Maybe last year’s resolution to hit the gym and drop 10 pounds didn’t work out so well, nor did that plan to write a best seller. Perhaps you were over-reaching a bit. Luckily, a new year means new beginnings and a chance to make realistic resolutions you can actually keep.
Last new year, we had tips for getting your apartment in shape. Two years ago, we focused on saving money tips and recommended you get your credit checked. This year, we thought we’d suggest a few easy resolutions to get your financial life in shape.
Get Your Free Credit Report. Remember, you can get one (or actually three) every year FREE by going to the annualcreditreport.com. With all the credit card security breaches, it’s plain common sense to check yours at least annually.
Buy Renter’s Insurance. “Blah blah blah renter’s insurance.” If you’re like many, that’s all you hear. You know you should get it, you keep saying, “Oh, one of these days,” and then you never buy it. Well. Let me make the argument one more time: it’s cheap ($100-$200 a year), it protects you if something should happen to your stuff (burglary, fire, or flood) and, if you click through to the links, you’ll see that disaster strikes more often than you might think. (Yes, that’s right. One of our writers was burglarized, one had her apartment burn to the ground, and one had her place flooded. Next time it could be you…)
Keep Track of Your Expenses. If you’re wondering where all the money’s going, spend a few months tracking what you spend. There are great online applications like Mint to help. Maybe you’re spending too much money on clothes. Or maybe you drop too much on nights out. Or maybe you’ve been overspending on concert tickets, or maybe you just can’t help yourself and buy extras like cheap sunglasses and silly hats whenever you stop at the gas station. Whatever your spending vice is, once you diagnose it, it will be much easier to fix.
Start Building an Emergency Fund. Even if you’re covering your expenses, and you have no immediate financial needs, it’s good to get in the habit of saving some money each month. Once you’ve diagnosed your spending patterns, carve out some money to save. Maybe get just $50 auto-deducted monthly from your checking account and put in a savings account. Why? Well, there will always be an unexpected expense popping up. What if your car breaks down? Or your friend invites you to spend a week in her Aunt’s beach house in the Caribbean … but you need to buy a plane ticket. Or what if you lose your job unexpectedly? Having some money in reserve is seldom something you’ll regret. So get in the habit of saving now.
Wear a Sweater Indoors. What we mean is this: small things can add up. In the winter, turn your thermostat down a bit and turn the heat waaay down when you leave for work. Brew your own coffee at home – and remember that the grocery store is your friend. Try to eat-in a little more and eat out a little less. Buy nice clothes, but don’t splurge on unnecessary stuff just because. When you buy cleaning supplies, save money by going with the generic brand. Wait for deals when you go furniture shopping. In the summer, try to get by more often than not without the A/C. Consider cutting back (or eliminating) your cable television package. These habits aren’t sexy, but in the long run they’ll save you a boatload of money.
So, start the groundwork for good financial habits now – and you’ll feel much better about your finances when 2015 rolls in.