Don’t know what your New Year’s Resolution is going to be yet? Here are a few great ideas:
- Quit Smoking. You might think this doesn’t have anything to do with finances, but you would be wrong. Let’s say you smoke 2 pack a week and pay $4.00 a pack. Quitting will save you $576 a year. Actually quitting will save you more since you probably purchase other items every time you stop for cigarettes (a drink, gum, a magazine, etc.). Plus your health insurance costs might go down, and your health will improve dramatically, saving you untold amounts of money throughout your lifetime.
- Boost your retirement contributions by 3-5%. Here’s a (potentially) easier goal to implement. You probably won’t even notice the effects on your paycheck, especially if you utilize a Traditional retirement plan. If you get a raise this year, this should be even easier. If you think this will be hard, up your contribution by 1-2% a few times throughout the year. Then pat yourself on the back for being more responsible than most Americans.
- Pay off your credit card(s). Seriously. Unless you have more than $20,000 in credit card debt, you should consider really devoting yourself to this goal and accomplishing it by the end 2008. You can do it! Get a roomate or a part time job if you have to. Sell your car, or some possessions on ebay. Cancel cable, move in with your parents, ditch your non-thrifty friends. Oh, and quit spending your free time shopping!
- Improve your image at work. Your strategy here will vary depending on your situation, but it might really pay off to make a list of ways to impress your boss and co-workers this year. Get there a half hour earlier each day, even if it’s just to read some industry-specific periodicals. Spruce up your work wardrobe with a few professional pieces. Volunteer to serve on a committee or to organize an event. Even if the task seems frivolous (like planning the company picnic), it can show that you are invested/interested, put you in contact with some new people around the company, and get your name out there. Invite a few higher-ups to lunch and pick their brains; socialize more with co-workers; etc.
- Reconnect with your spouse. Again, this can be an indirecly financial resolution (and not just because divorce is seriously expensive). A good relationship can lower stress, which saves money on OTC medication, improves productivity, and might even make you less likely to spend money on things like alcohol, cigarettes, eating out, and shopping (all of which are sometimes used to escape/fill a void in your life). So take an interest in each other, show respect for what they contribute to the family unit, spend more time together (and not just around the TV). You’ll be surprised how far a few nice gestures can go!
- Get involved in a community organization. This can be great for expanding your network while simultaneously allowing you to contribute to the community in a meaningful way. Being a part of something that anchors you to the community is great for your sense of self-worth–plus all that time volunteering and in meetings is time you’re not spending at the mall, eating out, or otherwise wasting money. So get involved at church, join your HOA board, or volunteer to serve on the board of a non-profit whose vision you share. (If you don’t have any ideas, a good start might be to get involved with a non-profit your boss and/or company supports).
- Lose 15 pounds. Statistically, 80% of those reading this could stand to lose at least this much weight. Losing weight may involve spending a bit at the outset to join a gym or a program like Weight Watchers. But you’ll save on medical costs down the line, you’ll feel better about yourself, and you may be forced to drop some expensive habits such as drinking wine 3 nights a week in order to meet your goals. So next time you’re considering an afternoon of potential spending at the bookstore or mall, opt for a trip to the gym instead.
- Cut your travel budget. Go back through each month in 2007 and tally up how much (roughly) that you spent traveling. Most people know exactly what their cable bill is each month, but they don’t budget for travel because it’s such a moving target. You probably spent a lot more than you think you did. Easter with the in-laws? 4th of July at the lake? Ski trip in Feb? Family vacation in August? Thanksgiving? Christmas? New Years? Plan ahead for 2008. If you must travel, book well in advance for discounted air fair and accomodations. But why not also substitute a few of those more expensive outlays with more affordable experiences? Forego DisneyWorld for a fun weekend at the neighbors’ lakehouse (or your own), for instance.
Don’t try to do all these things all at once. You’ll be much more successful if you pick one or two and really focus your efforts on them. What are your New Year’s Resolutions?
More from Meg at The World of Wealth