Ah, the New Year. It’s a great time for self-reflection, goal setting and general musings on how to get your shit together. But honestly, if there was ever a time to realise your life’s shortcomings and your lack of will power, the New Year and its subsequent resolutions is it.
This is probably reflected best in the Mt Everest-like peak of gym membership sign ups on January 1, and the Grand Canyon-like low of the use of said memberships come March.
I am all for people striving to better themselves by setting goals for exercise, productivity, career, what have you, but if you want to set a New Year’s resolution that requires minimal effort, has a high chance of being achievable and requires zero exercise time, why not look to your finances?
This could be setting specifics like have $x by December 31 2017, pay off all debt, save enough for that thing you really want or just generally become better with your money. Any step you take is a good one, so here’s my advice on how to get one foot in front of the other
Track Your Spending
You can’t change something if you don’t know what’s really going on. How many times have you been paid and two weeks later spent it all with no idea how?
Download a money tracking app. My absolute favourite is Pocketbook, which accesses your accounts and shows your income vs spending, then breaks down that spending into categories. Didn’t realise how much money you spent at Priceline? Well, now you do. So stop it.
Start a Budget
It sounds so grown up, I know. Budgets are for your parents and people with mortgages, right? Wrong. So, so wrong.
Set yourself up with a good budget template – and because we’re 100% unbiased at THP – look, here’s one we prepared earlier! Throw all your digits in with only necessary spending (budgets don’t have an ‘Emergency Shoes’ column) and crunch your numbers real good. You may be surprised with how much you should end up with at the end of each month.
Burn that number into your brain and use it as the red line you can’t go past.
Trim the Fat
This is the hardest part. This is the time we say goodbye to daily large strong soy half foam flat whites, lunches out and luxury brands. I’m not saying completely deprive yourself, let’s be realistic, it just means making some good substitutions.
Instead of coffee, drink green tea which is like $3 a box (and better for you), switch out your fancy shampoo for one from the supermarket, and bring your lunch to work. Track how much you save over a two week period and I guarantee you’ll be impressed. Then keep it up.
Another way to trim the financial fat is consolidating everything… Super… Bank accounts… Insurance. Roll them over to one account or provider to cut down on fees and bank up that interest.
Pay Off Debt
Aforementioned interest goes both ways my friend. We want the good kind not the bad, and the bad comes from debt. Before you can save for anything you need to pay off what you owe. That’s credit cards, loans, cars, whatever your fiscal vice may be.
Use the monthly surplus from your budget to pay off your debt by setting up a direct debit the day you get paid so you almost don’t even realise its money you’re missing. For extra motivation, work out how long this will take based on your monthly contributions and mark it in your calendar with highlighters, glitters and f*cking unicorns.
Then go out that night and celebrate. (Here are some tips for that purpose)
Set a Goal
Doing something hard is even harder if you don’t have an end goal, so use your new grown up ways to work towards something. Whether it’s a holiday, car, investment or deposit for a home, keep it at the front of your mind.
Make it the wallpaper on your computer and phone, put it on a post it on your screen, or most aggressively, write it on a piece of paper and sticky tape it to your debit/credit card so every time you whip it out to spend some ca$h you are reminded what end you’re stealing from. Here’s a worksheet I find really helpful for re-setting my financial goals.
So there you have it. Go forth and literally and/or figuratively prosper – 2017 is your bitch.
Image: clement127, via Flickr