Have you chosen your New Year's resolution? With only a few days left in December, you don't have much time. Past resolutions probably focused on improving your health, be it exercising for your physique, eating better for your heart or meditation for your mind.
If you are still undecided, might we suggest improving your financial health? Even if you are not struggling with debt, relieving financial pressure has its benefits. It might even help you in your efforts to get physically healthy by reducing your stress - and the adverse impact that can have on a diet or exercise plan.
If history shows us anything, it is that New Year's resolutions are hard to keep. Many people last less than two weeks before they cheat on their diet or skip a workout. The keys to keeping your plan to improve your financial health can be summed by the words "knowledgeable" and "reasonable."
If you want to succeed, you need to understand your financial situation and develop a realistic plan. You can use the following suggestions from investopedia as a guide for developing your own plan:
- Know your net worth: Your financial health is much more than the balance in your checking account. It is a big-picture kind of thing. We all have debt, the question really is, "Is it manageable?" Add up all of your assets and your debt on a spreadsheet. The goal is to have a positive net worth.
- Set a budget and stick to it: Budgeting is one of the best ways to get a handle on your finances and plan for the future. You need to know what you are spending your money on from day to day from utilities to vacations. The numbers don't lie. Knowing them can help you figure out where you can spend more or less. The trick is to think logically and realistically. You can go out to eat; should you go as often? Are you picking too many expensive restaurants?
- Understand lifestyle inflation: Maybe you'll get a promotion this year. Maybe an investment will pay off. As your income grows, it is easy to spend the extra dollars. It is also easy to buy impulsively or try to keep up with your neighbors. You can upgrade your lifestyle as time goes on, but make sure you are cognizant of the changes you are making.
- Think before you spend: We just mentioned impulsive spending. Try to avoid it. Make lists of things you want to purchase. If you see something in the store, go home and sleep on it. You might change your mind after some consideration and you can avoid purchases you might regret - like the sweater you bought because it was 50 percent off but gave away a few months later with the tags still on.
- Save for retirement: Whether you are in your 20s or 50s, retirement is on its way. You should always try to put funds into a 401(k), Roth IRA or other savings device. Interest and inflation make "a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow." The earlier you can start putting retirement funds away, the better, but it is never too late.
- Keep an emergency savings fund: Your regular savings account should receive a little attention as well as your retirement funds. Life will give you unexpected challenges. Your car will break down, the AC will go out or you might face a medical issue. The money you put in your emergency fund should be save for just that, emergencies. Do not spend it on vacations or "fun."
Lastly, try to pay down debt where you can. Debts are normal, but if you get a monetary windfall this year, consider paying down some of the principal. You might want to buy a little something extra, but try to avoid unnecessary splurging.