The pandemic has taught us that life is unpredictable and though 2021 is looking brighter than last year, there’s still a lot of uncertainty ahead. When it comes to setting your budget and financial intentions for the new year, it’s important to give yourself flexibility and wiggle room for the unexpected. However, achieving true financial peace this year takes a little bit of planning and knowing exactly where to make some adjustments.

To make 2021 your best financial year yet, here are 5 money moves you can begin working on now.

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Rebalance your budget.
There were likely some expenses you didn’t spend on during the past year including travel and childcare or gas and commuting, but you may have taken on new bills for things like extra video streaming or faster Internet to accommodate working and learning from home needs. Since you may start spending on some of those regular expenses that were recently put on pause, it’s important to rebalance your budget so you don’t start spending more than you make.

To get your budget back on track, look for ways to reduce your various monthly bills. Begin by comparing auto or home owner’s insurance rates to find cheaper providers and negotiate with your cable and Internet companies to see if you qualify for a new promotion. You may even be able to lower your monthly mortgage payment by refinancing given the historically low rates. For help, turn to BillFixers.com which will negotiate with tedious service providers and Trim which identifies and cancels unused subscriptions. Meanwhile, CoPatient.com offers a great service to help review medical bills for potential errors.

Revive your savings.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that 44 percent of lower-income people say they have dipped into their retirement or other savings since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Build savings into your budget like you would any other bill and pay yourself first. When that money is out of sight, it’s out of mind so there are fewer temptations to spend unnecessarily. Take it one step further and open a high yield online savings account which will ensure you’re earning more back on your savings. Online banks offer better rates than traditional brick and mortar banks and you can compare rates online by running a quick Google search.

For example, VIO Bank offers the highest annual percentage yield (APY) right now at .66 percent, followed by Synchrony Bank at .6 percent, according to BankRate.com.

Manage discretionary spending.
Now that businesses are opening back up, you may be tempted to start spending on items you really don’t need. For some, it may feel rewarding to go shopping or dine out, but such spending can quickly escalate if you aren’t managing these expenses. Therefore, adding a line item in your budget for clothing or restaurant meals is one way to limit overspending. Meanwhile, you can get more from each purchase by shopping savvy.

For instance, always look for a coupon code from sites like CouponCabin.com and download Coupon Cabin’s Sidekick savings tool to your browser to get alerts whenever a cash back offer or coupon is available.  Saving your cashback earnings on your online orders is one way to enjoy a splurge, guilt-free!

Improve your credit health.
Many consumers have taken on credit card debt during the pandemic which likely means their credit is suffering as a result. Rebuilding your credit score should be a top priority in the new year as a good to excellent score is necessary for reaching various goals such as buying a home or car, starting a business or even renting an apartment.

To begin, review your credit cards and come up with a debt repayment plan as this will be necessary for improving your credit score. You can save on interest fees by transferring your current balance to a new card offering 0 percent interest on balance transfers. You can find a detailed list of credit cards offering this promotion at sites like CardRates.com.

Meanwhile, a credit builder loan is a great option for anyone who doesn’t have the credit or needs helps rebuilding their score. For instance, apps like Self allow you to rebuild credit while you save. Instead of getting money upfront, you make payments toward your credit building loan for 1 to 2 years and Self reports these payments to all three credit reporting agencies. After the term, your payments unlock in the form of savings while rebuilding your credit score so now you are better positioned to reach a big financial goal.

Set up an estate plan.
An important, but often overlooked element of total financial security is an estate plan. In fact, according to the 2020 Estate Planning survey from Caring.com, only 30 percent of Americans have a will or trust in place. If you’ve been putting off creating your own estate plan, don’t delay any further. Doing so now can provide a quick financial win and establish peace of mind for yourself and your family, and we have all learned that you can not take anything for granted.

The good news is, you no longer need to worry about paying high legal fees or spending hours at an attorney’s office. Sites like TrustandWill.com offer quick and affordable estate planning options, with step-by-step instructions and live chat support to help you go through the process of setting up your will or trust. A will costs just $89 and takes just 10 minutes to set up, and includes important documents like power of attorney, health directives and guardianship.

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized money-saving expert, writer, speaker and frequent on-air contributor who is passionate about helping American families find simple ways to save more without radically changing their lifestyle. Andrea has appeared on hundreds of popular shows across the country including Today, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, CNN, Inside Edition and ABC World News, plus hundreds of regional shows across the country. Her advice and articles have been featured in the New York Times, Time, Money, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Huffington Post and many more. When Andrea is sharing advice on budgeting or smart shopping, she’s busy chasing after her two young daughters. Read more about Andrea at andreaworoch.com and follow her on Instagram for daily money tips. 

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