The year is almost over, which means it’s time to set up your goals for the New Year. We won’t call them resolutions, because those seem too easy to ignore. If you set up financial goals instead and put a plan together to accomplish them, you’ll be more likely to achieve them.
The idea way to set up goals you’ll actually stick to is to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. With that in mind, here’s a look at some goals you should be setting.
Easier said than done, right? The best place to start is by reviewing your spending habits from this past year. There are plenty of budgeting apps out there that can help you put this all together so you can figure out what areas need cutting back. Dining out too much? Time for more homecooked meals. Online shopping too much? Dial down how much time you spend online or on those store sites.
Set a budget for the coming year based on what you spent last year but whittle down a few areas. Just be sure your new budget goals are realistic, you’ll be more likely to keep them. Again, use a budgeting app to set your new goals and track what your actual spending habits are. Adjust when necessary.
Once you have your budget nailed down, you’ll have a better idea what might be left over to save each month. Determine a specific amount you can afford to save each month. Then, to make it easy, make it automatic. If your work offers direct deposit, divert that amount from each paycheck and have it deposited directly into your savings account. If that’s not possible, set a reminder on your phone to transfer that dollar amount from checking to savings each month.
While you’re working on your savings goal, you might want to consider creating an emergency fund. It’d be a separate account that you wouldn’t touch in case of an emergency like a medical issue, auto accident, etc. Click here to learn more about creating an emergency fund.
Other savings goals you might have:
- Save for retirement – Figure out how much you’ll need to live off of once you hit 65 and then work backward from there. If your work offers a 401(k), take advantage of it – especially if they match funds. If work doesn’t have this option, you could open an individual retirement fund (IRA).
- Save for a down payment – Is there a new home in your future? Even if it’s a year or more away, now is the time to start saving for the down payment. Ideally, you should have 15-20% saved.
- Save to pay cash for a car – It may sound impossible, but it isn’t. Especially if you have a used car in mind. Adding a car loan to your debt load could derail your goals.
Improve Your Credit
Did you know that improving your credit can help you achieve the first two goals? The better your credit, the lower your credit card and loan interest rates will be – which saves you money in the long run.
There are two simple things you can do to boost your credit. Pay down your debt and pay your bills on time, every time. Learn more about your credit score here.
Sure, saving money is great. But investing your money will help you earn more money. There are a few options when it comes to investing. One is getting a certificate of deposit. That will let you save money for a predetermined time period at a set rate. You could also open a money market account which lets you contribute when you can and access your savings whenever needed. If you’re unsure of where to start, you might want to find a financial adviser to help.
Invest in Yourself
Investing in your mental, spiritual or physical health or your career can have immense benefits to your life overall as well as your finances. It may be time for some self-reflection and assessment to determine what areas of your life could use a little boost. Here are a few suggestions of ways to invest in yourself:
- Find a mentor to help you navigate your career
- Get certified in an area that will further your potential
- Go to a conference to get motivated and network
- Join a group that inspires you personally or for your job
- Take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn
Also, take some time to determine if your current job is right for you. A new job will bring both new opportunities and hopefully more money!
It’s up to you if you choose one or all of the above goals – whatever you feel equipped to handle. And remember to make the goals SMART.