We could all use a fresh start, and the new year is the perfect excuse to get back on track. These 17 tips can help you find (or restore) some order to your finances.
Small changes stick best. Whatever habits you choose to adopt this year, don’t go full throttle at the starting line. Instead, make gradual, manageable changes. The key is to stay positive.
Tackle new tasks
Learning new things can be a real brain boost. Get a mental workout by learning something new, such as how to sous vide chicken, speak another language or drive a stick shift.
Do your annual check ups
A yearly physical can help detect and prevent health issues. The same goes for your credit. Request a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and read it carefully to identify any mistakes or areas to improve.
Enroll in paperless billing
Make this the year you say goodbye to clutter by electing to go paperless where you can. Fewer receipts, letters and statements in the mail from retailers or creditors means you can stay organized without the endless paperwork.
Manage your debt
Set a goal to reduce your debt this year. Every little bit helps. Look to your credit report to understand accounts, amount owed and interest rates. From there, review your budget and make a plan.
Save a little
Got coins piling up in your center console or a $5 bill that keeps getting washed with your jeans? Deposit those, along with a few bucks from each paycheck, into a savings account. You won’t miss the money, and these micro-deposits can build up over time into a vacation or emergency fund.
Get current on your bills
If you have missed payments, get current and stay current. Consider signing up for Auto Pay or setting up payment reminders in MyAccount.
Donate your time
Volunteering for a few hours each month can make a serious impact on your mood and health, not to mention your community. Contact a food bank, animal shelter, crisis center or other organization close to your heart and ask how you can help. There may even be ways you can use your vehicle to volunteer.
Download a budgeting app
Keep an eye on your budget everywhere you go by downloading a personal finance app to your smart device.
Set real priorities
Your family, your friends, your health: High priorities. Stressing at the expense of these things: Not a priority. Be sure to care for and spend time with the things that truly matter.
Build credit responsibly
Be choosy about new credit accounts, and only open them as needed. New credit accounts may impact your credit score, so consider carefully before signing up.
Move more — any way you want
Make exercise about health and enjoyment, not misery. Pick an activity you can look forward to, like a walk in the park at sunrise or joining a cycling club.
Wait two weeks
The thrill of an impulse purchase is exhilarating but often short-lived. Enforce a rule that says you must wait at least two weeks before buying something you want. If you still want that item after 14 days — and it fits in your budget — go ahead and treat yourself.
Make your bed. Walk the dog. Put loose change into savings. However you do it, starting each morning with a small victory can set a positive tone and get you in the right mindset to take on the day’s challenges.
My dad used to say, “A clean car is a happy car.” Make your vehicle happy by cleaning out the parking stubs, food wrappers, pet hair and other debris that’s accumulated over the past year. You can even put some car-cleaning hacks to work. Schedule some time at the dealership to get your oil and air filter changed, too.
Embrace a gratitude attitude
Studies have shown that gratitude can improve health, enhance empathy, boost self-esteem and even reduce stress and aggression. So, if you appreciate something, say it. Or better yet, show it by writing a thoughtful note or returning a favor.
Keep the good days going
Forming habits takes time, but try to focus on making each day positive. If you feel like you stuck to your habits and had a good day, think about how that habit made you feel and try to make it happen again tomorrow.
Want more ways to establish good habits and make this year your best year yet? KEYS® Online has free online courses to help you learn more about credit scores, managing a budget and financial planning.
By Brooke Howell, GM Financial
Brooke Howell is a storyteller who loves digging up ways to improve money management and help others make smart financial decisions. She has three American Staffordshire terriers, one curmudgeonly Chihuahua and doesn’t do anything by halves (except marathons).