(Memphis) Just like losing weight or quitting smoking, any real change begins with a plan.
So, if you want a solid financial future, that starts with a solid foundation.
It may not be like the champagne popping we associate with the new year, but starting off 2013 on good financial footing may eventually call for celebration.
Robert Fixott of Consumer Credit Counseling Services says the first step, is to track your spending, "Get a notebook, and track every penny you're spending for about two weeks and from that you can determine exactly where your money is going."
Then, you can set a budget, which Fixott says has to include the basics like mortgage or rent, car payments and utilities.
"If you're not operating from a budget you're pretty much going to be working from one crisis to another," Fixott explains.
Another way to prevent that, Fixott says, is by eliminating the extras.
He encourages clients to re-examine everything, even wireless service, "If there's something you can do without, you're going to reduce your bill."
The new year also provides a good opportunity to pull a copy of your credit report.
"Review your credit report and just see what's on there, and if necessary, you can come in and see a professional to help go through your credit report," Fixott adds.
Once you know what's on your credit report, it's easier to develop a strategy to pay down debt. Lots of experts recommend tackling the highest, interest items first. Fixott goes in the opposite direction.
"Put most of the money that you have extra on the one with the lowest balance, get it paid off, and then you apply all that money to the next lowest one." Fixott says he believes this method offers some positive reinforcement.
Finally, any good financial plan includes saving.
"Even if it's just a small amount every month, even if it's $10 or $20, start putting something back for an emergency," adds Fixott.
If these tasks become overwhelming, experts say that is a sign you should seek professional help.
Consumer Credit Counseling Services offers certain sessions for free.
A counselor can be reached at the following numbers: