06/02/2018 12:25 SAST | Updated 06/02/2018 12:29 SAST

WATCH: Financial Steps You Should Be Taking In February, If A Debt-Free Life Is Your Goal

How far are you with financial goals you set last month?

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You should at least have a budget drawn up by now, if you want to finish 2018 on a good financial footing.

That's the advice of the head of financial education at Old Mutual, John Manyike.

"It's nearly impossible to achieve certain financial goals without knowing where your money is going, and this is why a budget is important. If you don't budget, you can't plan."

"What financial goals did you set in January for 2018?"

Here are the steps Manyike suggests you should have taken by now — or consider taking soon:

1. Draw up a budget

"You need to set a realistic monthly budget for 2018 and be disciplined with it! By tracking where the money is going, you will be more aware of your spending habits, and you will eliminate unnecessary spending. It will also help you financially plan better for the future."

2. Which debt to eliminate first?

Manyike says particularly for consumers who are over-indebted, it may be better to target one debt to tackle at a time. "Preferably the one with the highest interest rate, like a credit card. If possible, close the account, so all you're doing is paying it off. Keeping it open may tempt you to pay and use — which can be a never-ending cycle."

3. You have started saving, however little

If saving is a priority for you this year, you should have opened an account to save your money by now, or consider doing so soon. "Start with R100 — it's not too small and hopefully you can top it as the months go by. When that money has accumulated by December, it will be way better than a negative bank balance or huge debt that stresses you."

What's more, with adequate savings, should an unplanned emergency strike, you will have a financial cushion.

4. Request a credit report

By law, as a South African citizen, you are entitled to one free credit report every year. This report, which is a snapshot of your financial history, shows you how you handle debt. Included is your history of payments to creditors, and public records such as judgments or bankruptcies.

READ: Why It's Important To Know Your Credit Score And Where To Get It

5. Speak to a financial adviser

If you feel overwhelmed or feel that you cannot sort it out by yourself, consult a financial adviser. "Some workplaces have programmes in place [through which] employees can get financial advice — use them. Normally they are a complimentary service offered to you as an employee."