Comparing the past 365 days of spending against annual savings goals could surface unpleasant surprises. But coming face-to-face with where the money went is the first step to financial fitness in the new year. Use these tips to guide your review.
- Pull up last year’s financial goals. You’ll use this baseline to compare your overall progress as you review your accounts.
- Evaluate financial accounts. Calculate spending and savings totals and compare them to annual goal amounts.
- Identify spending and savings patterns. Look for one-off or seasonal spending contributing to less savings growth in specific months.
- Decide which money habits you want to keep. If you find you saved regularly by setting up automatic transfers, mark that as a win. However, if you discover an unacceptable amount of frivolous credit card spending, consider a move to cash payments.
- Perform a financial gut check. Assess whether your behaviors support your lifestyle. Self- sabotage could rear its ugly head if you give up small splurges you enjoy. Instead, add a “fun money” category that helps control spending without feeling deprived.
- Establish realistic short – and long-term financial goals. Ensure targets are achievable for your particular situation. For example, Pamela makes $5,000 a month in take-home pay. Since she has $4,000 a month in expenses, it’s unrealistic for her to save $2,000 a month without increasing her income, substantially reducing expenses, or both.
- Adopt a realistic budget. If you didn’t follow a budget or need a more realistic spending plan, give a new one a try. Many savers enjoy the 50/30/20 budgeting method, which recommends spending 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and extra debt payments.
- Select a tracking system. Develop a way to record monthly income and expenses that allows for easy review. Some budgeting apps let you monitor spending and saving in real-time. Try several systems to find the one that works best for your situation.
- Schedule regular check-ins. Each payday or at least monthly, use your budget to guide spending. If possible, make adjustments in favor or more saving and less spending. For example, a bonus paycheck should result in an uptick in savings, not spending.
- Find an accountability partner. It’s easier to achieve goals when you have someone in your corner. Whether online or in-person, a budget buddy can help you stick to the plan when you feel like veering off track.
If you completed this countdown, you’ve already made progress toward achieving your financial goals. See you at the finish line!