategy - Are you enrolled in your employer's 401(k) plan? If not, you likely should be, because any employer match is the equivalent of free money. Should an IRA be part of your strategy for tax year 2012 as well as 2013?
Check your credit reports - The three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) each offer one free credit report per year via AnnualCreditReport.com. Review your credit history and dispute any errors you might find.
Seek advice - Talk with your banker, financial advisor or accountant for additional suggestions. Many offer free initial consultations to help determine if this option is right for you.
For more information about Citizens Bank and to see other tools that can help you reach your financial goals in 2013, visit citizensbank.com or call the bank's 24/7 customer service line at 1-800-922-9999.