A vow to improve your financial state is the sort of grandiose statement that usually accompanies New Year’s resolutions. Fortunately, however, actually achieving this goal could be among the most tangible objectives on this year’s list.
Improve your financial life today by taking action on one of the following:
Do you know what an IRA is? What is the sales tax rate in your state? How often do you expect bank statements; do you know what all of the terms on your statement mean? You can’t make sound financial decisions if you don’t know anything about finances, so take the time to pick up the phone and call your bank, grab a book from the library or spend some time online regularly furthering your financial education.
Finish this sentence: “A penny _____ is a penny earned.” You guessed it: saved! A penny saved is a penny earned, that goes toward your grocery bill, to fund a trip, put gas in your car, or provide for a child. Pennies add up. Save them.
As you build up your savings, create a healthy mix of liquid (i.e., can get to within a day in case of emergency) and static (things it would take you longer to cash in on) investments. A good financial advisor can talk you through how to build stock accounts, mutual funds, or invest in land, a home, or your own business.
Pay down your debt.
Owe anything to anyone? Make ridding yourself of debt your top priority. If you’re not sure where to start, or how to steadily chip away at larger debts like student loans, seek expert help. Then dig deep to find the discipline to carry out your plan.
Put yourself in Florida.
Or on a yacht, or in the mountains, or on a beach anywhere else you would like to retire. What are you doing to get yourself there? Debate abounds concerning the future availability of social security and other benefits, and it is wise not to depend on any income but your own for retirement. Consider inflation, rising medical costs, and projected family needs when you plan, but the short version is that if you want to retire before you’re 70, you must start saving today, and increasingly aggressively as you age. Learning about Roth IRAs is a good place to start the educational process, if the idea of saving for retirement is new to you.
Watch what you put in your mouth.
Do you know the price at each of your local stores for the groceries you most often purchase? No? Time for a field trip! Your household’s grocery bill is a large, recurrent expense that can easily be chipped away at with smart shopping. Remember to Google and print coupons before you go, read those sale circulars you get in the mail before you toss them away, and consider warehouse stores or online merchants for goods with a longer shelf life. Food thrown away is money dumped right from your wallet into the trash, so shop as often as you need to.
Step away from the television.
How much do you spend on satellite or other television subscriptions each year? How much time do you spend watching television? What else could you do with that amount of money? How else could you earn money, with that amount of “extra” time each week? Put down the remote. Step away.
Unwire, just a little bit.
How many gadgets do you own that have internet access, stream video, and allow you to chat in some way or another with your friends? Do you really need that much redundant capability? Ditch one electronic device, or downgrade subscriptions that you truly do not use. You will survive, and your budget will thank you.
Dreading the spring, when taxes are due? Not certain how much money you actually spend, or where it is all going? Get a filing system in place, whether formal or in a shoebox, and start collecting and tracking receipts. Log your expenditures in an spreadsheet, or by hand on a piece of paper. Update your logs regularly, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more effective your financial planning process becomes, and how easy it is to file your taxes next year.
Unsubscribe from merchant emails.
How many times have you logged onto your email account and seen a picture of something you didn’t know existed, had never thought about, but now see is on sale and can’t get out of your mind? Save yourself (and your budget) the anguish, and unsubscribe from those lists.
Do it on the side.
Work, that is. In our wired world, a side gig could be only a few internet searches away. Someone in your neighborhood may need a dog walked while they vacation, or a babysitter once a week. The trash at a local school may need to be taken out for a small fee. Nothing is too menial or small, if it adds income to your bottom line.
Those $15 drinks and swanky dinners add up. While impressing a date is always nice, wow them with your financial savvy by mixing things up with home-cooked dinners, picnics, outdoor activities, or matinees. If that isn’t attractive to the one you wish to woo, they probably aren’t a good financial partner for you, anyway.