With the new year approaching quickly, New Year’s Resolutions are on many people’s minds. If your goal is to improve your financial situation, choosing resolutions that can help you head in the right direction is wise. While the exact objectives you set may vary depending on your personal situation, there are many that work well for most people. If you’re trying to meet your financial goals and don’t know what New Year’s Resolution Financial Goals, here are a few to consider.
Create and Follow a Budget
If you do nothing else in 2022, make this the year that you create and follow a budget. With a budget, you get critical visibility into your finances. Plus, it allows you to generate a plan in advance that can propel you toward success, giving you a roadmap to follow as you strive for other New Year’s resolution financial goals.
In many cases, creating and following a budget is easy. You can use websites or apps that allow you to set spending limits and track your activities, or even go with a simple spreadsheet to monitor your income, savings, expenses, and debt repayments. That way, you’ll know where your money is going, allowing you to gain better control over your financial life.
Pay Yourself First
When most people receive their pay, they focus on handling debt payments and household expenses. While tackling those costs is essential, it’s wise to start at a different point. By paying yourself first, you set yourself up for financial success, ensuring that saving is a priority.
Typically, paying yourself first can involve a variety of approaches. Along with dedicating money to retirement, stashing money in an emergency fund qualifies. Ideally, you want to commit at least 15 percent of your income (including the employer match) to retirement and have three to six months of living expenses set aside. That way, you’re ready for your golden years and can easily navigate the unexpected.
You can also focus on goal-oriented saving as a form of paying yourself first. For instance, setting money aside for your or a family member’s education can count, as well as funding a large purchase, vacation, or something else. However, those goals should only fall in this category if your income genuinely supports it. Otherwise, you could be creating a hardship.
Eliminate Extraneous Recurring Expenses
Recurring expenses can easily fall off of a household’s radar, particularly if they’re smaller. Costs like streaming services (both audio and video), fitness center memberships, magazine subscriptions, and similar expenses chip away at your budget. If they aren’t providing you with enough value, then it’s best to cancel them immediately.
There are tons of small expenses that can crop up as part of daily life, from online payment fees to bank account service fees and credit card interest. It’s easy to not pay too much attention to these, but they can add up over time and put a strain on your budget.
Make reviewing your accounts to identify and eliminate extraneous recurring expenses a priority this year. That way, you can free up a little bit of cash without much effort, giving you a quick financial win.
Tackle High-Interest Debt
High-interest debt is a significant burden that makes it harder to achieve your other financial goals. If you have high-interest credit cards, personal loans, payday loans, or similar debts, make conquering them a priority.
In most cases, going with either the snowball or avalanche method is best. With the snowball, you focus on your smallest balance first, putting as much money toward it as possible and making the minimum payment on every other debt. Then, when you pay that balance off, you redirect all of the cash you were sending there to your new smallest balance debt.
With the avalanche approach, you choose the debt with the highest interest rate to focus on first. It’s a more cost-effective option, allowing you to pay the least amount of interest possible. However, if that debt is large, it lacks the quick win you can get with the snowball method. As a result, it’s best to choose the option that will keep you motivated, ensuring you stick to the plan long-term.
A side benefit of tackling debt is that it usually boosts your credit score, too. If improving your creditworthiness is a priority, you can use this resolution to make it happen.
Learn About Investing
Once you have your retirement account funded, a solid emergency fund, and no high-interest debt, it’s time to think about investing. That way, you can help your money grow faster, potentially allowing you to retire early, live more comfortably, or accomplish other financial goals.
While you may be tempted to jump right into the world of investing, learning about it first is a better bet. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals, such as the differences between bonds, stocks, ETFs, and other investment vehicles. Learn about risk mitigation techniques like diversification, as well as how fees and commissions can eat into your earnings. Find out about the tax implications of making withdrawals or trades, ensuring you’re prepared for what occurs.
Once you’ve taken a deep dive into investing, you can determine how you want to proceed. You may be comfortable with a self-directed approach, especially with the number of robo-advisors available that can help you create a portfolio based on your priorities, risk tolerance, and more. If you aren’t, then it’s best to research financial planners in your area, allowing you to find an expert that can help you make choices that align with your risk tolerance and goals.
Define Goals That Align with Your Priorities
While the resolutions above are great starting points, they are based on classic advice and personal finance best practices. As a result, they may be inspiring to some but not connect well with others whose financial situations make those steps unnecessary or poor fits.
If you’re already doing everything above or those objectives aren’t a great match for you, that doesn’t mean you can create New Year’s Resolutions that will allow you to achieve your goals. Just spend some time genuinely defining what you want to accomplish financially. That way, you can create personalized resolutions that speak to you on a deeper level.
Get Specific and Make Objectives Actionable
Ideally, you need to get specific and make your objectives actionable. For example, instead of saying you want to “spend less money” or “save more,” go with goals like “reduce my monthly dining out spending by 20 percent” or “increase my savings account balance by $2,000 within 12 months.”
Then, add in why you want to make those things happen. For instance, the goals above might turn into “reduce my monthly dining out spending by 20 percent, allowing me to pay down my high-interest credit card faster” or “increase my savings account balance by $2,000 within 12 months so that I can launch my new business.”
By resolving to spend time genuinely identifying your priorities, you know what targets will motivate you to keep making smart financial choices. In the end, you’re increasing the odds that you’ll stay on track because you know the “why” behind your actions. It’s simple yet powerful, so take the time to determine your priories as the new year begins.
Are there any other New Year’s resolution financial goals that can help you have a successful year? Did you use any of the options above and find them effective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.