Guest post from Krystal of Little Light on a Hill:
The start of a new year is a great time to learn money tips that will help us better manage our finances from the get-go. We are given a fresh start, a new beginning, an opportunity to wipe our financial slate clean, so to speak. And really, who doesn’t want to do a better job managing their money?
Every year, I sit down and have a money meeting with myself. In this little pep talk, I renew my focus for the year, highlight any areas I know I need to improve, and dream big!
I fully credit these mini-money planning sessions as the way my husband and I were able to pay off over $80,000 of debt in the past few years. They helped us stay laser focused, and provided motivation when it seemed like we were only making minimal progress.
With the dawn of a new year, it’s time to once again have my annual money meeting. If you’d like to start your financial year off right, here are 5 tips I hope will help!
1. Look back on the previous year.
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses you had in your finances?
Think about some of your good habits… and bad habits. What do you think were your strengths when it came to managing your money? How much progress did you make? Is there any area you want to improve in?
I keep a finance journal that helps me track some of these things. At the end of every year, I jot down how much money we have in checkings or savings, how much we invested for retirement, and how much debt we paid off.
2. Identify areas you’d like to improve.
I also think about the things that held us back from meeting some of our financial goals.
Did we eat out too much? Did we spend more than we budgeted on vacation? This helps me identify triggers that make us lose control of our finances very quickly. By seeing these triggers, I can enter the new year knowing what to watch out for.
For example, we spent WAY too much money eating out the past few months. Once I realized that, I recognized that it was usually on days we were out and about and I hadn’t thought about dinner until we were well on our way home. To combat this in the new year, I’m going to plan slow cooker meals on our busy days to avoid the temptation to stop for fast food on the way home.
3. Set goals for the coming year.
How much more do you want to accomplish in your finances this year?
What are some habits you need to change? Are there any resources or books you want to invest in? Where would you like to realistically end the new year, financially speaking?
I like to set 3-5 realistic goals that will also stretch me! For example, this year our financial goals are to (1) build up our savings account to cover at least 3 months of expenses, (2) invest as much as my husband’s company will match in his 401(K) retirement account, (3) start investing for our girls’ college expenses, (4) research the right IRA plan for us, and (5) pay cash for our family vacation this summer.
Maybe your goals will be to pay an extra $300 a month to debt, save $2,000 for emergencies, or start investing for retirement. Whatever is most important to you right now should be your focus! If you are passionate about it right now, it will give fuel to your fire and keep you motivated to reach those goals!
4. Track your progress and check in often.
When you sit down to pay your bills, you should have a general idea of how much money you can use to go towards your goals. Each month just start chipping away at your goals, one by one.
Then throughout the week, make sure you glance over your budget to double check that you are still on track.
Have weekly money meetings with your spouse to make sure you are both on the same page.
Write down your goals and cross them off as you meet them!
The important thing is that you know where your extra money is going and if you are using it wisely. Tracking your progress is just a way to keep you motivated by seeing how far you’ve come.
5. Keep moving forward.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet your goals every month. I know that even if I don’t meet my goals, I’m still so much farther along than if I hadn’t set them at all.
Celebrate your progress, and keep moving forward. You will be so glad you did when the end of 2017 gets here, and you can look back on all of the things you accomplished!
Krystal is a teacher-turned-homeschooling-mama of two. Recently becoming debt-free herself, she is passionate about inspiring others in their debt-free journeys. You can follow along as she blogs about faith, family, and finance at Little Light on a Hill.
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