It’s New Year’s resolution time. Some resolve to get in shape. Some resolve to eat right. Some resolve to get their finances in order. Now is a great time to get control of your money — especially after all that holiday spending.
First: Be mindful with your money.
It’s about awareness. Put together a balanced budget so you can pay attention to where your money is going. If you find that your expenses exceed your revenue, adjust.
Understand your shopping priorities. When you’re mindful of your spending, purposeful choices take precedence over convenient ones. For example, you can spend $100 on shoes that last a year, or $20 on shoes that last a month. Over 12 months, the more expensive shoes are actually the less expensive option. That’s a mindful, purposeful decision that is financially sound.
Lock in on three or four goals, like buying a house, paying off credit cards, saving for a vacation or buying a car. Then devise ways to get there, like eating out less or cutting back on a pricey habit.
Accept your current financial position. Don’t compare yourself to the Joneses. Their priorities are different. To get where you want to be, focus on your own.
Second: Build emergency savings.
No matter how well you plan, things happen. A medical emergency. Home appliance repair. A major car issue. Even unemployment. These are some of the reasons you might need an emergency savings account. It can keep you afloat without loans or credit cards. A good rule of thumb is to have enough savings to cover three to six months of living expenses should you lose your job.
Third: Manage and avoid debt.
Set a budget so you know your limit. Stick to your budget. Maybe you start like this: 50% of your income goes to necessities; 20% pays off debt and goes to savings; 30% is for entertainment and random life expenses.
Be strategic with your spending, like getting a used car instead of new. Cut back on dining out. Shop deals on discount marketplaces. Remember to focus on your goals and necessities. Those take priority over other kinds of spending. And remember not to build debt on your credit cards.
Fourth: Save for the future.
Along with emergency savings, invest for the long term. There are a few ways to do this. A certificate of deposit (CD) earns more interest than an average savings account will. But with a savings account, you can dip into it whenever you need. With a CD, you need to leave it alone for a predetermined period of time.
Set up a 401K. Many employers match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Even better, you can directly deposit savings to your 401K from your paycheck. You never really touch the money, so you won’t be tempted to use it. You can also look into things like an individual retirement account (IRA), a 529 plan (to save for college) or a money market account.
Finally: Start now.
There’s no time like the present for getting your savings going. Make it a resolution if that’s what it takes. If you feel like you can’t put away big chunks at the moment, don’t sweat it. Those small chunks will add up. Be persistent, be patient and prioritize. That way, your savings will be there when you need them.