5 personal finance resolutions to make this year
It's the time for resolutions and wishes, promises and new beginnings. The thing about the New Year's Resolution is that we're always left feeling really badly when, at the end of the year, we haven't been able to keep them.
That's why this year we decided to come up with five super easy, super actionable New Year's resolutions that will be simple to keep, but that can make a big difference in our personal finances throughout the year.
Resolution No. 1: Save $25 From Each Paycheck in an Emergency Savings
Financial experts say that everyone should have between six months and one year of emergency money in a savings account. While six months might seem like a daunting goal (and forget about one year), thinking of the goal in terms of a certain amount of cash from each paycheck will make it much more manageable. This year, take stock of all your finances and what you spent most on last year, and see where you can make cuts. If you can, try to put at least $25 from each paycheck directly into a savings account that is labeled and designated for emergencies. (If you're already doing this, try putting an additional $25 into it each paycheck.) Even small amounts will start to add up over time, and you'll be so glad you have that money when, say, your tire goes flat, or your dog needs emergency surgery.
Resolution No. 2: Clean Out Your Wallet
If you've noticed that your wallet is feeling a bit, well, heavier these days, it may be time to give it a good cleansing. Some things to keep in mind include:
Resolution No. 3: Opt for Your Company's 401(K) Match
- Cash. It's always a good idea to have some cash on hand for those last-minute dinner and drinks with friends that come up, but you don't want to keep too much in your wallet in case you lose it. Sticking with $75-$100 should keep you covered.
- Credit Cards. There's no reason to carry around every single credit card you have. For your everyday expenses, keep the credit card you use most frequently with you at all times, and leave the others at home until you need them.
- Gift Cards. If you can, try only bringing gift cards with you when you know you're going to use them. Remember, gift cards are just like cash, so if you lose them, you won't be able to get that money back.
- Personal Items. We'll admit it—we've been known to take off our earrings or rings and stash them in our wallet. Not only does that put you in danger of losing or forgetting about them, but again, if you lost your wallet, those personal possessions would be lost right along with it.
This is a super easy resolution that only requires a little bit of paperwork. If your company offers a match in their 401(K), or any other, retirement plan, you're only throwing away free money if you don't sign up for it. Check with your human resources department to find out if your company does a match, and if they do, sign up as soon as possible to start cashing in on that retirement gift.
Resolution No. 4: Learn a 'Go-To' Recipe
Okay, so this resolution is tangentially related to personal finance, but here it goes. Make is a 2013 goal to learn at least one tasty go-to recipe that you can whip out for parties and pot lucks, and then promise yourself that you will substitute that go-to meal with one of your usual take-out or eating out nights. Cooking is healthier than eating out (if you make it that way), and it's a lot cheaper, as well. Plus, you never know, you could be a budding chef in waiting.
Resolution No. 5: Never Miss Another Payment
One of the easiest ways to rack up extra fees or get in trouble with your credit score is to miss credit card payments. This year vow to stay on track by taking 15-20 minutes now to go through all your bills and set them to automatic payment plans. If you're worried about having money automatically deducted from your checking account, at least go through your bills and set reminders 7-10 days in advance of every payment so you'll know when it's coming up.
Stick with these five easy resolutions this year and your personal finances will have a fantastic 2013.
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she's not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.