Like every New Year we start with the best intentions by setting goals for ourselves.
From our own personal experiences, we realize that a lot of these goals are already broken early in the year, so we decided to focus this article on habits to work on rather than goals to work toward. These habits are small steps you can take that add up exponentially down the road.
See below for some habits that we recommend you start doing every time a new year rolls around.
- Make an inventory of everything you own and owe.
This means review balances of all savings accounts, retirement plans, credit cards, personal loans, student loans, etc. This is a great exercise to do each year because it helps put in perspective where you currently stand and gives you something to measure against for next year.
- Write down how much is coming in and how much is going out.
Build a budget worksheet to see how much income you can expect each month and what expenses items you will need to cover (i.e., housing, transportation, kids, pets, food, personal care, insurance payments, debt payments). Look back through your bank and credit card statements from the previous year to see how much you actually spend on these categories each month to see if there are areas where you can reduce spending or could be saving more.
- Pick a category to start reducing your spending.
Pick a category from your budget sheet where you typically spend more than needed. Try to focus on a larger category (this could be money spent on shopping, groceries, dining out, etc.) that will have a bigger impact on your overall budget. Come up with a way that you can reduce spending in this area. For example – if it is shopping, consider giving yourself a shopping budget each month or, if it is groceries, consider planning your meals and grocery lists out ahead of time.
- Start automating your savings.
Set up a dollar amount to come directly out of your paycheck each month and go into a separate savings account. This will force you to start putting some money away, will keep the money separate from the accounts you are spending from and will happen without you even having to think about it. If you are already doing this, that is great! Review the amount you are putting into savings and consider increasing it.
- Increase the amount you are putting into your retirement savings account.
You may already be doing what is needed to receive the match your employer offers. Free Money! That is a great starting point; however, you will likely need to save (a lot) more in order to meet your retirement savings needs. Get in the habit of increasing the amount you are saving at least 1% each year. Consider doing more, especially if you have received a raise or recently paid off a debt.
Amy Michaels is a Partner and Financial Planner at S.E.E.D Planning Group. She holds the CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation and oversees all of S.E.E.D.’s Financial Planning Programs. She created the Sprout program in order to help young people have better conversations about money and finances.
S.E.E.D. Planning Group LLC (S.E.E.D.)is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) with the SEC. S.E.E.D.’s team provides investment fiduciary and financial planning services to clients. Our fees are disclosed, easy to understand, and not predicated on product sales.