Is this the year you take control of your finances? If it’s a goal you’ve had on your list for a while, make it happen this year.

Many people begin with great intentions but easily become discouraged – mainly because this task can be overwhelming.

While there’s probably a laundry list of items to address, let’s simplify. Here are three items to tackle in the first quarter of 2018. Next to each month, we’ve identified a task with helpful suggestions.

[lightbox type=”image” title=”” href=”” youtube_id=”” vimeo_id=””]January – Control Spending[/lightbox]

Every year, your credit card company will send you a summary of your spending from the previous year. When you receive these statements, review it.

If you have too many statements to review, then it’s time to consolidate. Pick one or two credit cards to keep and stop using the others.

Look at how much you spent on finance charges in 2017. If you’re not paying off your balance in full, then you have finance charges. Think about how you could have used that money instead of giving it to your credit card company. If you want to pay less in finance charges, then start paying your credit card balances in full.

Other things to look for are late fees and spending in certain areas. If you have many charges with Amazon or PayPal, pull up your accounts to figure out what you are buying online.

From all this information, identify one way you will reduce your spending. By picking one item to reduce, you’ll be more successful in achieving it. Once you’ve tackled one item, then you can move on to others on your list. You’re changing behavior so be patient with yourself.

Here are some ideas:

[frame_center src=”” href=””]Target $0 for finance charges by paying balances in full.

Stop late fees by adding calendar reminders for your due dates.

Spend 20% less on food by dining in more than dining out.

Limit online purchases by not buying anything after consuming wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverage.

Start saving and planning for warm weather weekend getaways to avoid last-minute purchases.

Budget how much you will spend on gifts for special occasions (e.g., birthdays, holidays, weddings, baby showers, graduation, etc.).

Stop buying your furbaby a new toy every week.[/frame_center]


[lightbox type=”image” title=”” href=”” youtube_id=”” vimeo_id=””]February – Review Home + Vehicle Insurance Policies[/lightbox]

Review your home and vehicle insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage. Ask your insurance agent for any discounts. Some companies give a discount if you’re older, have a good record, or if you have multiple policies.

Check the market value of your home when reviewing your home insurance. Your home owner’s insurance typically requires you to insure at least 80% of your home’s full replacement value.

Home contents are usually covered up to 50% of the value of the home. Items of extraordinary value should be covered by an additional “Valuable Articles Floater” to provide full protection.

To help with potential claims, video your belongings. Start with one room at a time. Keep a back-up of this video in a safe location out of your home.

Auto accident property damage and liability claims can be very large, causing significant financial setbacks. Take time to understand your coverage for bodily injury liability coverage, property damage liability, no-fault coverage, fire, theft/collision, and comprehensive coverage. Make sure your emergency reserve is sufficient to cover your deductibles.


[lightbox type=”image” title=”” href=”” youtube_id=”” vimeo_id=””]March – File Taxes[/lightbox]

Instead of waiting until the last minute, use this month to get it done. Collect your information and work with a CPA or EA (enrolled agents are federally-licensed tax practitioners) to file your taxes.

You may discover you gave the government too much money and will be receiving a refund. If this occurs, consider changing your tax withholding on your paycheck. In this way, you use your money now instead of waiting for the government to return it to you.

Even if you file for an extension, you are required to pay your estimated tax bill in April. Sometimes waiting on K-1’s and other investment tax forms may cause you to delay filing. But do yourself a favor and gather all your other tax documents now.

Most of the provisions in the new tax law become effective for income after 2017. Work with your tax advisor to determine what changes you need to make for a more tax-efficient filing in 2019. Keep in mind many individual income tax provisions will expire after 2025.


Take control of your finances this year by tackling these three items – spending, insurance, and taxes. We’ve kept the list simple to ensure your success. Block off time each month to tackle each item. Keep it simple to ensure your success. Stay PEF (positive, enthused, focused) and make 2018 your best year ever!

Yes – I want more tips about money + life   >


Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include spending plan, financial plan, divorce financial review, life strategy, and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”