You have financial goals for the New Year, so don't let the arrival of your holiday bills bring you down. With the right mindset and a clear path, you can set yourself up for success this year. Yes, you can do this!
Step One: Deal with holiday splurges.
If you carry any credit card debt, this is the perfect time to get on it. Tiny steps today can reduce big interest charges tomorrow. Plus, you free up money for putting towards fun goals.
Start by listing your lenders, minimum payments, due dates, and interest rates on a piece of paper. Next, pay at least the minimum required on all credit cards to stay in good standing, and then attack the balances in one of two ways:
Highest Rate: Work on the debt that is costing you the most. You'll save on interest charges by closing the most costly debt first.
Lowest Balance: Work on the card with the lowest balance. By quickly paying off a smaller debt you get a mental boost from your accomplishment and be motivated to keep going!
If your lowest balance is also your highest rate then you doubly win.
Step Two: What is important to you?
It's a crucial question to ask because money isn't just for saving and spending — it's for experiencing and achieving life goals that mean most to you. Maybe your goal is a Paris vacation, swimming with dolphins, or saving for a home of your own. Whatever it is that makes your heart sing and your brain wander, write it down. Do a little research to find the cost of your dream, and then set aside some savings every month into a dedicated account. Dreams become a reality when you have a plan in place.
Step Three: Boost your budget.
I've just dropped the B-WORD — budget. Don't snooze on this tip or you could be missing out. Embracing a budget can help you keep track of where your money goes and plan for life’s expenses. Knowing your numbers uncovers the costly bits you may have missed and allows you to redirect the savings to the areas of your life that matter most.
Now boost your budget by making at least one of these simple changes::
Work an extra shift: Do some bonus work for pay.
Cut a repeating expense: Unused subscriptions, an automatic billing you rarely use, costly splurges that happen every month (you know what they are.)
Reduce your grocery bill: Shop sales and take advantage of coupon matchups on the foods you love and cook at home. Before you shop, check what you already have in your cupboards, plan your meals for the week to use up food on hand before it spoils, and make a list of what you need. By putting your shopping list in Flipp, you will see the deals in your area and get the best price.
- Pack your lunch: Bringing your lunch to school or work instead of eating out will save you a lot of cash.
Step Four: Ask for a raise.
Asking for a raise is free, but making the case for a pay increase is easier said than done. So few of us ask for a raise and wait for the dreaded performance review instead. You may just jump-start the process and score the pay bump sooner. Make it your goal to earn more this year, either by honing new skills or stepping into more challenging responsibilities.
Step Five: Save for next year's holiday, today.
Break free from the holiday hangover debt cycle by planning for gifts and celebrations one week at a time. Try this:
Tally your total holiday spending and divide it by 45 weeks. That’s how much you should be putting away every week. (Total Spent on Holidays ÷ 45 = Weekly Savings). Automatically transfer this amount to a dedicated Holiday Savings Account and you'll be stress-free next year.
Now get to it.
Kerry K. Taylor is a financial journalist at Squawkfox.com.