I'll be honest. As you begin to establish new financial habits, staying on track financially will feel hard at first. However, if your goals are important enough and you believe that you can stick to a budget, saving money, and living the way you want and need to live, you’ll be able to do it, and it’ll feel great — even fun.
The most important thing to remember about staying on track is to start with realistic financial resolutions. After all, you cannot live in a mansion if you don’t make that kind of money. Even if your goals are modest due to a modest income, if you set your financial resolutions realistically then you can still reach them.
Late payment fees can add up very quickly and throw you off course. When you pay even one bill late, the interest rate on your other debt can go up, too. Thus, it's helpful to automate bill paying and saving as much as possible. Your employer can do paycheck withholding for savings, insurance, and other withdraws, and you can use your bank’s bill pay to automate all of your payments.
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Challenge yourself and make it a game. For example, you can up your savings and investing game with no-spend challenges. Challenge your family to a no-spend week or even a month from time-to-time. Most households have enough food to last another month if they get creative. Clean out that freezer and pantry.
Another option is to challenge yourself to split your grocery budget in half or to celebrate a holiday without spending extra or buying store-bought gifts. For example, create your Halloween costume out of things you already have instead of buying a new one. Wear your tennis shoes for another six months.
One of the best steps you can take toward a healthier financial future is focusing on credit monitoring. At any point in time, you should have a mostly accurate idea of what your credit score is. If you haven’t been on top of your credit in the past, it can be difficult to make it a priority now, but starting the year out right by monitoring your credit and learning as much as you can about it will help you make better decisions in the future. Each year, get your free credit report from each of the bureaus. Then, use a free online tax monitoring service to keep track of changes and fluctuations from month to month!
Don’t ignore your goals. It helps that everything is automated because you only see the money you have and not the money you’re spending and saving. Knowing that your budget for eating out is $50 a month and only spending that amount or less because you looked up what your budget is before spending, will help too.
If you've tried to stick to a budget and have not been successful in the past, you may need to enlist some help. It can be a professional financial planner, but it can also be a financial coach that specializes in budgeting and helping people stick to their financial goals.
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You may need an attorney if you are having trouble making ends meet due to all your debt. Whatever help you need, be sure to get it so that you can really make a difference in your own life.
Poor health is costing you money. This is a sad fact that most people struggle to accept. If you are out of shape, if you are sick very often, and if you eat poorly, you’re spending more money on your health than you really have to be. Aside from expenses that are a result of unpreventable diseases, changing your eating and exercise habits can actually help you improve your medical spending!
While it’s not always possible for every person to go out and get a better job, there are some steps you can take to start making more money. Pick up a side hustle, start a business using skills you already have, or bump up the amount of time you work if you’re an hourly employee. If you haven’t had a raise or you’ve had very small ones in the past few years, consider asking for more money. Prepare a short presentation and let your company know why you’re valuable and show them exactly why you deserve the raise. You may not get it, but you can try it! Plus, your company will see that you’re very motivated to be an asset to them!
You’re probably paying more on debt than you need to be. At the beginning of a new year, set the plan for working on your debt. Prepare to pay your debt down or even negotiate interest rates with your creditors. You can also take steps to make sure you are not paying too much in fees. By lowering your debt, you can improve your financial health.
For some people, using debit and credit cards make it too difficult to remember what was spent and to stick to the budget. For some, using the envelope system works better. So, if you put your household money into envelopes and spend it, when it’s gone, it’s gone. For example, if you budget $100 for groceries this week, get $100 and put it in an envelope labeled groceries. When the money is gone, it’s gone. If some are left, put it in savings.
The key to sticking to a budget is making sure that it's realistic, you pay attention and spend consciously, and you make enough income to cover it. If you don't make enough money to cover your projected expenses and build up your savings, you can always add another income stream. For example, you may have hobbies or knowledge that you can earn from. For example, if you’re a good baker, you may want to sell your cupcakes, cakes or cookies to bring in extra income.
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