San Mateo, CA (PRWEB) January 7, 2009
The ball has dropped in Times Square, holiday festivities are over, and credit card bills are about to roll in -- making the timing right for Americans to resolve to adopt smart financial strategies in 2009, said Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com.
"At this time last year, the stock market was near its record high, unemployment was near record lows, and the bursting housing bubble was the main financial concern facing the United States," said Ewing. "Today, with the country in a very different situation, the New Year is a wonderful time for new resolve."
Ewing suggests Americans consider these steps to outline their financial goals for 2009 and take steps toward reaching them.
1. Create a spending plan. Create a straightforward budget for the year, Ewing suggested, and monitor it monthly - or weekly (making sure to include your spouse or partner if applicable). Each month, review your progress and revise as needed.
2. Live with cash. Move away from credit cards and avoid going into debt, especially for daily, routine and ongoing purchases. Write checks or use automatic bill payments for bills, and withdraw enough cash or use a debit card for other expenses. Track withdrawals diligently to avoid going into overdraft.
3. Pay bills on time. "On-time payments are the most important element of good credit," Ewing said. Keep bills in one location and check that spot weekly. Set up online payments or write due dates on a calendar to stay on track.
4. Save. Aspire to save 10 percent or more of your income, but even if you can manage only a few dollars a week, get in the habit and start, and then add to your savings whenever you can. After you pay off a bill, add the amount you would normally pay toward the bill to your savings instead. If you get a raise, bonus, cash gift or other one-time monetary receipt, save it - or at least a portion of it.
5. Care for your health. Money cannot buy good health, but poor health can cost a bundle. Exercise and eat well, get enough sleep and, in these stressful times, take time to pursue relaxation practices, whether that means spiritual practices, meditation, a workout or coffee with a friend.
6. Do more with less. Take care of household maintenance, barter services or goods with friends or neighbors, and fix up old belongings rather than rushing to buy new ones. Some statistics say that people buy 30 percent more when shopping with a larger cart -- so even a small change like avoiding the store cart when possible could make your life simpler and your budget happier.
7. Participate in a retirement plan. Many believe now is a great time to invest for the long term. Especially if your employer matches contributions, contribute to a business retirement plan. If you are on your own for retirement savings, invest in an Individual IRA, Roth IRA and/or plan for self-employed persons.
8. Obtain adequate insurance. Insurance protects against expenses you cannot cover yourself. Be sure you have life insurance to protect your family, auto insurance to cover your car, health insurance to provide for at least major medical incidents, and home or renter's insurance to protect possessions from theft or disaster.
9. Pay taxes on time. File your income tax return on or before April 15, with any tax due, to avoid penalties. At the same time, adjust withholding if needed to account for changes in income. That step might be especially important this year for those with lost or reduced work. If your refund was large, have fewer taxes withheld so you are not giving an interest-free loan to the government.
10. Get help if you need it. If you lose your job, file for unemployment quickly. Many states have payment delays that mean filers wait weeks for a check. If you are worried that you will be unable to pay rent, mortgage or other obligations, talk to your bank or a reputable debt resolution company to learn about your options.
"Many Americans feel helpless about the economy at the moment," Ewing acknowledged. "But by making these resolutions, they can take charge of your financial future in 2009 and have a happier New Year."
About Bills.com (http://www.bills.com)
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. As the online portal to Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the company has served more than 50,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at http://www.bills.com/news_releases/.
Bills.com holds the No. 257 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2008, and the No. 3 spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's Hot 100 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies. Company co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh were named to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2008, and were recipients of the Northern California Ernst & Young 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.