At the end of the year, most businesses will take inventories in order to gather data, measure success, and learn from shortcomings. For many of the same reasons, conducting a personal inventory of your finances around this time is also a good idea. Here are some tips on how to do it right.
It’s impossible to make accurate evaluations without having the complete story. Most of the information you need can be found on statements provided by your financial institution. Online statements allow you to quickly and easily find account summaries, loan information and tax documents for this year and past years. If needed, you can also print out these statements to compare and contrast your monetary habits from year to year.
Check for errors
When looking through your statements, keep an eye out for any unusual activity, such as double charges, inaccurate deposits, checks that haven’t cleared yet, transaction errors, or possible fraud. If you notice anything unusual, contact your credit union or bank. You don’t even have to wait for your monthly statement—use online banking to check account activity at any time.
Compare spending & saving
Look at where your account balances were at the beginning of the year and at the end. Do the same with your credit card and loan balances. Did you save more than you spent? Take note of your peak spending months and see if you can prepare for those months in advance so you could borrow less on credit next time. This is also a great way to see where most of your money went during the year. Taking regular inventory of your balances will keep you informed and help you avoid denied card transactions, bounced checks, and costly fees.
Take notice of interest
A wise person once said that those that understand interest earn it, whereas those that don’t, pay it. Examine which of your savings accounts offers the highest interest rate and consider storing more of your funds there. Also take note of which loans cost you the most interest, and find ways to avoid having to pay that much again. This could include simply making the minimum payment each month on your credit card or refinancing your mortgage.
Do something different
Taking inventory won’t make a difference in your finances if you don’t make adjustments based on what you learn. Even if you’re satisfied with how much you’ve saved, for example, you can probably find ways to spend less or earn more. As you make annual improvements, you’ll start to become financially stronger with each passing year.