Anyone else ready to kick 2013 to the curb and welcome 2014 with open arms? Yeah, me too. But in order to ensure that next year is better than the one before, we need to get our money matters in order. So read on for my top 6 money resolutions for 2014 (or any year, for that matter)…and then feel free to resume your New Year’s Eve party planning. And alcohol consumption.
1) Emergency Fund
Unexpected things happen. I can remember sitting at an auto dealer wanting to cry because the mechanic told me that it would cost nearly $600 to fix my car. Let me tell you, that one hurt…but not as bad as it would have had I not had extra cash sitting in my savings to cover it. You can never predict all of the expenses that will come up, and trust me, you do not want to pay for a new furnace or tires using a credit card. That $600 can quickly turn into $700 when you tack interest on top of it, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t like giving my money away when I can avoid it.
2) Eliminate Credit Card Debt
Speaking of credit cards, paying off any debt you owe to VISA or MasterCard should be at the top of your to-do list. These things wrack up interest like you wouldn’t believe, and by not paying your balance in full, you’re basically throwing your money out the window. So take a second job, sell some stuff on eBay, babysit on the weekends – whatever you have to do to start bringing that balance down, do it. If you only accomplish two things this year, the emergency fund and eliminating your credit card debt should be it.
3) Create a Budget
Is this ingrained in your mind yet? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: without a budget, you will never be in full control of your money. Start small if you have to – track your money for a few months, and when you’ve gained some insight on where your money typically goes, a budget can be formed. Doing this is the best way to “earn” extra cash without supplementing your income.
4) Develop Expense-Cutting Activities
Here’s a challenge that’s guaranteed to save you extra cash: at the beginning of the year, write down three ways that you can shave off some dollars from your usual spending. The best part is, you can be as creative as you want to be. Have a sweet tooth that makes you go through boxes of cookies and gallons of ice cream every month? Give it up for a month or two (I do this every year for Lent!). Spend too much on going to the movies? Vow to stick to Redbox or sign up for a library card and rent movies for free. One of mine for the new year: shop my friends’ closets. Instead of buying a new dress or two for the 5 weddings I have this coming year, I’m going to borrow from my friends instead. How’s that for saving $100-$200?
5) Invest in Yourself
Some of us are right where we want to be in life…and others are still trying to find their place. Whichever bucket you fall into, most of us are still trying to improve upon ourselves in some way (or at least if you’re like me you are!). Sometimes we get stuck in the day to day monotony we call life and eventually forget the path that we really wanted to take. Well, here’s your wake-up call. You are the only one in charge of your life, meaning that you’re the only one that can change it. And with dedication and willpower, you can become the person you want to be. Investing in yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself – whether it be by going back to school, taking cooking courses, or learning a new language. If you see somewhere who is at where you want to go, ask them for advice. It definitely can't hurt anything and might get you a kick start to your new path. Just remember, have faith in yourself…and go for it.
6) Give to Charity
No, this is not actually about saving money; however, giving to others definitely makes us realize how blessed we truly are, and that’s a lesson that many of us need to learn. It’s astounding how many people in our own backyards have to worry if they are going to be able to feed their kids that night or whether they’ll be able to maintain a roof over their heads. There are others who have children battling life-threatening diseases with not enough insurance coverage and adults fighting cancer whose families are desperately praying for a cure. To be happy, healthy, and safe makes us some of the richest people in the world, and it’s up to us to give that to others. So whether you give monetarily or with your time, make sure this is on your list – it’s pretty fulfilling :)