The holidays are a pretty indulgent time, so it makes sense to give ourselves a little refresh once they’re over. Did all that pecan pie make your stomach ache? Detox with veggies. Receive a bounty of lovely presents? Clean out your closet and make a donation to charity.
But how do you rebound from spending too much money? Presents, wine, decorations, party dresses and traveling all collide for what is a special — but expensive — couple of months.
The time to get your finances in order is now. Make these simple moves to start the new year off right.
1. Track last year's spending
Before you start thinking about what you want to accomplish over the next 12 months, take an honest look at how you spent your money last year. You know where your income comes from, but where exactly is it going? Break down your spending into categories and see how much you spend on both necessary and unnecessary expenses. You may find some places to make a change — by spending less on happy hours, for example, or allocating more to your savings goals.
2. Create a new budget
Now that you’ve reviewed last year’s spending, you can create a better-informed budget. You now know exactly what you spent last year and where you want to make improvements, so set a savings and spending plan that moves you toward your goals.
3. Mark financial deadlines
Make sure you never miss a rent payment again by marking important financial deadlines in your calendar. Set alerts so you’re reminded a day or week beforehand. You won’t have to scramble to get a timeslot with your accountant or realize that free trial ended months ago.
4. Tackle your highest interest rate debt
If tackling debt is high on your list of resolutions, the total of everything you have to pay off can be overwhelming. To start, focus on the debt with the highest interest rate (while continuing to pay the minimums on your other balances). This debt will cost you more in the long-run (in interest), so paying it off more quickly will save you money.
5. Increase your retirement contributions
If you set your retirement contributions when you first started working and then promptly forgot about it, it’s time to make a change. You’re likely earning more now, so adjust your contributions accordingly. Even if it’s just one percentage point, it can make a big difference in your retirement savings. And if you’re looking for other ways to boost your savings, these tips can help.
6. Cancel a recurring monthly expense
Are you subscribed to three different movie channels? When was the last time you attended a meeting with that professional society you joined? Do you ever take enough yoga classes to justify that unlimited membership? Slowly eliminate these extras from your life. You can always add a service or subscription back in if you really miss it, but chances are, you won’t.
7. Plan a spending freeze
Challenge yourself to a spending freeze in the first quarter of the year to reset your budget. Abstaining from all unnecessary purchases (the essentials like rent and groceries are still allowed) for a week, month, or whatever time period feels right to you can help you evaluate your spending and make you more mindful.
8. Learn more about your money
Do you want to do more with your money but aren’t sure where to start? Still don’t know how retirement accounts work? Set aside time each week to learn more about the financial topics that are important to you so you can better manage your money. Financial education will make you feel more confident and ready to tackle any hurdles that come your way.