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What the Year of the Rat means for your finances

Year of the Rat 2020 decoration in Chinatown, Singapore. (Source: Getty)

As Chinese legend goes, the order of the animals on the Chinese zodiac calendar was determined by the Jade Emperor, who wanted twelve animals as his guards.

The quick-witted rat, who encountered the ox along the way to the Emperor’s palace, convinced the ox to give him a ride in his ear. Just before they arrived, the rat jumped off the ox and raced to the Heavenly Gate – and so the rat became the first of all the zodiac animals, and the ox second.

It’s that kind of quick thinking that has seen the rat achieve popularity for its cleverness, spirit, resourcefulness, and success and wealth.

With 2020 marking the start of a new 12-year zodiac cycle, the Year of the Rat is a good time to take a fresh approach to your finances and your career.

According to certified financial planner Adele Martin, these are the four things you need to do in the Year of the Rat. 

Go over your expenses

Take a second look at your electricity, phone, internet and other bills and everyday expenses, Martin told Yahoo Finance.

“Often as existing customers we pay a loyalty tax (or I call it a lazy tax) just because we haven’t shopped around,” she said. 

Give your current provider a call and let them know you’ve been researching other deals on the market and you’re concerned you’re not getting the best deal you can.

“They will be able to find a saving because they want to retain you as a customer as it’s expensive for them to find and setup new customers,” she said.

Change your habits

What unconscious habits do you have that are slowly eroding your bank account? 

For Martin, quitting her magazine habit while she was saving up for a wedding saw her save more than $1,000 per year.

“I realised that it was just a habit and I wasn’t even reading them half the time. It can be hard to break a habit, so to start with, just give yourself a challenge of a set time frame like 30 days.  It could be to pack your lunch every day, to not buy clothes, coffee, etc.”

Look at your weekly or monthly subscriptions that take money out of your bank account without you even realising, including your gym membership, music, and TV or streaming subscriptions.

“Are you using these and getting value from them? Or is there a more cost effective solution that now exists?” Martin asked. A few years ago, she looked at her own subscriptions and realised her Foxtel subscriptions had cost her nearly $14,000.

Pop the question

It’s never easy to ask your boss for a salary increase, but perhaps this year could be the one to do it. A client of Martin’s asked for a pay rise and saw a 20 per cent jump in her salary – just because she asked.

And if you feel you’re not there yet, take a look at any additional study or qualifications that you can do to back yourself up.

Year of the side hustle

Is there a passion project you’ve been longing to get off the ground? Make it happen, and earn some extra income on the side, said Martin.

“Start a side hustle, a little micro business that you would probably do for free anyway but people are willing to pay you for,” she said. Many businesses begin just with close friends and family as clients or customers, and grow from there.

“But if you don’t want to start a side hustle, you might be able to earn extra income on places like Airtasker or Pawshake where you can do once off jobs and get paid.”

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