Merrick Bank Financial Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

 

With the fresh start promise of a New Year, many resolutions include things like improving your health or addressing an ongoing challenge or issue. If you have issues with things like budgeting or cutting costs, there are many steps you can take that can quickly support your resolution. Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight, but taking one step at a time toward small improvements, you can begin to establish new habits that can help you budget and save money.

 

Set a reasonable budget and work your way up
First, you need to know what you’re spending and where you’re spending it. Write it down or if you’d rather, work in a spreadsheet. Either way, spend time studying and understanding at a very basic level what is coming in and what is going out every month. Managing budgets can be daunting, but not managing them can be devastating — Hit yours straight on.

 

Then, think about what your financial goals are and how you can meet them by adjusting spending and doing things like contributing to savings. Really think about how to differentiate wants from needs, which can be difficult to do. Wants often come disguised as a need for something beyond our means or budget. So, it’s important to evaluate whether those kinds of purchases really fit in our budget, or rather, have the ability to break it.

 

Making your budget too strict may make it difficult to stick to, which can become discouraging and cause you to ignore it or keep it on the back burner. Focus on just taking small steps and being consistent. Then give yourself credit for making progress by sticking to your budget, even for a month, or saving just $10 over the course of a week. Providing yourself with positive reinforcement for changing patterns or altering habits is important, so take the time to do that —Then get right back to working on improving your budget management skills and holding yourself accountable to the budgets you set.

 

Every penny counts
On the savings side, even starting with a bit of “penny pinching” can make a big difference. Keep track of how much you’re saving, and again, be sure to give yourself credit for making progress. Saving money can actually become an engaging game of sorts. You can set goals for saving, hit them and then challenge yourself to beat that goal every month.

 

Think about how much you might save by:

  • Delaying a purchase decision — You might save a great deal by waiting for something to go on sale, shopping around for a better price, or just deciding, once you’ve had time to consider priorities, that you don’t really need or want what you were going to buy.
  • Only using ATMs that have no fees or withdraw money directly from your bank. Or, only do business with banks that offer benefits like free checking.
  • Bringing your lunch to work a few days a week instead of going out
  • Reducing the number of times you stop for coffee or not going for the large $6 dollar coffee drink every day. Try a smaller size. Coffee can add up fast.
  • Saving on your car — If carpooling is feasible for you, it can save a lot of money in gas, wear and tear on your car, and on parking. If it’s not an option, try things like shopping for lower gas prices with phone apps like GasBuddy or by using a free grocery loyalty program to save at participating pumps.
  • Checking the library for free DVDs before paying to rent them.
  • Doing what your mom likely did with the Sunday paper when you were a kid — clip coupons. Though now, you can take advantage of websites that aggregate and provide coupons for just about anything you need, like coupons.com or grocerysmarts.com.
  • Finally, your spending puts money in lots of other pockets, so put some money back in your own every month. Pay yourself a percentage of your paycheck every pay period. 10% is a solid contribution, but even $20 every couple of weeks will add up over time.

 

People often fail to fulfill their resolutions because they just don’t stick with them. When it comes to budgeting and saving, make adjustments along the way if necessary, but understand that it takes persistence to see longer term benefit and change. You’re likely redefining old patterns, which isn’t easy. However, the results are well worth the effort.

 

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