Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Serve, but all of the opinions and viewpoints expressed in this post are 100% my own.
Want this to be the best year ever for your finances? Are you ready to take control of your money? If so, you need to know which money moves will serve you the best.
Making smart money moves can have a major impact on your current and long-term financial goals, but it can be a little overwhelming at times, especially if you’re not sure where to start. That’s why I teamed up with Serve to share which moves you should make this year, and how Serve can empower you along the way.
1. Review and track your budget
Before you can work towards any financial goals or make serious money moves, you need to know where you stand with your finances. Starting to review and track your spending is the best way to do that.
There are some old-school ways to start tracking your spending, like spreadsheets or writing everything down with pen and paper. But technology has made budgeting so much easier. Using the Serve® Pay As You Go Visa® Prepaid Card you can easily track your spending in the free mobile app.
The Serve Pay As You Go Visa Prepaid Card has no hidden fees, so it’s a very budget-friendly option. Plus, you can set up on online bill pay and get free direct deposit for your bank account, which makes it easier to see how much money is going and in and out of your account every week.
With a budget in place, you can see how much money you’re spending in specific areas. Then you can make targeted changes to help you save more and reallocate money towards big financial goals, like retirement savings.
2. Max out your retirement contributions
I just mentioned retirement, and it’s something every millennial needs to start thinking about now. Okay, more than just millennials need to think about retirement, whether you’re 20 or 60.
Point is, retirement is a major financial goal, and you’re only going to get there if you start setting money aside for it now.
If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k), I highly recommend starting there first. Find out what kind of match your employer offers, and make that your goal, to begin with.
The most common 401(k) match is 50% of your contributions up to 6% of your pay. So if make $70,000 a year and contribute at least to that match, you would put in $4,200 annually, and your employer would add an extra $2,100. That’s $6,300/year you’re saving for retirement!
No employer-sponsored 401k? No problem!
Starting an IRA or Solo 401k if you’re self-employed, are both solid options. There are maximum contributions to both, and these tax-advantaged retirement savings plans can help you save and optimize your contributions.
3. Pick up a side hustle
IMO starting a side hustle is the fastest way to start reaching your financial goals. The reason side hustles are such powerful tools is that there’s only so much money you can squeeze out of your budget.
Making an extra $500, $1,000, or $2,000 a month can make an incredibly positive long-term impact on your financial life. That’s the kind of money that can help you get out of debt, save for retirement (maybe even retire early), buy your dream house, quit a job you don’t love, and so on.
Fortunately, there are dozens of great side hustles right now, and here are a few of my top picks:
- Food delivery: With many of the popular delivery apps out there, you can work when you want and earn an extra $10-$20/hour.
- Freelancing: Leverage skills like writing, bookkeeping, marketing, graphic design, web design, and proofreading to start a freelance side hustle. Freelancers earn competitive rates and can work outside of normal business hours.
- Reselling/flipping: You can make surprisingly good money buying and reselling things from thrift stores and garage sales. Online selling platforms make it easy to sell online, and you can start selling stuff around your house to get the hang of it.
- Pet care: Dog walking, boarding, grooming, and pet sitting are a few pet-related side hustles you can start this year. People pay good money when they can find a trustworthy person to care for their pets.
Those are just a handful of ideas, and the reality is that there are so many options out there right now.
The best side hustles are flexible ones that you can fit in with the rest of your life, and they also have to pay well for the work you’re doing. Keep all of that in mind while you consider the possibilities.
4. Pay off credit card debt
Debt is expensive, especially credit card debt. Interest rates ranging from 15% to 20% or higher can really set you back when you have other financial goals you want to work towards. That’s why paying off your credit debt is one of the smartest money moves you can make this year.
Because many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to paying off credit card debt, here’s how to get started:
- Write down how much debt you have. Go card by card and write down the balance, minimum payment, and interest rate.
- Check in with your budget. Your budget will tell you how much extra you have to put towards your credit cards each month. You’ll quickly be able to tell if you need to make extra money to pay more than the minimum (this is why I love side hustles!).
- Set up your payments. Automating your payments helps you avoid late payments, and it’s easier to budget for.
- Keep the ball rolling. When you pay off one account, start putting the extra money towards the rest of your credit card payments. It creates a snowball effect that speeds up your payoff.
Once you’ve destroyed your credit card debt, you can start allocating that money towards student loan debt, medical debt, car loans, etc. You’ll feel so empowered after freeing up that money, and bring that motivation with you as you work towards other financial goals.
It’s worth mentioning that the ServePay As You Go Visa Prepaid Card has no interest rates, and it doesn’t require a credit check. It’s a great alternative way to pay when you’re trying to get out of credit card debt.
5. Set smart money goals
Paying off credit card debt is certainly a smart money move, but what other financial goals do you have?
You can start an emergency fund, save up for a down payment on a new house, plan some home improvement projects, or save to buy a new car.
Using Serve’s Goal Accounts, you can create subaccounts to save for smart money goals like the ones I just mentioned. This helps you separate your savings from your spending, and you can keep track of your progress in the Serve mobile app.
Being able to see and save for all of your goals in one place can keep you focused on the future and moving forward.
6. Minimize your spending
Knowing that you need to stop spending as much can be a hard pill to swallow. And it’s just as difficult if you feel like you’ve already minimized your spending as much as possible. However, there may be some areas you can adjust without feeling too much of a sting:
- Car insurance: Calling your car insurance company and seeing if you can lower your rates can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year.
- Cell phone: Budget cell phone providers use the same service as expensive ones, and you can find plans for as little as $15/month.
- Cable: Finally cut cable and sign-up for a streaming service. Just don’t sign up for too many at once — they add up!
- Groceries: Paying attention to per-unit costs when you shop and meal planning can help you save money at the grocery store.
- Eating out: You don’t have to cut it all together, just be smarter — avoid pricey alcoholic drinks, drink water instead of soda, eat dessert at home, go for happy hour specials, etc.
The trick to making your spending cuts work for you is to put the money you’re saving somewhere safe. You can move money to one of your Serve Goal Accounts and see how your smart money moves are working together.
7. Start your own business
If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own business, make this the year you do it. There’s an immense amount of flexibility and pride that comes from being your own boss. It’s hard work, but I can tell you that my only regret is not doing it sooner.
Technology has opened up more options for future entrepreneurs with businesses like e-commerce stores, blogs, social media, and so on. It’s also made it easier for other types of business owners — freelancing is a good example here — to broaden their reach and grow their business.
Even if you don’t start your business this year, you can always start planning for it. You’ll be ahead of the game and even more prepared to launch when it’s time.
The final word on making smart money moves this year
Taking control of your finances is empowering, and it can add to your present and future financial security. Any of the moves on this list are smart, and you’ve got to do what works for you.
Fortunately, you’ve got a friend with Serve. With customer-focused tools, Serve is making it easier and hassle-free for you to manage your money no matter where you are in your financial journey.