(Relax, this is not going to be another article about the perils of $3.00 coffee.)
There’s nothing like a fresh New Year to put life into perspective. We spend the last two weeks in December making declarations about the life changes we’re going to make and come January 1, we’re off and running with newfound determination. The big challenge is February. How do we translate January’s fiery determination into habits that have “stickiness” to last throughout the year, and longer?
These Top Ten Money Resolutions Will Change Your Life
1. Make a Budget.
We'll say it again: make a budget. You wouldn't drive a car without a gas gauge, would you? Your budget is the foundation for all of your financial decisions. All you need is pen and paper. Get started now. More information on how to make a budget.
2. Use Cash.
Studies show that people using debit and credit cards spend more. Using cash turns money into a physical "thing" with physical limits. If you are feeling especially daring, leave the cards at home, altogether.
3. Set Financial Goals.
List your financial goals. Here are some examples: Pay off credit card debt. Start a college fund. Save for a down payment. Pay off the car. Establish an emergency fund. Separate them into two categories: short term (1 year or less) and long term. Prioritize. Use your budget to set achievement dates.
4. Participate in Military Saves Week.
Just as your January resolution gusto starts facing February resistance, Military Saves Week offers a much-needed refueling. Take the savings pledge and participate in savings-related activities at a base near you.
5. Reward yourself.
Starvation budgets are like starvation diets: they typically culminate in a binge. As you meet your financial goals, big and small, reward yourself. You will be more likely to succeed in the long run if you treat yourself (within reason, of course) along the way.
6. Just Say No.
Peer pressure is a big part of "why we buy." From spending big at restaurants, to the phones, clothing and cars we buy, sometimes the hardest word to say is "no." Guess what? Your friends are all in debt too. There's no shame in telling people that you're on a budget or that you're saving up for a new car, one you are going to buy IN CASH. You can do it. Just say no!
7. Get Wired.
There's never been a better time in history to get your financial life in gear. From online budget wizards like mint.com that turn your savings goals into thermometers, to trading sites like freecycle.org (free stuff), you'll find deep discounts on everything online, including the high speed internet service (billshrink.com) you'll need to access them.
8. Stay Inspired.
Bookmark your favorite financial websites. Here's a few we recommend: MilitaryMoney.com, MilitarySaves.org, motleyfool.com. Sign up for newsletters, tweets and podcasts that will help you stay on track. 9. Find a Community of Savers.
Don't go it alone. Find a community of savers to help you meet your goals. These can be people at work (brown bag it together), church (many churches offer money management classes), or online (find a listserve or forum of like-minded people).
10. Make a Budget.
Did we forget to mention this one? Making a budget is so important to your financial success that it merits two entries on our top ten list. If you don't know where to start, try keeping a running tally of everything you spend in January (carry a small notepad with you). At the end of the month, categorize and tally.