The New Year is right around the corner. Besides losing weight and getting in shape, getting control of finances is another top resolution many of us will pledge as 2017 opens. Like the latter resolutions, improving your financial situation can be challenging. But if you are willing to work to make things better, you can end next year in a better financial situation than you started it. Here are seven surefire tips to improve your finances over the next twelve months.
Set Attainable Goals
As you take stock of your finances at the end of 2016, visualize what you want them to look like at the end of next year. Set clear objectives in terms of savings, paying off debt, and investments. Write these goals down, and keep them somewhere so you can review them daily; some people use detailed worksheets to keep track of their goals, but as long as you’ve recorded them in some manner you will be fine. Make sure these goals are achievable. If, for example, you plan to pay off a particular debt, ensure you map out, month by month, how you intend to spend in order to do so.
Develop a Budget
One of the best ways to improve your finances is to keep track of them in a budget. Capture all of your expenses, debt, and income in a single document, and track them all month by month. There are numerous apps that can help you do this, and downloadable spreadsheets for applications like Microsoft Excel that do most of the work for you as well. Of course, of you want to go low–tech, you can simply write them out on a ledger or a piece of paper. Tracking your finances will help you achieve the goals you have set for the year, as you will be more aware of the money you have (and don’t have). They can also help you identify some of the bad habits you might have in regards to your finances, and provide you a clear incentive to improve them.
Track Your Spending
A great way to improve your financial situation is to track your spending more closely. Record how much you spend every single day; look at the balance in your primary checking daily, and make tracking both of these things a habit. Reconcile your checking account at the top of each month in 2017, and compare your spending from one month to the next. As you pay more attention to your spending, it is likely you will begin to spend your money a little more wisely month by month.
Pay off that Debt!
If you have significant debt, especially high interest credit card debt, paying that off, or at least down, should be a major priority in 2017. Paying off debt is one of the best ways to improve your financial fitness. Debt, on its own, costs you money every single month in interest expenses that could otherwise be dedicated to savings and investments. High levels of debt can affect your credit rating, and make it hard for you to get a mortgage, or even endanger your employment status. Finally, paying off your debt can give you peace of mind that is difficult to obtain in any other way.
Generate More Income
Beyond paying off those credit cards, a second critical thing you can do to improve your financial situation next year is make more money. And these days, making a little more money is easier than ever. Millions of people have a side gig of some sort; you could drive for Uber in your spare time, for instance, or spend the weekends ghostwriting articles for clients on Upwork. You could also work to earn some passive income, or money earned from no direct activity, as well. For example, you could rent out a room in your home or apartment occasionally on airbnb. Finally, you could try to work more hours in your current job, or drum up the courage to ask your boss for a raise.
Pinch those Pennies
As you prepare for 2017, think of ways that you can decrease your spending and save more money. Determine how to be more frugal, and you’ll have more money to pay down that debt, and make finds available for other things, like savings and investments. Try to spend less on food; buy in bulk at the warehouse stores whenever possible, and use coupons. In fact, take advantage of savings and discounts on everything you buy. You should also learn to shop around. Compare costs on items before you buy them; there are great apps that can help you do this with ease. Use a bicycle to get back and forth as often as possible, and cut your gas expenditures; driving less may help you decrease your auto insurance costs as well.
If you live more deliberately, you will more than likely save money in the long run. Making a weekly meal plan, for instance, can lead you to having a more meticulous grocery list, decrease wasteful or superfluous spending on food, and save you money every time you go to the supermarket. Planning for your next big purchase – whether it is a new computer, car, or home, can help keep you focused, and assist you in avoiding impulsive purchases that take you wildly off track of your annual goals and your daily budget. Scheduling everything – from your meals, to your groceries, when you pay your bills, and what month you’re going to make a major purchase – can help you keep your spending in control over the next twelve months.
2017 will be upon us before you know it. Now is the time to start preparing to get control of your finances, and end up in a better position this time next year. Make realistic goals, set a budget, pay attention to your spending, and keep paying down your debt. You should try harder to be frugal and more organized in 2017 to save money, too. If you do all of these things, next year will be a great one for your bottom line.