Each New Year, many of us are probably scrambling to pick a resolution that will be helpful enough to motivate us but also feasible enough that we’ll stick with it. Well, I have a wonderful solution to this problem that can kick start good habits for the rest of your life. This year let’s focus our New Year’s resolution around money and how to make the most out of it.
If you don’t know where to start, the best way to increase your consciousness about your money is to build a budget. There are dozens of resources that can help build one for you, or you can completely build your own, whether it’s on excel or even in your head. Many banking apps have a budget function, there are numerous budgeting apps (check out a few Smart Money reviews), and there’s also the Smart Money coaches to help walk you through any questions you have.
You want to first start out with identifying your income and expenses and track them for at least a month so you can evaluate what needs to be changed. Tracking your spending plays a major role in keeping up with your finances and helps you identify what areas you can either spend more or less in.
Creating a budget really allows you to practice your self control. It’s important to set specific and realistic goals for yourself so that you can visualize why you’re budgeting and also incentivize the continuation of the budget. This also segues into what you can add to your savings and creating an emergency fund. An emergency fund is about one month’s worth of expenses set aside for, you guessed it, an emergency. It’s separate from your savings and provides a safety cushion if something unexpected happens.
Let’s talk more about different methods for saving. Most commonly, you can allocate a certain percentage or set dollar amount of each paycheck (or any general incoming money) to go into your savings account. You can do this yourself or you can tell your banking app to do this for you. The holidays are a great way to implement saving because cash tends to be an easy gift.
I’m not saying you have to put all of our holiday money away, but putting away at least some of it will only benefit you. Saving the change is also a method of building up your savings. This basically means that for everything you spend, the leftover change on the dollar gets set aside. There’s also an option called a revolving savings account. It can be extremely helpful during the holiday season as it’s a separate account designated for expenses that aren’t in your normal routine, but are still going to occur like gifts, traveling, etc. It might depend on your bank if there’s a minimum balance to open another account, but it can be a really helpful tool.
There are other simple everyday functions that can be changed even just slightly that will increase your savings. For instance, buying necessities in bulk, eating more at home and less at restaurants, and taking on more DIY projects can all save you money. A fun one every year (for me at least) is to purge my closet and sell what I don’t want or need any more to get some extra cash. Even if you can’t sell any of the items, donating them not only helps others, but also helps you achieve that clean slate.
Importance of Setting Goals
Money is something in our lives that we’re never going to be able to avoid, so might as well make the most of it (literally). Budgeting and saving create positive habits that will help you know what you’re financially capable of and achieve further independence. It allows you to track any progress you’ve made, align your priorities and hold yourself accountable for financial decisions. Having savings and an emergency fund allow you to pay off your debts quicker and prepare for the unknown. Most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to celebrate yourself, knowing you’ve earned it.
Holidays are a different experience for everyone. However, we can all still find ways to make changes to our usual monetary routines. If you find yourself wanting to know more or needing that extra push to start budgeting or saving, there are plenty of Smart Money coaches to help you along the way. Feel free to make an appointment on Orange Success or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Stella Miller ’21, Whitman School of Management, Smart Money Coach