Here is my personal finance checklist for 2017

We are still in the early stages of 2017, and this also the best time to start assessing your finances. The start of the year is a good time to create your personal finance checklist so you can be smart about your money throughout the year. Being on top of your finances makes sure you prioritise financial security for yourself and your loved ones.

Remember, money is meant to work for you and not the other way around. Here is my personal finance checklist for 2017 and I thought I should share them with you.

Kill negative money thoughts
Self-fulfilling prophecy are the worst! Like most people, I sometimes have negative messages in my head about my finances and life. It’s a struggle to stay positive, and pessimist thoughts want so badly to be my BFFs. My negative alter-ego is always sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, “Isn’t life unfair?” I have to make a conscience effort every single day to switch to more positive thoughts about my life and my finances. It's all about choices. Being optimistic doesn't mean ignoring the uglier side of life. It just means focusing on the positive as much as possible-and it gets easier with practice. You might not be able to control every aspect of your life, but you can control your outlook on it.

Practice gratitude daily
Whether we like it or not, life is never going to be easy, and the one way to appreciate the little things is by starting to practice gratitude every single day. Sometimes I focus on the negative and forget ways to be grateful, especially when it feels like things are just not going my way.  Life is full of wonderful surprises and really awesome positive moments and when I am having one of them days, I search through the rubble to see what is lying underneath.  And yeah sure, there is a lot of good in my life.

Stay in the know
We are living in a fast-paced society – and in their efforts to stay fresh and modern, entire industries are constantly changing. One of the best ways to stay in good financial shape is by learning more about finances. There are an overwhelming amount of resources out there. I make one chapter a week of my financial books or log in to various financial websites every day. Yeah sure the information tends to be the same, but it's how it's presented that is always helpful. And I can tell you this that the more you know about money and the highlights of our economy the more likely you will be in good shape.

Look at your budget for the new year
Every year, I refresh budget to account for changes to my income and expenses, and maintain a realistic view of my financial plan.  I check what worked and what didn't work the previous year. And I take that to recreate the budget.  Refreshing your budget will give you a more accurate view for the new year and allow you to re-allocate ahead of time. Remember, you can’t get your finances in order if you’re not sure what money comes in and what goes out.  Budgeting has become an essential part of running my household, and it has allowed me to save more money, make large purchases and create a plan to save and pay off more debt in the future.

List your debt
Being in debt can be a stressful experience.  Don't ignore the debt you already have -- that will just end up costing you more and probably damage your credit score.  So make a list of each debt, how much it is, and its current interest rate. Once you have your list completed, you can figure out a plan to pay off your debts — or drastically reduce them — over the next 12 months. This will help you focus solely on the debt that you currently do have so that you can develop a game plan to pay it off quickly. And make sure that you automate all your debit orders. This helps a lot when dealing with debt.

Start investing. 
If you are not already doing it, start investing your money today instead of just letting it sit in a savings account. While a savings account does earn interest, it is very minimal. When it comes to investing, there are so many options to choose from. As I've learned over the years, ETFs are a good way to kick-start your savings and investment plan. I highly recommend Satrix and EasyEquities. I currently use them both and they are are really easy to use as they do all the work for you.

Pay more than the minimum on your credit card
When it comes to paying your credit card, settling for the bare minimum makes you a slave to interest. Pay more than the minimum on your credit card bill each month. Even if it’s R100 extra, it will help in the long run especially with the interest rate.

Increase your retirement annuity 
We are not getting any younger and we are living longer. It’s time to get serious about your future. This year I decided to increase my contribution rate by 10 percent. So, if you were contributing R500, make it R550. Trust me, you’ll love it in retirement. If you don't have an employer contribution to your retirement, make your retirement contributions automatic each month and you’ll have the opportunity to potentially grow your nest egg without having to think about it.

Build an emergency fund. 
Build an emergency fund. It can make all the difference.  Two years back, I opened a savings plan account. I' have dipped into and sometimes it wasn't an emergency but I make sure that I double it up again. The best way to approach saving is to start with baby steps and then build up from there. Also, one important thing to remember about emergency savings is that the money should be easily accessible if you ever need it -- like in a savings account.

Update your beneficiaries
Review and update beneficiaries for life insurance policies, retirement annuities, etc. This is even more important, particularly if you have been through major life changes such as getting married, divorced, or having kids.

Unsubscribe from sales emails
My junk email is almost full and I'm still going through my list. I wasn't aware of how many of those sales emails I have subscribed too. The temptation to spend is everywhere, but the hottest spot has to be your inbox. Consider unsubscribing from sales emails.

Remember, if you’re not sure about certain things, meet with a professional who can help you stay on track with your 2017 goals.

So what are you doing this year to make your financial future better?

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