The clock has struck, the kisses exchanged, the corned beef and cabbage eaten, and the resolution list penned. Digging out of the paper and ribbons, feeling the weight of your generous spirit you might realize you need to make a few goals for your finances in the new year.
As the stark reality of the jubilance of December crosses paths with the forecast for January, here are a few tips to help curb your spending and pay off debt.
Evaluate your debt
No matter how hard you squint your eyes tightly, you can’t wish your debt away. Suit up and total up. Stare the cold, hard facts in the eyes. From outstanding balances prior to Christmas to any debt you might have racked up during the previous month, add up what you owe. Whether you simply crack out a legal pad or use your computer doesn’t matter.
This might require a little bit of legwork, but gather together your bills from the previous year (even the previous month will be helpful if you don’t have them all). Make note of the due date and average monthly expense. Your account activity from 2013 is more than likely online, so you can easily get an estimate for the year ahead. Don’t forget to include your mortgage or rent, utilities, any loan payments, or credit cards. Scour through every category of spending.
Keep better track
Hooray, this could be your year to better monitor your spending for tax purposes, especially if you itemize. This very day, find a box (it can simply be a shoebox) to place your receipts in all year long. From medical expenses to job expenses, every time you make a tax deductible purchase, place the receipt in the box. Future you will thank you when April 15 rolls around in 2015.
Cash only at grocery
If I could set a 2014 spending habit goal for you, this would be the one that makes the money-saving angels sing in harmony. So, so many people find switching to a cash-only system challenging. Perhaps you’re not ready to go plastic-less in every category of spending, but if you can, make this the year of using cash in the grocery store.
Ask for help
Feeling overwhelmed by your finances? Wallowing in feelings of hopelessness will not help your current situation. Reach out to those you know who do well with money and ask them what they do. Spoiler: Typically the people who know the least about handling money well offer the most advice (which is almost always dead wrong). Those who know what they’re doing are often humble so you might have to track them down. If you don’t know anyone who is successful with their finances, reach out to a local church. Many churches offer courses on money management at the beginning of the year.
Anything worth doing takes effort and requires struggle. Refuse to follow the pack and allow poor choices to define your financial future. Manage your money like it’s your job or your life depends upon it, because truthfully it is your job and your life does depend upon it. The steps above will help you dip your toes into the waters of being proactive with your finances in 2014. You will have to hustle to own your year, though.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org