Simple steps to a brighter financial future
by Gary Foreman
Setting Monetary Goals
Give Your Finances an Annaul Check-Up
Use a Luxury Tax to Trick Yourself into Saving
This is the time of year when many people take stock of themselves and their future. So alongside your plan for a trimmer waistline, we'd like to suggest some financial New Years Resolutions.
Resolve to save at least $1 each day. It doesn't seem like much, but it does add up faster than you might think. You've probably seen the numbers before. Let's assume that you earned 10% per year on your savings. That's the long-term average for the stock market.
At the end of 10 years, you'll have nearly $5,000. After 20 years, you will have accumulated over $20,900. If you start at age 30 and keep it up until you're 65, your measly $1 a day will have grown to $99,000!
So how will you save $1 a day? How about bringing soda to work instead of hitting the vending machines at break time? Or skip the "supersize" at lunch. If you can't think of something, ask your friends or family for their ideas.
Maybe you'd rather do the whole week at one time. How about staying in for lunch one day a week? Carpool twice a week with a neighbor? You get the idea. Anything that'll help you save $1 a day or $365 a year will work. Certainly there's somewhere in your expenses that can be squeezed that much.
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Resolve that your credit card debt will not increase in any month this year. A comic once said that the first key to getting out of a hole is to quit digging. It may not be funny, but it is true.
To keep your card balances from increasing, you'll need to pay off any new charges you make each month and also pay any interest caused by your old balance. For some people that will be tough. They see no connection between using a credit card and paying it off. They think that paying the minimum each month is a major victory. It isn't.
Keeping this resolution will require you to keep track of your credit card spending and to stop spending when you run out of money.
Roughly one third of all credit card users carry a zero balance. While you might not be able to achieve that goal this year (wouldn't it be nice if you could!), you can manage to keep your financial hole from getting any deeper.
Would you like to
pay off your credit cards
in less time
for less money?
The next resolution will help you achieve the last one. Resolve to consider alternatives before making any purchase of $100 or more. Over the last 30 years, the size of the average home has grown by 50%. And, self-storage locations are a fixture in most towns. The reason for this is simple. We buy too much stuff and then have to store it.
The concept is simple. Before making any major purchase wait a couple of days. Use the time to think about ways you could get the benefit without spending the money.
Do you really need a new fertilizer spreader? Couldn't you borrow one from your next door neighbor? Rent one? Or even buy one used?
Often going to the store and pulling out the plastic is not the best way to achieve your goal. But you'll never know unless you think about alternatives first.
Resolve to have a proper will and estate plan. No one likes to think about their death. But, everyone should legally prepare for it even if you're young, single and don't have any children. If the unexpected happens, someone will need to step in and make decisions about your funeral and take care of closing out checking accounts, IRAs and selling your car and other possessions.
Everyone should have a will. And, many will want to have a "living will" to state their preference on being kept alive using life support equipment. It's wise to also have a plan in place in case you're incapacitated.
These documents aren't as expensive as you might think. And, in most cases, they'll work fine for many years. Take the time this year to put the proper legal papers in place in case something happens. Your loved ones will already be dealing with grief. Don't make them deal with legal complexities, too.
Finally, resolve to learn one new money-saving tip each month this year and put it into practice. There are literally thousands of ways to save money. You really don't have to look very hard or very far to find good ideas. It's simply a matter of making up your mind that saving money is important to you and you're willing to put forth a little effort to accomplish your goal.
Try one new money-saving idea each month. You might just find that you end the year in much better shape than you entered it. Isn't that what resolutions are all about?
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.
Take the Next Step:
- Decide today to try one new money-saving idea each month in the coming year. Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter and start receiving money-saving ideas in your inbox each week.
- Start a high yield savings account with Discover Bank.
- Find out how you can pay off your credit cards in less time for less money.
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