True, the holiday presents haven’t even been unwrapped yet, but it’s not too early to begin making your new year’s resolutions. If you’re a total nerd like me, you might consider breaking your resolutions into categories. I like to have a category for health resolutions, budget resolutions, relationship resolutions – you get the picture. Even if you’re a little more laid back than that, get together some new resolutions for 2013, and make sure your new year activities include paying better attention to your money and your financial health. Here are some new resolutions to consider for your budget.
1. Spend less and save more. This is on my new year’s resolution list every year. Sometimes I’m good and sometimes I leave room for improvement. Try to make 2013 a more responsible year when it comes to your money and savings. Tighten your budget, even if you are expecting a larger salary or a big bonus at the end of the year. Work on saving more money in a variety of places – a money market, a mutual fund, even your piggy bank. I like automatic savings plans, where your money is safely tucked away before you even get the chance to spend it.
2. Avoid debt. As the economic meltdown has demonstrated over the last few years, mounting debt can have a catastrophic effect on the micro level (your own economy) and the macro level (economies in Greece, Italy and America). In terms of debt, make a new years resolution to avoid falling further into the rabbit hole in the coming year. Fighting debt will probably require new resolutions, such as don’t open new lines of credit, pay down existing balances and use credit cards sparingly.
3. Beef up retirement savings. Watching my parents try to retire on what they thought would be plenty of money has scared me into a more aggressive IRA. If you have a 401K, a 403B or a similar retirement plan available to you at work, consider maxing out your contribution as a resolution in 2013. If you are self employed, make a financial new years resolution to look into opening a SEP-IRA, a Simple IRA or a solo 401K.
4. Participate in Mobile banking. I like to avoid the bank whenever possible. There are parking issues, long lines for the tellers, a general confusion about what slips you need for which transactions and of course the chance that you could wind up in some kind of re-enactment from the movie Heat. Many banks are now offering mobile banking, which can easily be done from your mobile phone. If you have a new years resolution to tighten up your financial situation, make it easier on yourself by setting up mobile banking. You can deposit checks with a simple photograph, transfer funds, check balances and do almost anything you would do with the help of a bank teller right there on your phone. Try it, and your New Year activities will not need to include a line at the bank.
5. Educate Yourself. It is simply unacceptable for you to be less than knowledgeable about matters of budgeting and finance. If you feel like you don’t know the difference between a mutual fund and a money market account, or you’re not sure what all this fuss is about the fiscal cliff, you need to make financial education one of your new year’s resolutions. There are books, websites, magazines, newsletters, experts, social media and lots of other financial resources out there to help you sharpen your money know-how.