The start of a new year often comes with new promises we make to ourselves. If you want to make better finances a priority this year, we are here to help!
First – set your personal goal. Let’s assume your goal is to save more money. Saying you want to save more is a bit vague, do you have an action plan to do so? It's less likely you’ll see major progress without one. Here are a few ideas to get started:
1. Set up an automatic deposit to your savings account. This way you save money before you even have the chance to spend it.
2. Track a months’ worth of expenses – use an average month – not one with holiday or gift expenses that will make this baseline a bit skewed.
3. Set a dollar amount. Whether it’s $300 a month saved; or $5,000 in a year – break down the savings goal by paycheck – it will make it seem more manageable.
Once you have set a goal amount and a plan of how to work towards it, make sure to continue to track your expenses. It helps to have a way to stay accountable. Is there someone you can schedule check-ins with? A money-wise friend, mentor, or our financial counselor are all possible sources.
After analyzing your expenses you just might have a few ideas that can help you put more money towards savings. How often do you get a to-go cup of coffee instead of making it at home? Do you go out to dinner or lunch more than two times per week? Food and beverage costs can easily add up. Perhaps with a better-tailored meal plan or a set limit per week for indulgences can help you save more.
According to USDA, these are the general guidelines for a household food budget. Where do you find yourself for food costs?
A few other ideas for cutting costs in other areas include bundling insurance services and cutting subscriptions that you either don’t use or don’t feel are necessary for the time being. Subscription services include cable, digital music, magazines, gym memberships, meal kits, and more. Entertainment ideas include using the local library for music, DVDs, and books. Finding free or low-cost local events like festivals or concerts, and making a party with friends more cost-conscious by each person bringing a dish to share versus dining out.
Strive for Progress
Remember, one behavior can often affect another. In looking to save money you just might eat healthier by dining out less. You also might save money by giving a handmade gift, which could make use of a creative skill you have.
Change takes time and you can re-evaluate and adjust as you go. The most important thing is you keep working towards your goal and focus on your progress. There might be failures along the way and that is okay, as long as you know what you want to keep working to accomplish in the New Year.