My Top Tips for Your Finances in the New Year

We only have a couple more weeks left in 2013. So I know a lot of you are planning ahead to be about your money for the new year. Here are my top tips to get you ready to succeed:

1. Budget

This rule comes from Personal Finance 101. If you do not already have one, set a spending and savings budget.  The most dangerous way to mismanage money is to whip out your credit or debit card whenever you feel the urge, and then waiting until the end of the month to see how much you’ve spent. Putting a realistic budget in place will require some observance of how and where you spend money on a month to month basis. If you use a debit or credit card often, checking your spending habits is as easy as looking back at your last three online banking or billing statements. Once you have a full picture of where your money goes each month, it will be easier to determine what areas you can cut back on in order to establish a regular pattern on contributing at least 10% of your income to a savings account. The key to balancing a healthy budget is to make sure you have some surplus at the end of the month even if it’s not a lot – you must be sure that you are not spending more than you are making. If you’re married, make it a habit to meet regularly with your spouse to discuss your financial picture and keep each other on track in a supportive way.

 2. Have a Rainy Day Account

In addition to a checking account for bills and regular expenses and a savings account that I automatically pay a set amount into each month, I have what I like to call my ‘rainy day account’. It’s just another savings account that I throw money into when I can. If I did especially well with keeping nonessential spending to a minimum or picked up some unexpected overtime, I throw that extra money into the rainy day account. Whenever you have a little something extra in your pocket, do the same. If you don’t touch it for long periods of time, you’ll be surprised how quickly that money will add up. Inevitably something will come up that you didn’t factor into your monthly bill, like an emergency car repair or dental bill, or even an unscheduled getaway with the girls. These unforeseen expenses don’t have to have any impact on your budget if you have a tidy little slush account to tap into.

3. The Rule of 3 for Extra Money

This rule is a personal favorite. Follow it and you’ll see your debt shrink, savings grow, and you’ll be able to sow into yourself. Whenever you find yourself in the fortune position of having a little extra cash – from a gift or bonus – split that money into three different pots:

  • Apply one third to the past. Divide the sum of the money into three and take a third to pay down a credit card bill or increase your car note or student loan payment that month. That one third will increase itself in the form of reduced interest owed on an outstanding debt.
  • Apply one third to the present. Use this third to treat yourself to a purchase for yourself or your home that you’ve had your eye on. You deserve a treat for being so responsible.
  • Apply one third to the future. Put that final third immediately into some sort of savings or investment for the future. Again, the money will increase in the form of interest earned.

Stay tuned for Part II of my list next week.

Frugalistas: In the meantime, what financial resolutions are you considering for the new year?

If you need deeper work around healing your relationship with money or overcoming your blocks and fears, maybe it’s time for some money therapy.   

 

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