What to Do Before Finalizing Your Financial Resolutions

If you didn’t meet the financial goals you set last year, now is the time to put together a more realistic financial forecast and personal budget.

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The New Year is the perfect time to review last year’s expenses and create a fresh budget. Getting your finances in order at the beginning of the year can make it easier to reach your financial goals by this time next year, and will also give you a better idea of where you stand. Whether you’re planning a few vacations, need to buy a new car, or just want to put more money towards your mortgage payments, you can create a financial plan that will help you reach your goals. Taking the time to review different accounts and financial documents can make it easier to draft an accurate budget. If you didn’t meet the financial goals you set last year, now is the time to put together a more realistic financial forecast and personal budget.

Take these steps before deciding on your 2013 financial resolutions:

1. Review Bank Accounts. Take a closer look at your bank account and interest rates to see if you really are getting the best rates available. Also consider the fees you might be paying to maintain certain accounts and explore your options for changing to a new account based on your balance and banking history. Set up an appointment with a personal banker to review your options, and don’t be afraid to get quotes on banking products from competing financial institutions.

2. Check Your Credit Report and Credit Score. Request your yearly free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com so you have an accurate idea of your financial standing. Make sure your credit report is free of errors and take steps to make any corrections if needed. If your credit score is lower than 600 or not quite where you want it to be, develop a plan to repair your credit.

3. Review Credit Card Rewards and Options. Take a look at your credit card rewards balances to see if now would be a good time to cash out your rewards or if you still need to collect more points for something you really want. If you’re not satisfied with your current rewards program, start looking at some latest credit card rewards offers to find a better fit.

4. Take a Close Look at Your Budget. The New Year is the perfect time to take a close look at your spending, current debt load, and monthly expenses. Review your budget to see if you need to make any adjustments to your spending habits and set some new savings targets for the year. Did you meet last year’s savings goals? What could you have done differently? Revise last year’s budget to account for new expenses or sources of income in the upcoming year.

5. Talk to a Financial Advisor. If you’re struggling with creating a solid personal financial plan, consider speaking with a financial advisor for some budgeting and investing ideas. You’ll want to talk to a fee-only financial planner, who can share options for managing your money and outline guidelines on what you need to do to keep yourself on track to meet your goals.

6. Build Up Your Emergency Fund. Your emergency fund should cover at least three to 12 months of your living expenses, in the event you lost a significant amount of income. Make sure these funds are easily accessible—you don’t want to have to worry about liquidating assets if encounter an emergency situation. Talk to a personal banker about setting up a low-fee savings account specifically for your emergency fund and work a monthly deposit to this account into your budget.

Looking for banks that offer free checking and great interest rates? Check out Sabah Karimi’s award-winning consumer blog WiseBread.com .