There’s no better time to change your financial future than in the new year. For 2014, try these resolutions to build your savings, cut down your debt and build a healthy financial future for yourself and your family.
Start an emergency fund. If you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to start an emergency fund. That way if something unexpected happens, such as an unforeseen car repair or the loss of your job, you have a stash of money to cover your expenses. Experts recommend keeping enough money in your emergency fund to cover three months of expenses. In the new year, start your emergency fund by dedicating part of every paycheck to it.
- Cut back on energy consumption. In 2014, commit to reducing the amount of energy you use. Every energy-efficient change you make, no matter how small, will help keep money in your pocket. You can start by making simple changes to your everyday routine, such as keeping your heating at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, to maximize efficiency. Or you might vow to only wash your clothes in cold water and skip the cost of running your hot water heater. And if you want to go all out, you could install solar panels on your roof to minimize your dependence on electricity from the power grid altogether.
- Use only cash. It may seem scary to give up your debit card, but more likely than not it’s causing some impulse purchases. If you only use cash, you force yourself to budget and spend your money more wisely. For example, you might be inclined to buy a pack of gum or candy bar as you’re checking out at the grocery store. It’s an easy decision to make if you have the extra funds in your bank account and can pay for it with a quick swipe of your card. But if you only brought enough cash to cover the cost of what you actually needed, you’re forced to put the impulse buy back.
- Pay down your debt. In 2014, try to put a little extra money each month toward your debt. Making an extra payment on your car, mortgage, credit cards or student loans can help reduce the interest you pay overall and allow you to pay them off faster. Experts say it’s best to start by paying off the little debts first. Not only does it help you feel a sense of accomplishment faster, but once it’s paid off you can dedicate the money you were paying on it toward a larger debt.
- Divide unexpected income wisely. The new year brings about a new season of taxes. But before you vow to spend all of your tax refund on a super-sized TV or any other treat, think about the best way to allocate your money. Reader’s Digest suggests dividing extra money, such as a tax refund, bonus check or gift, into thirds. One third should go toward your past, to pay down some of your debts. The next third should go toward your future, to help you beef up your savings account. And the last third should be for the present. You can use this third to buy something you really want or make an improvement on your home. By following these guidelines, you can grow your savings, shrink your debt and still get a little something for yourself.
Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger, marketing consultant and lifelong student who resides in Atlanta, GA.