Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top 10 Money-Savvy New Year’s Resolutions

Now that 2010 has begun, people across the country will make pledges to change or alter their behavior in the New Year. However, instead of making a resolution to visit the gym more often or reduce your sugar intake, why not focus on taking control of your finances? I often encourage friends and family members to setup money-savvy New Years resolutions, and this year I decided to share my advice with all of my blog readers as well.

1. Shop Smart

The average family in America spends $700 or more per month on food, much of which goes to waste. This year how about making a resolution to eat out less or save money on food by planning your meals in advance and buying in bulk. If you enjoy eating lunch out with coworkers every day, then you might consider making a resolution to only eat lunch out once a week.

2. Do Not Be Lazy

No one likes to admit it, but laziness can cost you a lot of money. I am talking about that overdraft fee you had to pay for not depositing your paycheck right away or that late fee you had to pay a few months ago for forgetting to send your rent in on time. This year, take a more proactive approach to life and you will be surprised to see how much easier it is to manage your finances. By keeping your bills organized, balancing your checkbook, and keeping a budget, you can take control of your money.

3. Cut out Credit

These days credit cards are so common that people do not think anything of using them on a regular basis. However, this is dangerous, and can cost you thousands of dollars per year in interest. Instead, why not make it a resolution to pay with cash or your ATM card unless absolutely necessary.

4. Quit Something Pricey

Are you ignoring a habit that is costing you a lot of money? Whether it is smoking, shoe shopping, or even gambling, many of us have at least a few pricey habits. By making a resolution to cut out your bad habit, you can find yourself saving quite a bit of money this year. Some might not even need to be quit all together. If your indulgence is getting expensive cocktails with dinner then you might try making a drink at home before you go out. On the other hand, if your pricey habit is buying lots of electronics then you could make it a resolution to reduce your spending.

5. Pick up Good Habits

While dropping a few habits that waste money, you should also think about picking up a few that will help you manage your finances. It could be something as easy as turning lights off when you are not home, or something more severe like making charitable contributions on a regular basis, which can help lower your taxable income.

6. Dump Debt

For some of us, making regular monthly payments to reduce a debt has become a common part of life. However, making low or minimum payments will keep your debt alive for years to come. Instead, make it a resolution this year to dramatically reduce your debt. Make payments of as much as you can afford, and pay off bills with the highest interest rates first. Then, next year you can celebrate with less or possibly no debt.

7. Make Time for Banking

If you find yourself frequently over drawing your checking account, or are often shocked to find you have less money in your bank account than previously thought, then you might want to make a resolution to spend more time managing your bank account. Try setting aside ten or twenty minutes every few days to check your accounts online, or balance your checkbook.

8. Prepare for your Future

If you do not already have a retirement account setup, then finally opening one should be at the top of your list of potential resolutions. Depending on the type of retirement account you select, it could also help lower your tax bill for 2009 and years to come.

9. Stay Tax Savvy

Although most Americans wait until March or April to start worrying about their taxes, this is definitely not a good financial strategy. There are plenty of ways you can stay on top of your taxes, and keeping a low tax bill is a year-round process. Keeping documents organized, and staying up to date on the latest tax laws is a great resolution that can certainly help you keep your finances in check.

10. Retrain Yourself

No matter how many tips you read and think you will follow, after a few days or weeks, there is always a possibility that you will fall back in to your old habits. In order to avoid this common resolution problem, you need to completely retrain yourself when it comes to money. Instead of wasting your extra money on an expensive evening out, put some of it into a retirement account or donate it to a qualified charity. If you commit, then you will see staying money-savvy in 2010 is actually easier then you might assume.

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