Take steps now to be more financially successful in 2019.

It’s hard to believe it’s already November – the time of year when people make promises to do better and be better in the coming year. One of those common promises is to save more money.

There are some tips and trends that could help people prepare for 2019 and make sound financial resolutions.

Let’s start with interest rates. What can we expect to see in 2019?

Interest rates are expected to rise in 2019, potentially three different times. This isn’t a reason to be alarmed, but it’s a good reason to prepare now, especially for those with debt. Advisers recommend paying off the highest rate or highest dollar amount of debt first. A second option is to consolidate all debt into one payment at a lower rate. This is also an ideal time of year to reevaluate mortgage rates to see if refinancing for a better rate is an option.

What are some steps people can take to be financially successful next year?

Tackling debt is the first step. The next thing to do is simple: Set a budget. Using a spreadsheet to keep track of every dollar spent may sound tedious, but it’s a game-changer. It helps people to separate the needs versus the wants. Everyone needs groceries, for example, but some people could downgrade cable packages from those extra channels they’re not watching.

Another area on which to focus is credit scores. It’s essential to understand the factors that influence and change credit scores. If bills are paid on time and a person doesn’t carry big credit card balances, she may be in a good place. Also, be wary of opening a new credit card during the holidays: Submitting an application could impact credit scores for up to a year, whether approved or not.

How can technology help people better manage their finances?

Automating tasks and payments is an effective way to avoid expensive late fees on credit card payments. We also recommend downloading financial institutions’ apps to securely make transfers, send funds and view transactions. There are a number of other great apps that could assist with monitoring spending, categorizing expenses and tracking receipts, as well.

What are some other examples of financial resolutions to make in 2019?

Make a resolution to start or build an emergency fund, which can provide peace of mind for things like major home repairs, medical emergencies or job loss. Try to save enough for six to nine months of living expenses.

Another worthwhile goal is to increase retirement contributions by 1 to 2 percent, especially for those that got a raise this year. It will help set up for long-term success.

Finally, a less obvious resolution is to be healthy. Financial health and physical health are connected. Those living an unhealthy lifestyle may face certain avoidable expenses, such as extra doctor visits or prescriptions. And getting healthier financially helps with a person’s all-around well being. When someone takes the time to understand finances, he could feel less stressed and learn to love his wallet.

~ Lori Harrell is vice president and market manager for Valley Bank. She is based in Alexander City in the Mill Square branch and has been banking in the area for 29 years. Contact Lori at 256-329-7527, or visit valley.com for more information.