With holiday shopping winding down and a new year ahead, now is the time to start getting finances under control. Here are 10 simple resolutions that will help keep your bank accounts flush in 2018.
STOP IMPULSE BUYING
Psychology Today recommends sending out an "SOS" before making a potentially useless purchase: Step back, try to relax, and take a few deep breaths. Orient yourself toward your goals and values -- think about what you're saving for and how it would feel to have a little extra cash. Finally, self-check -- take note of how stressed you are and whether you're in touch with your values. If you're motivated by emotion, reconsider the purchase.
PUT $10 A WEEK TOWARD RETIREMENT
This small contribution to an employer-sponsored or individual retirement plan adds up to $40 a month and roughly $480 a year toward your retirement. "Baby steps," says Nicole Mayer of RPG Life Transition Specialists, a holistic wealth-management firm based in the Chicago area. "Make one small goal. ... Even if you can only afford $5 a paycheck, start with something."
PAY CREDIT CARD BILLS IN FULL
Every. Single. Month. Avoid the endless cycle of acquiring debt, paying off a little, and acquiring more debt than you just retired. Either bring those balances down to zero every month or don't use the plastic card. Mayer recommends taking things a step further and paying only with cash. "Put your credit card and debit cards away," she says. "If you give yourself $100 a week for entertainment and eating out and you are working with cash only, you cannot spend more."
TAKE YOUR BUDGET SERIOUSLY
One-third of Americans who try to set a budget become frustrated because they simply can't stick to it, according to research by Moven, a mobile banking app and debit card. Additionally, about a quarter of consumers feel overwhelmed and stressed by the constraints of a budget. In the new year, resolve to create one that is easy to figure out and follow.
COMMIT TO LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS
Yes, this is the point of establishing a budget, but if you didn't earn it, don't spend it. Period. No exceptions. A good place to start: Eating out. Unless there's room in the budget, commit to eating at home.
TAKE THE 'FRUGAL MONTH CHALLENGE
If you find yourself derailing from your budget, starting to impulse buy, and living beyond your means, try a "no-buy month." It's a big eye-opener and a surefire way to get back on track to financial health.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH FRUGAL PEOPLE
We all know someone who decides on a whim to buy the whole bar a round, always wears the latest designer duds and sits for frequent hair blowouts, or drops $10 a day on gourmet coffee. You don't have to stop being friends, but it may do your wallet good to spend more time with people who are more cautious with their spending.
BUILD AN EMERGENCY FUND
Remember that $10 a week you committed to saving for retirement? If you don't have any cash set aside in case of an emergency, those Hamiltons might be better put toward a rainy-day fund -- at least until you have a sizable cushion. Some experts suggest $1,000; others say three to six months of expenses. The savings can make that next unexpected medical expense or car repair more of a prick than a sting.
CONSULT YOUR PARTNER AND FAMILY
Getting on the same page and setting the same financial goals will go a long way toward helping to achieve those ends, Mayer says. Have a "state of the union" meeting, decide jointly on common goals, and discuss how to meet them.
TAKE STOCK OF WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING
Take a deep breath. Now collect your credit card and bank statements from the past year. Study them, check for hidden fees, and note the categories in which spending went overboard. "Just be aware where you are spending money," Mayer says, "and that will make a difference in your choices."