5 Steps To Creating Your Perfect Financial Resolution
The new year is upon us. How do you “C.U.” resolving to change your financial situation?
I see me getting serious about building my net worth this year. Since graduating college last May, I’ve had a few financial obstacles to face. My last semester of school really wiped me out financially. With the graduation costs, new clothes for job interviews, the expense of creating print and web portfolios, and evenings out with the friends I would no longer see every day, I blew through a lot of my cash. (I might add, however, that I wouldn’t take any of these things back! All of them helped me get to where I am now.)
November rolled around quickly, and I was soon faced with a fork in the road: Do I pay down my student loan debt quickly, essentially wiping out my savings, or do I pay down this debt slowly and pay up to twice my principal in interest? I chose the former, and drained my savings to pay down only half of my balance. It felt good, but I know that 2015 is the year of building my worth. Here’s my plan:
1. Write It Down: I’ll be the first to admit it-online budgeting just does not work for me. I’ve tried a bunch of different apps and even though I’m a huge advocate of these services for others, they just aren’t for me. Instead, I write all of my expected expenses in a notepad and then compare them to my actual expenses. In the past, I’ve done this sporadically, but this year, for each month I do this consistently, I’m going to reward myself with a different treat from local shops I want to explore. I can explore St. Louis, support local businesses and reward myself all at once!
2. Save For The Future: Call me a nerd, but I was so excited when I found out I could finally start contributing to a 401(k). I might be 22, but since I don’t have any financial obligations such as children or a mortgage right now, there’s really no better time to save. I can even meet with a financial advisor to review my investment options at no upfront cost here at the credit union whenever I want
3. Plan Ahead: 2015 won’t be the year of lots of little expenses-it’s going to be the year of two or three big expenses, and to better prepare, I've opened a Holiday Savings Account. To be clear, none of these expenses are holiday related, but this account is truly the best option for the savvy saver looking for a short-term account.
4. Use It or Lose It: I’ve always wondered why personal finance experts attack the lattes and gym memberships. Paying for a subscription service or a membership is only going to waste your money if it’s not used. On January 1, I’m going to sit down with a list of my subscription services-paid and unpaid alike-and cancel those I don’t use. What’s the point of making money if I can’t enjoy it? I just want to make sure I’m actually using what I’m paying for.
5. Work Toward a Goal: I'm sure you've heard of the term SMART goals-goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. My SMART goals? I want to have X amount of dollars saved by the end of the year, I want to make double payments on my student loans to pay them down in half the time, and I want to pay for a trip to Europe in 2016 in cash. I think these goals give me a good starting point.
Sound financial planning takes a lifetime. It takes dedication, a few tears, moments of triumph and lots of mistakes to learn which track works for you. How do you “C.U.” getting your finances together in the New Year? Do you have any advice for those looking enhance their financial situation this year?