The holiday season tends to wreak havoc on our bank accounts. Between the gifts, the parties and the inevitable self-indulging, most people blow through their holiday budgets in no time and dip into other accounts. But it doesn't have to be that way, mama.
Here are 17 ways you can start working towards your financial goals now.
1. Rebuild (or start) your emergency fund
To rebuild your savings in the new year, set up automatic transfers. Typically, we advise clients to save a minimum of 10% of their gross monthly income. They set-up automatic transfers to move the money from their checking account to their savings account on the days they get paid. Just set it and forget it, you'll be amazed how quickly your savings grow!
2. Set up goal-based budgets
Another tool we use to help our clients get organize is goals-based budgeting. Make a list of the goals you hope to accomplish next year, then figure out how much you need to save to make them a reality. Planning a vacation for June that will cost you $1,000? Transfer $200 to a travel savings account each month and you will save that money in just five months. You can have a different account for each goal and make contributions on a weekly or monthly basis.
3. Start saving for the next holiday season
To avoid the usual holiday spending trap, start saving for next year now. Putting just $50 away each month will help you save $600 for next year. Can you afford $75 each month? That will get you to $900.
4. Track spending + cut wasteful costs
A new year is a great time to review your spending from the previous year. Take some time to look over bank statements and credit card bills to discover your problem areas (some credit card companies even provide year end summaries showing what you spent on the most). This can help you identify areas where you are overspending or wasting money. You should also review the subscription services you and your family utilize. Are you using them? If not, cancel them.
5. Clean out your closet + declutter your home
This is perfect time to clean out your closet and get rid of items you no longer need or want. You may find that there are clothes you forgot you owned, some of which have never been worn. You might be able to save yourself a shopping trip just by organizing your closet and seeing what you already own. Clean out junk drawers, hall closets and kitchen cabinets. Take inventory of everything you find and use it all before you go out shopping.
6. Sell unwanted gift cards, clothes, electronics, etc.
Did you get a gift card you'll never use? Are you holding on to clothes that you will never wear? Do yourself a favor and take advantage of sites like Raise, CardPool and GiftCardGranny that allow you to sell unused gift cards for cash. Once you've cleaned out your closet and decluttered your home, use thredUP, Poshmark, or Tradesy to sell clothes and shoes. For electronics try Gazelle, Nextworth, or Ebay. Amazon and Best Buy also have trade-in programs that allow you to exchange electronics for store credit.
7. Save up your spare change
This is probably the easiest thing you can do to save money this year. I keep a mason jar on my windowsill and empty the change from my wallet into it every couple weeks. Some people take this a step further and put dollar or five dollar bills into a jar every time they clean out their wallet. Either way it adds up over time, and once you've filled the jar you can use this money to treat yourself to something special.
8. Make a change
Are you eating too many meals out? Do you have a bad (and expensive) habit you've been meaning to kick? Make a point to tackle these problems in now. Not only will it help you save, but you will also make strides to improving your personal well-being too.
9. Do the side hustle
Sometimes cost cutting just isn't enough. Figure out a side hustle that can help you bring in more income. It doesn't have to be starting your own business, it can be something simple, like babysitting or dog waking. Have experience in hospitality? Waitron is revolutionizing staffing in the NYC area. You can become an employee and work as often (or as little) as you want.
10. Start investing
Investing doesn't have to be scary! And you can start small! The easiest way to get invested is to make sure you are enrolled in your employers' retirement savings plan. Ready to take the next step? Try using one of these apps to help you get started, Stash, Robinhood or Acorns. For those a bit more comfortable with the stock market, you can buy shares of an ETF or enroll in Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs).
11. Try a no spending challenge
Sometimes we get off track and need to refocus. When this happens, I recommend trying a no spending challenge. Whether it be for a month, a week or just a few days, it is beneficial to reset and find a way to recommit to your savings goals.
12. Schedule cash-only days
Like the No Spending Challenge, cash only days give you the opportunity to be more mindful of your spending. Using cash instead of credit cards will help you identity areas where you're being wasteful. Typically, people have a harder time shelling out cash than they do swiping a card. You will notice that you are less likely to make impulse purchases and end up spending less when you shop.
13. Automate payments
Monthly credit card payments should be automated to avoid missed payments and the resulting late fees. In addition, you can automate your cable, utility, cell phone and pretty much every other monthly bill to be automatically deducted from your bank account or charged to a credit card. If you are deducting from a bank account make sure you have enough funds to cover the payment and that you are enrolled in overdraft protection, just in case.
14. Do credit score maintenance
Everyone should use CreditKarma to check their credit score. There are always opportunities to increase your score, and doing so will help you in the long run when you apply for things like personal loans, mortgages or additional cards. For those who have a high credit score and are responsible card users, there are many opportunities to earn rewards points. CreditCards.com is a great reference for finding cards that best fit your needs and help you build the rewards that will be most useful to you.
15. Look for daily deals + comparison shop
Groupon, Living Social and other daily deals sites can help you save money on everything from household items to vacations. You should do research and shop around, but don't write off these sites. When shopping for more expensive items, make sure you shop around compare prices before making a purchase.
16. Negotiate a raise
This time of year, many companies are doing their annual performance reviews and giving out raises and promotions. If you anticipate that you will be receiving a raise or promotion you should do your research ahead of your annual review.
Find out what people in your position make at other firms using Glassdoor. Make sure you are earning what you're worth and don't be afraid to ask for it! Chances are if you are receiving a promotion they value you as an employee and will be open to paying to keep you.
17. Learn accountability + mindfulness
The most important aspect of a financially fit lifestyle is creating accountability and mindfulness around your financial decisions. You should set goals with specific intentions and see them through. Creating a rewards system or doing a monthly review of you spending are two ways to create accountability and mindfulness.
Originally posted on Financial Gym.