4 Simple Steps to Take Now to Make 2019 a Financially Successful Year
Anyone feeling a little stressed about their finances -- especially after the extravagance and overindulgence that often comes with the holiday season?
If so, you’re not alone. And you can also do something about it.Right now is the perfect time to pause, take a step back, and take a deep breath. You’ve got a whole new year and a totally blank slate to work with. And you absolutely can make this the year you start feeling less stressed and more successful.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of our favorite simple, straightforward steps you can use to help you build momentum and confidence -- because you absolutely can manage your money and start making smarter financial choices. Here’s how:
Set Goals That Actually Stick
Think of your money just like your diet: if you try to change everything all at once, or make drastic adjustments that aren’t sustainable, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Look to make small, incremental progress -- and set goals you can actually stick to for the long run.
Using the “SMART” acronym is always, well, a smart thing to do when it comes to setting your goals. That means you need to set intentions that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.
“I want to save more money” is not a good goal for anyone to have.
“I want to put $167 per month into a cash into a savings account so I have a $1,000 emergency fund by June 1” sounds a lot different, right? It’s specific, you can measure whether or not you did it, it’s clear how you’ll do it, it’s manageable, and it has a deadline. Very SMART indeed!
Automate What You Can
This might be the easiest thing to do when it comes to your money: stop doing things, and let automation take care of it for you.
Here’s what we mean: let’s say you want to put $250 per month into your Roth IRA that you opened a few years ago… but sometimes you forget. Other months, you went out to brunch a few more times than you should have. Maybe you saw the killer sale at Nordstrom and just couldn’t resist, and you spent that $250 instead of saving it.
Take yourself out of the equation by setting up an automated contribution from your checking account to your savings or retirement account. That way, you can’t forget -- and you won’t face the temptation to spend instead of save.
You can automate all kinds of things with your money to make your life easier (and your chances of financial success even better). Try setting up automated bill pay so you quit missing payments and getting slapped with late fees, or ask your HR department if you can automatically contribute 50% of every raise to your retirement account at work.
Track Every Cent
Yeah, it sounds tedious -- but seriously, nothing gives you more power over your money than understanding where it goes every month. No more guessing, no more mental accounting. Make this the year you actually track your spending…
..and if you’re feeling really motivated, actually set a budget too! But keep it simple and start with the spending aspect if you feel overwhelmed. First, sign up for an app like Mint. Then, connect all your financial accounts. That will allow you to see all your transactions in one place, meaning, you’ll understand exactly where every dollar coming into and going out of your account went.
This is powerful because when you actually face the reality of your spending habits (and know precisely how much you spent at nights out at the bar this month), that might inspire you to make a few small changes that add up to a big impact.
Tracking your spending can help you see where it’s easy to cut back (and might even show you some areas you could eliminate entirely). The key is to focus on what’s important to you, and align your spending with what you really value.
Another secret to success? Don’t feel like you have to cut things completely. Look for ways you can swap out a pricey habit for a less expensive option. Yes, Equinox is an incredible gym… but let’s be real, if you’re already in the red every month, you need a less expensive workout option.
Change it up and make choices that allow you to spend less -- but don’t feel pressured to give up what you love completely.
Acknowledge Your Current Situation (and Ask for Help If You Need It)
So many of us don’t talk about money because we feel stressed, embarrassed, or even ashamed about what our financial realities look like. Not only do we keep quiet on the subject, but even worse, that silence sometimes leads to us ignoring our money completely.
The first step toward success is simply acknowledging where you are today. From there, you can think about where you’d like to be in the future… and only then can you start working on a plan to get you from point A to point Not sure how on earth to get there, or want to take action but feel clueless? That’s okay! Don’t let that stop you from speaking up and asking for help. Search for financial blogs or podcasts first if that helps. Proactively seek out knowledge and answers -- and keep an eye out for what you still don’t get even after trying to tune in.
Having specific questions to ask will empower other people to better help you, because they can give you specific answers and more clarity on what you can do next.
Kali Roberge is a personal finance writer who contributes to JUGs to explain how freelancers and entrepreneurs can make the most of their money, and writes about mindful living through intentional spending through her email series, LETTERS. You can find her @KaliRoberge