Top 3 Financial New Year’s Resolutions (and a Bonus One!)

Happy Holidays to the Fearless Finance Community! I wish you all the best in 2015. Less financial stress, more happiness and prosperity.

Tis’ the season for starting anew with all the best intentions for the new year. We all make promises to ourselves about exercise, eating and even our relationships. Why don’t we make a few about our financial lives?

As we all know, it’s hard to keep a new year’s resolution going, so let’s start simple. Here are 3 things you can ACTUALLY do in the new year that will make a big difference in your financial lives either on monthly or over-the-course-of-life way.

  1. Have a Rainy Day Fund!I can’t stress this enough. Put aside, $2-3000 if you own a home and have kids, $500-$1000 if you are single and renting for “stuff” that happens. Car repairs, root canals, home repairs, tax bills you forgot about, children’s activities you didn’t realize would cost that much and the like.This is not your emergency savings. This is a fund to pay for big items you didn’t expect so that you do not have to put them on a credit card and get on a downward spiral of revolving debt. Replenish this account first after you use some of it before you save for anything else.
  2. Embrace Your Discretionary Buying. We ALL buy stuff. Clothes, tools, gadgets, tickets, drinks, frozen yogurt, coffee, take-out, etc. It’s okay. Just set a limit EACH MONTH for your discretionary income, (hopefully based on how much you make and how much you need for other stuff like rent, gas, groceries, etc.) and do not spend more than that limit each month. If you have some left over, roll it over to next month.Instead of making a new year’s resolution to save more, make a resolution to control your discretionary buying because after all, there is no saving if you’re spending more than you earn. Spending less than you earn is the cornerstone of any financial plan no matter how much you try to put away each month.
  3. Do an inventory of your kitchen before you go to the store. This is a resolution that can save hundreds per month and you will have to do it every week. Take 30 seconds and scan your shelves and fridge/freezer to see what you have and what you need. Make a list of what you need and bring it to the store. So much is wasted (cash and food) on the “um… I think I need tortilla wraps” and when you get home you see you have 3 open bags already in the fridge. Thirty seconds can save you hundreds!

Here’s a bonus resolution and it’s probably a little more complicated than the others for most people:

BONUS: Have the conversation with your partner about financial priorities. I’m not saying you will resolve all your money differences (habits, values, needs, etc.). I’m saying, start the conversation and you can start it in a non-threatening and positive way by talking about what YOU want to see for your household financially in the coming year. Maybe it’s more awareness of your household finances, paying more debt down, or saving more for college. Whatever it is (maybe list 3 priorities) start with what you want to see and ask your partner for the same, knowing you won’t resolve it right away.

At least the lines of communication are open and you’re talking about your finances. That’s a great way to start the new year.