Resolutions that aim at making us look and feel better often find their way onto our lists each year, but a new poll shows that in 2020, a full 76 percent of individuals are determined to improve their financial lives. This includes setting and sticking to a spending plan, eliminating debt, saving money and bumping up retirement savings.
- Plug the leaks: One study by The Ascent shows that Americans waste an average of $139 each month. Consider auditing where every dollar goes. Are you spending excess money on subscriptions, unused gym memberships, credit card interest, late fees and parking tickets? Can you get better deals on your phone and cable? You may also want to conduct a meal review: How much food are you throwing out because you couldn't finish it in time? Keep in mind that there are plenty of apps and accounting programs that can help track spending to the penny.
- Quality over quantity: You may want to stop filling your closet with $10 mistakes and buy only things you love and need. A $100 pair of quality shoes may seem expensive on the outset, but those shoes may outlast four $25 pairs, and they'll be easier to fix and maintain than shoes made with cheaper materials. (Bonus: You're also contributing less trash to the landfill once they're beyond repair.)
- Think green: Before buying something new, ask yourself if you can find it used. Inquire with your network if someone has one to sell or lend, swap something you don't need, upcycle what you already have or see if you can go without it.
- Auto-savings: When you automatically divert a small percentage of your income to your savings, it's a nobrainer way to watch your account grow — and to stop spending money that feels like it's “extra." You can use direct deposit, auto-transfers between accounts, and even apps that round up purchases and put the change in savings.
- Pay down debt: You can go with the snowball method (listing your debts and paying down the biggest one first) or another way that works for you, but the first step is to have a plan. Develop a plan on your own or work with a financial advisor to determine the best method for paying down your debt.
- Milestone check: Did you get married, divorced, start or sell a business, and/or gain or lose a family member this year? This is an ideal time to make adjustments to your investments, insurance policies and estate plans.
- Make savings goals: Of course, it's always wise to bump up your emergency fund so you can cover six months' (or more) of expenses. Consider a vacation account to help put the “fun" in any extra funds.
- Audit your loans: Would it benefit you to refinance your home? Can you pay off a home equity line of credit? Any personal or student loans you can cut down or eliminate this year? Take a look at your loan landscape and see if it's helpful to re-negotiate or consolidate and lower your interest rates with a personal loan.
- Give more: When you support the causes close to your heart with a monthly donation, the organizations can better count on steady income to run their operations. You'll benefit from knowing you're giving back and could potentially receive a tax benefit. What's not to love?
- Read something about money every day: Whether it's a book, money management website or the money section of a news site, you're never too smart to keep learning about money.
To be truly successful in reaching your goals, it may help to start small and buddy up with an accountability partner or group. Don't forget to reward yourself for meeting and beating milestones — you deserve it!