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Financial Resolutions for the New Year

We're bringing back our first post of 2014 since it contains a lot of valuable information regarding financial resolutions that are still relevant. One of the best things about beginning a new year is getting a fresh start. It's nice to press that imaginary "Reset" button on January 1 and forget about the pitfalls of the previous year. Some of our favorite resolutions involve finances (surprise, surprise) – planning to spend less and enjoy more, or save more and worry less. While these are great ideas in theory, sometimes it's difficult to follow through with such goals. So, we've rounded up three, simple financial resolutions to help you keep your finances under control this year… and beyond. 

1. Increase your savings.

This sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, it's one of the hardest resolutions to keep. We all know we should spend less than we make, but with things like credit cards and layaway programs sometimes it's easier said than done. The best way to begin is to evaluate your spending habits. Choose three months from the past year and evaluate your main spending categories – mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, gas, dining out, entertainment, etc.  Then determine if there are areas where you could reduce spending. Could you eat at home one more night a week, buy in bulk, or conserve more water and energy in your daily routine? You'd be surprised at how much you can save simply by avoiding the coffee shop and brewing your coffee at home or work. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in your budget over the course of a year.  For instance, if you can only cut back spending $30 each month, that still adds up to $360 per year! Saving something is better than saving nothing; and it's certainly better than being in debt. Another great tactic to increase your savings is to set up an automatic transfer that moves a portion or percentage of your paycheck each pay period to a separate savings account before you spend it. With minimal effort on your part, you can use automatic transfers to build your emergency fund or save for an upcoming, large expense. We have various savings account options available to help you reach your goals.

2. Get organized.

Understanding and organizing your finances is key to keeping yourself on track. Follow the steps below and you will be on your way to getting your financial life in ship-shape:
  • Track your spending for at least 30 days. Evaluate where your money goes each month. Once you see how much you spend per month on certain items, it might prompt you to make changes in your daily routine.
  • Separate essential and non-essential expenses. Figure out which items within your monthly expenditures you can and can’t live without. Limit the non-essential expenses and watch your savings increase.
  • Pay yourself first. Make a habit of transferring a certain amount of money to your savings account on a regular basis, or set up automatic transfers to do this for you. You can deposit one lump sum into your savings account or, if you have specific savings goals, divide the funds you put aside into smaller deposits for separate savings accounts. Only dip into your savings if you have a financial emergency or you've reached your individual savings goals. It is recommended you have enough savings to keep your household afloat for up to six months if something unthinkable happens.
  • Evaluate your insurance plans. Take a look at all of your insurance plans and see if there are any opportunities to save. Most insurance companies offer savings incentives for having both your auto and home insurance policies with the same company.

3. Find ways to stick to your other resolutions without spending money.

Let's say you've resolved to lose weight this year – one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. Now, it might be tempting to sign up for a membership at the closest gym or start an expensive pre-prepared health food challenge. But, there are plenty of ways to shed those excess pounds without emptying your wallet. Instead of shelling out dollars for all that fancy gym equipment you don't use, walk and run in your neighborhood or explore a nearby hiking trail. If you prefer exercise classes like yoga, Pilates or Zumba, purchase an exercise DVD or search for videos on YouTube. Eating healthy on a budget is also possible. Limit how often you eat out. Make meals for yourself and your family at home so you have control of the nutritional content of the meal. Buy in-season produce at your grocery store (it's usually cheaper and better tasting) and look for recipes online incorporating these ingredients (Hello, Pinterest).  With creativity and determination, it's easy to obtain your health goals without busting your budget.

There are numerous tips and tricks to help you keep your financial resolutions; but we know if you take our advice and implement the tactics noted above, you'll be off to a great start. If you've made any resolutions of your own, we'd love to hear them. Let us know in the comments below. 
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