We are now fully ensconced in January, with the celebrations of Christmas a seemingly distant memory. It can always be tempting to wish it was still the festive season, but I wanted to move away from this and instead look at what will make 2014 a great year.
In fact, Experian CreditExpert recently undertook some research to look at people's financial aspirations for the year ahead, and how they planned to achieve their dreams.
Half of Britons said they want to go travelling, whilst a similar proportion (46%) had an aspiration much closer to home - to improve their own house.
Over a third (36%) wants to reduce their debts, and 28% hope to buy a house this year.
However, it was concerning to see that a quarter of people in the UK (26%) was concerned that their financial history could hold them back from achieving their dreams. Indeed, over half (56%) of respondents cite money and costs as the main barriers to fulfilling their New Year dreams.
Of those who feel that financing their dreams is the primary barrier in achieving them, the most notable concerns are the overall cost of living (60%) along with a lack of savings (55%). Having a poor credit history (9%) and an inability to borrow money (9%) were also highlighted.
As we begin a new year, many of us will have given some consideration to our goals and ambitions for the coming year. However, often, as with New Year resolutions, without proper planning and support, some may never come to fruition.
Taking the time to understand your financial situation is the first step on the road to realising your dreams and this means not only budgeting the money you have now but also reviewing any outstanding money you owe and planning ahead to be able to secure any credit you may need into the future.
If you do find that your financial situation or credit history is getting in the way of achieving your 2014 dream, the most important thing is to deal with it as soon as possible. You need to understand your finances in order to take control of them. Your Experian credit report will give you an invaluable insight into your credit management over the last six years, highlighting the positive and the negative influences affecting your credit rating.
I've put together some simple tips to help you take control of your finances, so you can make the most of 2014:
1. ...Plan ahead.
This is the first step to successful budgeting and particularly important in being able to afford big spends such as holidays, home improvements and even getting married. Shopping around and booking early could really pay off and you will also be able to understand how much savings you will be able to put aside within the available timeframe
2. ...Manage the credit you have.
Credit includes everything from mobile phone accounts, credit cards, store cards, overdrafts and even mortgages and how you manage the credit you have now could directly impact on future credit applications. Don't miss repayments, pay more than the minimum repayments each month where possible, stay within your agreed credit limits and try not to use more than 25% of your available credit limit on a regular basis
3. ...Understand how you might be viewed by lenders.
Lenders use the information contained in your credit report along with the information on your application, to calculate a credit score which will be used to decide if you will be successful in any new credit applications you make. If you are thinking of borrowing this year, review your Experian credit report and score to help you understand how lenders will view you and ways in which you can improve your credit rating to get the credit you need.
4. ...Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Even if you're a bit short, don't skip a repayment or it will be noted on your credit report for at least six years. Instead, get in touch with the lender and explain what's happening - they will try work with you to try and find a solution. If you are struggling with debts get free, confidential advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk, the StepChange Debt Charity at http://www.stepchange.orgor National Debtline at www.nationaldebtline.co.uk