I’m a big fan of change. That being said, when I try to change too many things at once, I get overwhelmed and start to flounder. Like many people around this time of year, I start planning for too many “resolutions” and often don’t follow through on any of them.
This year, I’m taking a new approach. Instead of going “cold turkey” and attempting large, sweeping changes (like no sugar … I mean, come on), I’m making small, practical changes and paying special attention to my personal finances.
Here’s what I’m planning and how you can do the same.
1. Cut A Manageable Amount Of Money From Your Spending Plan
Sometimes just the thought of making a big change in your spending plan is enough to make you avoid the first step. Instead of a large change, focus on a small, manageable change, like “finding” an extra $50 in your spending plan.
I plan on doing this, and “finding” the extra money in my wants section(s). While I’m planning to start with $50, perhaps my search will allow me to find an extra $75 … or even $100. Who knows? The key is to start small and work your way up from there.
2. Request A Free Copy Of Your Credit Report
Besides being an important piece of your personal financial plan, your credit report can help you ensure you are not a victim of identity theft—a growing problem for many consumers. As a consumer, you are eligible to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion and Equifax). It’s super easy to obtain your copy; just visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
I have not requested a copy of my report in some time, so this is absolutely something I need to do.
3. Invest In Your Retirement
That $50 (or $75 or $100) you’ve already cut from your spending plan? It needs a new home. Reallocate it to your retirement fund (which technically puts it back into you spending plan, but in a better place).
Saving any amount of money for retirement is a smart idea. Not to mention, one of the most important factors in building your retirement account is time, so the earlier you start saving, the better. Even if your salary is not large as you hoped (is it ever?), you can be smart about saving for retirement by making small adjustments and sound decisions.
I’m planning to redirect the savings into my Roth IRA, a retirement account I try to max out on an annual basis.
4. Research A New Investing Opportunity And/Or Way To Invest
Did you get a raise at work? Perhaps you recently started a new job with a nice salary boost? Whatever the case, it might be the right time to open a new investing account to help supplement your income. There are no shortage of brokerage firms and personal investment options on the market, so take some time and do your research. For me, I want to learn more about long-term investment strategies, with a particular focus on dividend paying stocks.
Already investing some money? How about trying a new approach, such as an automated investing application. I recently started using Acorns, a mobile application that automatically takes spare change from your purchases and invests in a diversified portfolio. That specific product may not be for you, but I’m a big fan of the automated approach (see once again the “easy” aspect of this post).
5. Donate Old Clothes To An IRS-Qualified Organization
Charitable contributions help maximize your tax deductions by reducing your overall taxable income, which in turn lowers your tax bill (or increases your tax refund). If you are like me, you most likely have some (or many) clothes that you no longer wear. I’ve already started sifting through my (and my wife’s) closet, collecting and indexing clothes to donate.
What financial resolutions do you plan to make?
(Photo: Denise Mattox)