What’s holding you back from reaching your financial goals?
Do you have financial goals? Are they written down with a plan? Are you actively working toward achieving them? Are you motivated to achieve them?
I have found that simply telling myself I’d like to “save more” or “pay down debt” has not resulted in the outcome I had in my mind. That’s the problem. It’s in my mind but not on paper or down in a plan of some sort.
Do yourself a favor right now. Start creating financial resolutions or a financial plan for next year. Your future self will be so grateful when you look back a year from now that you did this.
Financial Resolutions for the New Year
1. Create a budget
How will you achieve your financial goals if you don’t know what it will take to get there? Think about that. You want to save more money and pay off debt this year. That’s awesome, good for you! How do you plan to achieve your goals?
- What are your earnings each month?
- How much money do you spend each month?
- Of your spending, how much is on needs vs. wants?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you should find out. Before you can even create a budget, you need to have a basic understanding of where your money is coming and going each month. Also, a good budget is one that works for YOU. A budget is not cookie cutter and will take time to develop for your specific situation and goals.
- Want to save for your children’s college education
- Get rid of the pit in your stomach over the debt
- Ease the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck
- Want to stop overspending in certain areas of your life
- A desire to have an emergency fund or savings account for the unexpected
- Would like to get out of credit card debt
Not sure where to start in creating a budget? Check out How to Create a Zero-Based budget to get you started.
Once you have a sense for why you are creating a budget, you will be more apt to achieve your financial goals.
2. Pay yourself first
Paying yourself first means the very first thing you do with your money is to place it in areas that will most benefit you. Likely in the long run but could be in the short run too depending on your financial goals.
You can’t wait to see what you have leftover at the end of the month and try to save that. To get ahead financially, you need to intentionally put money into savings accounts, retirement accounts, investments, etc. Places where you can’t readily touch or access the money. Secured places where, over time, the money will work for you and help you achieve your financial goals.
An example would be your retirement account. You know you will need a financial nest egg when you retire to keep you afloat as you age. Automatically contributing to an account every single paycheck is a great way to pay yourself first. The key here is automatic.
Very few people have the diligence or discipline to manually place money somewhere once it’s in your checking account. Having money taken from your paycheck automatically and transferring it to specific accounts is an easy no-brainer way to ensure you meet your financial goals.
Another example would be a savings account for an emergency fund. Typically employers will allow you to make automatic deposits to multiple places on each paycheck. I can do it automatically online and make changes anytime.
Trying to build up an emergency fund? Why not take a small amount from each paycheck and have it placed automatically into a savings account? You’d be surprised how small amounts will add up over time, especially when you don’t miss it.
Would you miss $10 from your paycheck? Likely not. $10 from each paycheck bi-weekly is 26 paychecks a year or $260 annually. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but it may be the safety net you need if an unexpected expense comes up, or your car breaks down, etc.
The key is to save automatically and consistently. Regardless of the actual amount. Start small. If your company matches 3% or 6% of your retirement savings, aim to put in at least that amount. If you won’t notice $10 coming off each paycheck, start by putting that in a savings account automatically. You can always adjust up or down as needed. But the important thing is to establish the habit of consistently adding to the account.
3. Break the habit of spending
Are you quick to open your wallet for anything and everything? The first to jump at the chance to go out to lunch? You easily put extra items in your cart at the store because you “need” something. Do you know that you can’t turn down the sweet face of a child who’s asking you to overpay for cookies or popcorn to support their day camp?
Spending is a habit. Which means it can be broken. It will take time and will take effort on your part to break the cycle, but it can happen!
Tips to curb the habit of spending:
- Try a no-spend month (or heck, even week or even day!). For a specific period, commit yourself to not spend anything. Stop shopping aimlessly in stores for things you don’t need. Avoid shopping online. You may want to avoid your phone altogether if you know you’re a shop-a-holic.
- Ask yourself, will I be happy I bought this in a year? Most often purchases you make are not needs, they are wants. They are wants in-the-moment triggered by emotion. You’re happy so you want to spend money. You had a bad day so you want to spend money. A fight with your husband causes you to reach for your phone and start browsing on Amazon. Whatever the trigger, you are likely not buying because you need anything. Question yourself why you think you want something and talk yourself down.
- Delete promotional emails from your inbox. Or set up a rule in which they all go into a junk or temporary folder. Stores are expert marketers. They can convince you to purchase almost anything! The use of promo codes, buy/get offers, sale prices, etc. can easily convince you that you’re missing out on a great deal. The truth is if you don’t need it, regardless of what it costs, it’s a waste of money. Avoid the trap of email marketing and simply avoid them as much as you can. You can always find a deal if you truly need one. Don’t fall victim to push marketing getting you to purchase something you weren’t planning to.
4. Start investing
The stock market can be an intimidating endeavor. Especially as you are first starting. It’s hard to know how to get started.
- What stocks should you buy?
- What’s a good price?
- What happens if you lose your money?
- I heard the stock market is crashing, is now a good time to buy?
Education will be your best friend. Start reading up on investing. There are many online resources and books at the library that can help. Investopedia is a good place to start.
Investments are the best way to get ahead financially as your money will work hard FOR you.
Nerd Wallet has a great article to get you started, 10 Tips on How to Start Investing.
Stockpile: An easy way to get started with investing
Looking for an easy way to get started? Check out Stockpile. Stockpile is an app that allows you to purchase fractional shares of stock for only $.99 per transaction – which is crazy cheap. Why purchase fractional shares? It’s an easy way to purchase expensive shares of stock on any budget.
For example, let’s say you had $50 you wanted to put into the stock market, and you wanted to buy Amazon.com stock. Amazon.com stock at the time of this writing is over $1600 per share. So you’d have to save up a long time to purchase one full share. With Stockpile you can purchase a fractional share, in this case approximately 3% of one share. It’s great for kids who are first starting out learning about investing, or consider giving as a gift instead of toys kids don’t need. I’ve been using it for a while and love it!
5. Find ways to save more
Many people have a financial resolution to save more money this year. What does that mean? What are you saving for? Remind yourself of the reason you are being so diligent with savings to keep you motivated to continue saving.
Write down the financial goal you have and how saving more will help you achieve it. Some examples:
- Pay off your mortgage early
- Save for a down payment on a house
- Go on a dream vacation
- Stop living paycheck to paycheck
- Get out of credit card debt
Whatever your financial goal, keeping it top of mind during the daily grind of saving will keep you motivated to stop spending and keep saving.
What expenses can you trim from your day-to-day life?
- Aim to drive less. Combine trips, stop making unnecessary trips
- Check out books/movies at the library instead of purchasing
- Cut back on eating out – bring your lunch to work more often
- Stop the morning coffee run or find a cheaper alternative. Does it have to be Starbucks?
- Do you need new clothes? Sift through your closet and find new ways to style what you already own. You likely own clothes you don’t wear or don’t wear often. Same with jewelry. Freshen up that shirt by wearing the necklace you never wear.
- How many toys and clothes do your children need?
- Does the gift you plan to give have to be that expensive? Can you find a cheaper alternative
- Can we forego a vacation this year or drive instead of fly?
Ideas to save even more:
- Start couponing – check out my free 5-day email course to learn how
- Try an automated savings tool like Acorns. Acorns automatically rounds up purchases made to the nearest dollar and invests the change for you.
- Use Ebates before you make any online purchase
- Keep a change jar. If you’re on a cash-based system, place all change you get after making a purchase in a jar. Cash it out at the end of the year and put toward debt. Or, pull all $1 or $5 bills as you get them and put them aside. Odds are you don’t miss the small-dollar values and they will add up over the year.
- Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. Don’t buy things you don’t need and sell the things you have that you no longer use. A win-win situation for your wallet, and your sanity. Less to wash, dust, organize, trip over, or clean!
6. Discover ways to enjoy your life that don’t cost money
Entertainment and fun don’t have to derail your savings. For example, there are countless free or cheap options to keep you entertained.
- Check out a new park locally. My daughter enjoys playing on new equipment or visiting a park we haven’t been to in a while.
- Michael’s offers free or very cheap activities for kids on the weekends.
- Plan a play date with friends for the kids
- Rent movies or books from the library
- Visit a pet store. Check out unique animals for free.
- Go on a walk. Get some exercise and fresh air. Works wonders for your mental and physical health.
Save or not save, the choice is yours. Spending now may give you some immediate gratification. However, the feeling likely will not last. Remind yourself often of your savings goals and why you are working so hard to not spend. It will keep you motivated to find new ways to save, and give you greater gratitude for when you do meet your financial goals.
What are your financial resolutions this year? Are you on track to achieve them?