The Christmas holiday dominates the month of December, but it seems that the moment the clock strikes twelve on the 25th, everything switches over to a focus on New Year’s. Parties, champagne, and yes, those dreaded New Year’s resolutions: An emphasis on weight loss, exercise and bettering oneself dominate the popular resolutions, but don’t let the focus on your physical self overshadow your monetary well being. Your finances can always benefit from focused attention and a general tune-up. Here are five financial New Year’s resolutions to send you on a journey of financial wellbeing in 2016.
Put together a budget
There are multiple budgeting programs, both free and otherwise available on the Internet (although many swear by old fashioned pen and paper.) Popular online options include Mint.com, You Need a Budget, Every Dollar and Quicken.com. If you’re waiting for the one perfect budgeting tool, you’ll never start, so just make the resolution to jump in and get going. (Something done imperfectly is better than something never begun.) It may take a few months to hone your method, but knowing precisely how and where you spend your money is the number one important step in taking control of your finances.
Get on top of your retirement planning
Maybe you participate in your employer’s 401(k) plan, and even have an additional Roth IRA that you contribute to outside of work. Maybe you have neither. Either way you need to be doing something, and make that choice to be deliberate with your retirement planning. Schedule an appointment to meet with a fee-only financial adviser to review your current plan, and see if there’s anything additional you should be doing to keep on track for your retirement years. Some work-sponsored retirement plans include a free consultation with a retirement specialist. Mine did, so my husband and I booked an appointment and spent more than an hour meeting with a retirement planner and tweaking our contributions. Remember, you can neither be too young nor too old to start planning your retirement.
Read more: How to find a fee-only financial planner
Automate your charitable donations
Charitable organizations receive almost a quarter of their contributions between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day during the season of giving. However, need happens 365 days out of the year, so many non-profits have a hard time fulfilling their mission during the lean months. By automating your contributions, you can make sure to consistently help the needy, plus smaller monetary donations are easier on the budget than a single large annual contribution.
Gather your tax information early
Taxes might not be due until April 15th, but you receive your W-2s by the end of January, so you have between now and then to gather up your miscellaneous financial documents. It makes zero sense to procrastinate this task if you’re receiving a refund, but you should assemble everything early even if you owe money. Online tax preparation services like TurboTax offer an early bird discount, as do many CPAs. Some financial information can be difficult to track down, so you’re better off facing this task nice and early. Don’t leave this financial chore until the last minute!
Sign up for a spending fast
Spending fasts have become the rage across the blogosphere, as January is the perfect month to step away from the financial disaster that is the month of December. Participants pledge to buy nothing beyond groceries and absolute necessities, and find that a month without shopping can leave both extra money and breathing room in their lives! People explore free entertainment and exercise their creative muscle to find ways to take the focus away from spending, and put it back onto the things that really matter.
Whether you’re organizing your budget or making a choice to be more deliberate with your charitable contributions, aiming your New Year’s resolutions towards money matters simply makes good financial sense. Imagine the riches that could happen if you spend 2016 focusing on your financial decisions!
Want more money-saving advice? See our Money section.