Yeah, I know. You’re going to clean out the garage. You’re going to put that gym membership to use and cut red meat out of your diet and call your mom more often and quit smoking. All of those things are fantastic, but let’s be realistic – are you going to stick to your guns through the whole year? Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t. But here are five resolutions that can make a drastic impact on your financial health with just a small (and very achievable) change in behavior.
Start an Emergency Fund
Literally anything you can contribute to an emergency fund will help. Whether it’s $10 a week or $200, starting to keep spare cash on hand for those inevitable mishaps is a solid start. The habit, not the amount of money, is what’s important here.
Set One Long-Term Goal
Pay off a credit card. Add $3,000 to your savings by next New Years. Save enough to make a donation to your favorite charity at Christmas. Finally replace your broken stove or old, ratty carpet. If any of these suggestions still feel like too much, adjust it for your situation: pay more than the minimum on your mortgage for 6 months or shave $20 per trip off your grocery bill with coupons.
Pack Lunch One Day a Week
You can save a ton of money if you pack a lunch every day, but this might not be feasible right away – especially if you’re not used to prepping meals ahead of time. Try packing leftovers on Monday or buying easy-to-prepare microwave meals for Fridays. Eventually, you might decide that bringing lunch every day is a good option. If not, at least you’re saving that $5-10 per week – which can be used for an emergency fund contribution!
Budget for Your Splurges
Everyone has a couple things they’ll spend more money on than others. A good haircut, fancy coffee, expensive shoes, nights out with friends – and that’s inevitable. The important thing is not to ignore these splurges, but to budget for them. If you don’t want to forgo your $7 latte every morning, limit the snacks at the grocery store that you don’t care about so much. Planning for your “guilty” pleasures and adjusting your spending for them is loads better than ignoring your impulse buys and blowing your budget.
Whether it’s pasta, soap, or toothbrushes, go generic on a couple household items. Determine the difference between its name-brand counterpart before you swear on your life that Tide cleans your clothes better than the store brand. Personally, I buy almost everything store brand and haven’t noticed much difference – aside from the fact that I’m spending about 10% less on common items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
What are your financial New Year’s resolutions? Will you consider any of these challenges? Let me know! Special thanks to TIME for the inspiration!
By Janelle O’Hara