Personal Finance

How to Get Back on Track With Financial Resolutions

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Did you make a New Year’s resolution to be more financially responsible? How’s that going?

TransUnion recently commissioned a Google Consumer survey to find out. Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of those surveyed have abandoned their 2013 financial resolutions. Even those making progress were behind schedule: 29 percent of Americans surveyed are less than halfway to their goals for this year.

But 2013 isn’t over — consumers can use the next four months to regain lost ground on personal finance goals.

Check your credit report.

Whatever the resolution — to reduce credit card debt, spend less, adhere to a budget, pay off more loans — the first step toward reaching it is to check your credit.

You can get your free credit score from Credit.com, and every consumer is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Once you know where you are, look back at your resolutions. Be realistic about what you can attain by the end of this year, and adjust your goals appropriately.

Hold yourself accountable.

Set calendar reminders to keep up with your goals. Check your progress every two weeks: Are you on track to meet your budget? Look ahead to make sure you stay on target. How much of your credit limit are you using? Your credit utilization ratio has a significant impact on your credit score.

“The rule of thumb is that consumers who use less than 10% of their available credit tend to be those with the highest credit scores,” says Credit.com Co-Founder and Chairman Adam Levin.

It sounds obvious, but regularly checking the status of your finances will help you stay on top of your goals. Knowing your numbers will help you make smart day-to-day consumer decisions.

Technology is your friend.

With the ability to set recurring payments online, there’s no reason to miss a bill. Change your settings to pay more than the minimum balance — pay off as much as you can afford, or pay your bills in full, if you can. Use this calculator to figure out how quickly you can get out of debt.

Don’t wait until next year.

If you’re thinking, “I’ll tackle financial resolutions next January,” stop. Putting off good credit habits could cost you a lot of money in the way of higher interest rates.

Setting goals in 2014 is still a great idea, but start climbing the hill now so it isn’t as daunting come January. If you didn’t set 2013 resolutions, there’s no reason you can’t make a few end-of-year goals. Here are some example resolutions to consider for this year and next.

Image: iStockphoto

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