I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions because I know myself; I’d either forget what they were (thanks ADHD) or make an excuse not to follow through, then feel guilty for failing. Resolutions are not my thing, but goal-setting is.
In my mind, resolutions are more like things you wish could happen and don’t tend to last very long. Goals on the other hand, are concrete, substantial and consistent. When you have a goal there’s a clear-cut plan to follow it up. And if you can’t tell from my other posts, I’m an annoying stickler for planning.
When it comes to finances, having a plan is a must as you have to stay focused and maintain your progress over a long period of time.
Military families are under constant stress, to include financial pressures. What better way to begin the new year than to ease some of those burdens and kickstart the year with a fresh mindset about your finances? Here are a few goals to help you start off the new year with a clear path to financial freedom.
1. Create a Budget
I know, I know—it sounds tedious but establishing a budget is a crucial first step in controlling your spending. Tracking where your money goes allows you to redirect your finances to where you need them most. Additionally, having a budget allows you to pay off debt, save money and have money left over for the things that are most important to you. An important note, budgets are ever-changing, so make sure you update it regularly as your finances change. If you’ve never created a budget, this is an excellent resource that walks you through it step-by-step.
2. Work on Getting (and Staying) Out of Debt
This is quite the undertaking, but there are some general things you can do to begin. Don’t open any new lines of credit, don’t refinance a home, pay off any cars and student loans and don’t buy anything you can’t pay cash for. My husband and I paid off our debt by organizing each from smallest to largest, then tackling the smallest first. We paid as much as possible towards the smallest balance while continuing to pay the minimum balance on the others. Once the smallest debt was paid off, we continued the process from smallest to largest, until they were all paid off. Doing it this way really helped us feel like we were making traction because we could watch as each debt was being paid off one after another.
3. Save for Retirement
If you haven’t begun saving, start now. I’ve heard people say they don’t have enough money to invest or that they’re going to wait until they get a higher paying job. The fact is, the earlier you start the more time your money has to gain potential. Every dollar makes an impact. The more you invest, the more you’ll make without having to do anything. Your money works for you!
4. Start an Emergency Fund
If living this crazy military life has taught us anything, it’s that emergencies will happen (Murphy’s law of deployment, anyone?) so it’s always wise to be prepared. Experts suggest you have enough money in your emergency fund to cover your living expenses for between three and six months.