When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I shoot for the stars. I set aggressive, bold goals, like running a marathon or losing weight. It’s no surprise that I — like millions of Americans — fail at most of my resolutions. I’m certainly not alone; according to Business Insider, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
But, when it comes to your money, it pays to be more careful and deliberate. Financial goals continue to be some of the most popular resolutions. In a survey by Fidelity Investments, 32% of respondents indicated that they were considering making a financial resolution for the year ahead. If you’re one of the many people who want to improve their finances, you’re probably worried about how to make your resolutions a reality.
The key is to reaching your goals is to set attainable, sustainable resolutions you can actually achieve. Whether you want to save more money or pay down debt, here are seven financial New Year’s resolutions that can help you achieve your goals.
1. Build an Emergency Fund
Life is full of unexpected surprises. But when those surprises come in the form of a flat tire, illness, or other emergencies, you can be left scrambling to pay the bill. Too often, that means you have to turn to high-interest credit cards, leading you into debt.
Make 2019 the year you break the cycle by starting an emergency fund. Aim to save $500 to $1,000 this year by setting up regular contributions from your paycheck. That amount will give you a nice cushion in case an emergency pops up.
There are some banks that will even give you a head start with a cash bonus for opening an account. With just a few minutes’ effort to open an account, you can get a substantial amount of money to start your emergency fund.
2. Take Charge of Your Student Loans
According to the Wall Street Journal, graduates walk away with $37,172 in student loan debt, on average. If you’re one of the millions of people with student loans, you know how stressful they can be.
Thankfully, there is a way to make your debt more manageable and to accelerate your repayment. Student loan refinancing, where you work with a private lender like Earnest to take out a new loan for the amount of your old ones, can help you save money and pay off your debt ahead of schedule.
The new loan has completely different repayment terms than the old ones, including interest rate, minimum monthly payment, and length of repayment. If you qualify for a lower interest rate, the savings can be significant. And, applying for a refinancing loan takes just a few minutes.
3. Explore Company Benefits
If you have a full-time employer, there may be benefits and perks available to you that you didn’t know about. For example, many employers offer cell phone stipends, child care assistance, and employee assistance programs (EAPs) that can refer you to mental health counselors, lawyers, and even accountants. Chances are, you only use a fraction of the benefits offered.
Contact your human resources office and consult your employee handbook to learn about different benefits and how to sign up.
4. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
With so much available online, it’s easy to sign up for subscriptions without even thinking about it. You may even forget what you signed up for, but those subscriptions can add up over time. You could be losing hundreds of dollars each month thanks to unused subscriptions.
You could spend time manually reviewing your statements and canceling each one on your own, but there are also apps that can help. Trim will monitor your accounts and will identify unused subscriptions and even cancel them for you, helping you save money.
5. Save for Retirement
Chances are, you’re behind on your retirement savings — most Americans are. You can start to fix the situation by signing up for regular payroll deductions to an employer-offered retirement plan like a 401(k). If your employer offers a match, make sure you contribute enough to get the full match.
If your employer doesn’t offer a plan, open up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) instead. You can make contributions on your own and start building up a nest egg. Starting while you’re still young will allow your investments to compound and grow.
6. Consider Launching a Side Hustle
If you have student loan debt or don’t have enough money in your budget to start an emergency fund, you know how important it is to boost your income. However, getting a raise or a new full-time job isn’t always possible. That’s where a side hustle can be invaluable.
A side hustle is a flexible gig you can do when you’re free, such as during evenings and weekends. You could make money delivering groceries for Shipt or Instacart, walking dogs, driving for Uber or Lyft, or other daily chores on TaskRabbit.
The money you earn can help you make extra payments against your debt or boost your savings account balance, empowering you to achieve your goals.
7. Shop Smarter
If you shop online, you could be leaving money on the table without even realizing it. There are a number of free apps that sync with your web browser, so you can automatically earn cash back rewards for every purchase you make online, or alert you to online sales you might not have known about. These savings could go a long way in funding your emergency savings.
Achieving Your Goals
Each of these seven resolutions are achievable and allow you to start small, and scale up as needed. Whether you want to save money, pay down debt, or prepare for retirement, these resolutions can help you achieve your goals. By instituting one (or more) of these New Year’s resolutions into your life, you can start building a more financially secure 2019.
This article was written by Kat Tretina, a freelance writer based in Orlando. Focused on personal finance issues, she’s dedicated to helping people pay down debt and boost their income.