ICYMI, financial New Year’s resolutions are a thing now. At Sense & Centsibility we’ve been posting about it every year…probably for the last 5 years. So why do we keep writing about financial resolutions? It’s one more way for people to improve their finances and many people are motivated this time of year. So what better time than now to choose a goal and plan for 2018?
Create a Budget
It’s important to take a close look at your income and expenses. Create a budget and see where your money is going. Be sure to think of ALL expenses, even the ones that come periodically like vehicle tabs, school clothes, holiday expenses, repairs, etc.
Review Your Budget and Make Changes if Necessary
Next, look at your budget closely for several things. Determine if you have money left over after expenses or if you’re spending all or more than you earn. Do you have debt that’s making it difficult to save money or makes you spend more than you earn? What else? Are you overspending in any category? Remember, this is your money and your financial future at stake. So be honest with yourself and make cuts/reduce spending in areas where YOU notice you’re overdoing it.
Choose Your Goal
After creating and reviewing your budget, it will likely be clear what goal you should focus on. If not, think about what is keeping you from being financially stable. What is keeping you from building up savings? Do you have a retirement account? Do you have debt that is holding you back? Is your credit keeping you from purchasing a home? Determine what will help your finances the most and choose that goal. If you’re feeling ambitious, think about choosing 2 goals, but make sure whatever you choose is a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Write Down Your Goal
When I used to hear this suggestion in the past, I thought it sounded dumb. But I’ve since used it in my work and personal life and have learned that writing down goals really makes a difference. Also, if you have a spouse or partner, it’s a good idea to do all of this together. You will make better progress if you’re both on the same page and working toward a common goal. Also, keep it somewhere visible. For instance, if shopping is your vice, keep a visual reminder of your goal in your purse or wallet to help you avoid unnecessary spending.
Create a Plan
Now it’s time for the action part. Think about what steps you need to take to achieve your goal. If you want to build up savings, you will likely need to continue reduced spending in some areas (non-necessities like dining out, cable or other entertainment expenses, gym memberships, etc.). Then you need to make setting aside money a habit. Open a separate savings account and set up automatic deposits from your paycheck. Whatever your goal is, think about realistic steps – big or small – that you can take to make it happen.
Don’t Give Up
New Year’s resolutions aren’t always kept, like exercising and losing weight. [Guilty!] If you go to the gym or even drive by one, compare attendance in January vs. March. Guaranteed there will be way less people there in March. Don’t let your financial goals slip like your fitness goals though. If you fall off the financial wagon, get right back on.
And if it gets difficult, just remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place.
Also remember that you don’t have to do this alone. If your goal is to pay off your debt, financial experts with LSS can help. We’ll help you create a realistic budget and provide your best options for paying off debt. Call us today for your FREE session at 888.577.2227 or GET STARTED ONLINE at your convenience. You don’t have to wait for the New Year to work on financial resolutions!
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.