One of the most well intended but easily forgotten resolutions in the New Year is to make better choices concerning your finances. Old habits really do die hard, and if you are not careful, you will quickly fall back into those familiar, economically detrimental patterns of failure to adequately save, reliance on credit, and overspending. Make 2016 the year you break those troublesome tendencies. Want to learn more about how to avoid financial pitfalls in the coming year? Check it out:
- Make a budget. Having your finances clearly spelled out on paper is one of the most straight forward ways to healthy money management. Not sure where to start? There are plenty of user-friendly templates online that help consumers outline their necessary expenses. You can also start by keeping track of regular bills and general expenses in a spreadsheet. Creating a budget can help you stay within your means when it comes to spending. For budgeting newbies, a general rule of thumb is to live on no more than 80% of your income, contributing the remaining to savings of paying off debt faster.
- Cut out the credit. For financially responsible folks, using credit has a few perks, primarily in the form of cash back rewards and travel discounts. If you are not paying off your credit cards each month, you are likely accumulating interest charges and fees in order to use money that you do not really have. Sacrifice, use self-control, and re-evaluate what is actually necessary. Save for those larger purchases so you don’t end up spending a fortune on interest.
- Make it automatic. When sound financial choices take effort on our behalf, we are far more likely to let those practices fall by the wayside. Once you have created a budget, have your payroll department automatically disburse your earnings into appropriate accounts for spending and saving. Create automatic drafts for monthly payments, and set reminders on your smart phone if you have a tendency to forget those pesky manual payments (cough) .
- Consider transitioning to cash. For some people, credit and debit cards are much easier to use because you don’t actually see the bills coming and going, but if you only have a definitive amount of cash on hand, you can’t spend more than you have. The envelope system is a great way for spontaneous spenders to eliminate unnecessary spending.
- Plan ahead. For everything. Meals, birthday presents, vacations, back to school shopping, you name it. If you know ahead of time that you’ll have additional expenses in a particular month, you will have plenty of time to save for them. Planning ahead also gives you an opportunity to compare prices, clip coupons, and take advantage of the best deals available.
- Seek professional help or enlist the assistance of an accountability partner. Sometimes having an outside opinion really helps to put financial responsibilities into perspective. Schedule an appointment with a financial adviser, a trained expert who can offer suggestions on effective budgeting, saving, and investing for your future. Perhaps you aren’t ready for that step. If you’re just getting your feet wet with this whole ‘financially responsible’ role, consider asking a friend to help keep you on track or join a support group for people who are in a similar situation. Major lifestyle changes are tough and having a strong support group will help improve your chances for long-term success.
- Be persistent. Eliminate those distractions and temptations from your life that would influence you to stray from your financial plan.
Regardless of your individual financial situation, 2016 is the perfect opportunity to start fresh and make sensible choices with your money.