Although most of us have made resolutions to maybe stop drinking so much, or to lose a few pounds, the resolutions that often get overlooked are those the ones that get your financial situation back on track. I’ve rounded up 10 money resolutions that I’ve made myself and encourage you to do as well (if you want to afford the vacation that will show off that resolution body you may or may not have in a couple of months).
1. Cancel monthly memberships you aren’t using
Setting up monthly memberships means that you can often forget about the things that you’re paying for that are going unused. Sadly, 67% of gym memberships are never used (and likely won’t be after January this year either), and you likely have a few other things linked to your card that you could do without. Trim is a service that finds all subscriptions linked to your cards and accounts so that you can pick out the ones that you want to cut. I personally cut my cable, and all premium channels except for Netflix. I also cancelled my ClassPass service since I could never get into the classes I wanted and was already paying a fortune for Equinox (which I use almost daily).
2. Check your credit report
1 in 5 people have a mistake on one of their credit reports according to the Federal Trade Commission, and you would have no idea if you didn’t take a look at your own report every once in a while. You can get a free copy from AnnualCreditReport.com, so check it out and make sure there aren’t any errors that could lower your credit score or unfamiliar accounts that could be a sign someone has opened credit in your name. You may also find that you simply don’t have enough credit, or have too many cards open — all things that can begin to be corrected in 2016 to get your credit squeaky clean.
3. Look at your bank statement every week
I personally check all of my accounts and credit card statements online at the end of each week. Once you start looking at your statement on a regular basis, you’ll be able to see where your money is going. Are you spending a surprising amount on take-out food, lattes or drugstore purchases where you spend $100 on items you very likely don’t need? After you familiarize yourself with your spending patterns, you’ll be more aware of your habits and hopefully be able to watch your spending more carefully.
4. (Finally) get serious about paying off that debt
The average American owes nearly $30,000 in debt. Use a debt repayment app like Debt Free or a finance tracking app like Mint to help you figure out where your debt is spread out, and what your interest rates are so that you can look into potentially consolidating it on one low interest or 0% interest card and commit to paying it down for good. There are also great short-term financing and debt consolidation resources to help keep your debt manageable.
5. Increase retirement contributions/savings with your raise
A raise is amazing – maybe now you can upgrade your car, or your apartment, or go on that dream vacay… or maybe don’t give in to lifestyle inflation! Instead of increasing your spending, amp up your retirement contributions or beef up your savings account with automatic transfers between checking and savings. This goes the same for bonuses or tax return money – stash it and earn interest on it instead of filtering into things you don’t need.
6. Say NO to bank fees
A few dollars in fees here and there may not seem like a big deal, but in truth they can really add up. Americans spent over $600 billion in hidden financial fees from shiesty banks in 2014. Things like ATM withdrawals and checking account maintenance fees can slip by unknowingly – so be sure to contact your bank to see if you have other account options, or consider an online bank or credit union instead.
7. Open an online savings account
Having a savings account or emergency fund is essential for unexpected expenses like a car accident or sudden loss of employment. Since your regular bank account likely pays close to nothing in interest, it’s worthwhile to open an online savings account like with Ally, where you’re earn about 1% on your balance (and interest rates are set to be rising). Compare online services to determine which one is best for you (I personally use and love Ally).
8. Cultivate smarter spending habits
This is huge for me. I’ve always made it a habit to take the time and extra effort to find the best deal. I very rarely pay full price for anything, and that is a habit that I’ve cultivated that has saved me thousands of dollars over the years. Small things like always looking for promo codes before you purchase something online, checking eBay for the item you’re lusting for, or using status like student or health insurance benefits are small ways to save that get you in the habit of not just forking over the asking price.
9. Learn how to negotiate
A great way to save money over time is to do everything you can to lower your fixed expenses. If you rent your home, negotiate the rent down when your lease is up, or don’t allow a steep increase. Call your cable/internet provider to see if you’re paying for the best package for your needs or ask for promotional offers. I made a helpful little video on negotiating the price of anything that you can watch here.
10. Find new forms of income
When you need more money, you can save what you’re currently getting – but why not look for other methods of making it? If your job leaves little time for much else, maybe this is the year that you ask for a raise. I personally also make some side cash selling stuff on eBay. We all have things that are going unworn or unused, so why not cash them in? Designer shoes, bags and clothes in great condition are all sold on eBay. Before it was super illegal in NYC, I also would rent out my apartment on AirBnB and make a nice little income every time I went away on vacation. From dog walking to teaching online, there are a ton of other side gigs that you can do in your spare time to bring in some extra cash.
Good luck with your money resolutions, and please share any of your own in the comments!