Welcome 2014 with a financial makeover

The start of a new year is all about opportunities and life changes, which is why 2014 presents the perfect opportunity to freshen up your savings plans and set down some financial goals.

With that in mind, here are three simple things you can do to start fresh and get your finances under control in 2014.

Mortgage refinance

Start 2014 by considering the features on your current home loan and whether they are properly servicing your needs. Home loan features include redraw facilities, repayment holidays, offset accounts and additional payments.

If you'd like to be able to access your money for unforeseen costs - or just have the peace of mind that it can be accessed - a redraw account might be suitable.

Offset accounts utilise your savings while reducing the interest payable on your loan.

Repayment holidays allow you to take a break from paying the principal for an agreed period of time while additional payments allow you to pay off the principal that extra bit faster.

A mortgage refinance may help you obtain these features if your current lender isn't providing them.

These helpful options tend to be available on variable rather than fixed-term loans. However, if you find it difficult to budget for your mortgage repayments, a fixed-term loan may actually be better for you. Though you likely won't get many of these useful features, you will be able to predict what your payments will be throughout 2014.

Cheap home loans are great to secure a low interest rate, but may have fewer features. If you're considering a mortgage refinance and want to be in control of your payments, why not opt for a cheap fixed-term loan? You may be able to snap up a competitive interest rate, and you'll know exactly how much you owe to the lender in principal and interest each week, fortnight or month.

Wipe high interest debt

If you have a credit card with an interest rate hovering around the 19 or 20 per cent rate, you may want to rethink this financial commitment in the new year.

Some lenders will offer cards that have a no-interest period for a certain amount of time, whether it's 30 days or closer to two months.

If you're only meeting your minimum repayment obligations, the interest owing is quickly going to add up.

When you go into 2014, set up some goals relating to your credit cards.

You might like to pay off more each month, or eliminate a credit card entirely. Perhaps lowering your credit limit will help keep unnecessary spending in check - though be sure you can cover any emergency costs, should they arise.

Another option is to obtain a credit card that has slightly higher annual fees but lower interest rates.

You'll need to consider how much you can afford to pay off each month to work out which card is right for you. Write down your credit card debt goals and stick them on the fridge.

Set up a direct credit from your bank account or notifications on your smartphone to ensure you make payments on time and don't miss out on no-interest rate periods.

Entertain at home

Though it's great to catch up with family over a delicious meal or see friends for after-work drinks, the cost of 'wining and dining' can quickly add up.

In 2014, why not aim to cut dining out by half and instead have friends and family over? Hopefully, they'll also reciprocate the favour.

You can browse online for inspiration and whip up delicious meals and snacks for the whole table for the same price as one main meal and dessert at a fancy restaurant!

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