5 New Year’s financial resolutions
New Year's resolutions are on the top of most of our minds, and while losing 10 pounds may or may not happen, your financial goals for the new year shouldn't fall to the wayside. In a strong economy, financial goals are important, but a tumultuous economic climate calls for an even more stringent focus on keeping those money-oriented aims from being DOA in 2011. Here are five New Year’s financial resolutions to keep this year.
Financial resolution #1
Make additional plans for retirement
For Gen Xers and Gen Yers especially, Social Security may not be able to deliver when retirement comes a knockin'. In lieu of that and to keep yourself financially sound in the future, start an IRA or contribute to your company's 401(k) - especially if you're one of the lucky ones that still has a matching program. If your company doesn't offer a good retirement savings plan, open up a Roth IRA and make sure to contribute the annual max limit of $5,000. It may not seem like a big deal now, but 30 years down the line, you'll be thanking yourself.
Financial resolution #2
Keep an eye out for energy consumption
"Green" is the buzzword of the year, and to prove that point, many companies are coming up with devices that allow homeowners to monitor their energy consumption for both environmental and financial purposes. While cutting down on energy usage is beneficial for the environment, it's also great for the wallet. Keep lights off, take advantage of sunlight whenever possible, switch to energy efficient lighting, and make sure appliances are unplugged when not in use to cut down on wasting electricity. Putting these ideas into practice will slim down your energy bill, all the while reducing your carbon footprint.
Financial resolution #3
Pay down consumer debts
Credit cards are a major thorn in the sides of most Americans. With the credit reform of 2008 and the general strict eye on lending companies from consumers, credit is much harder to come by these days. Take this as a heed to get rid of consumer debt, rather than applying for another credit card offer. Consolidation can be a great answer for people who feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of bills they have coming in. Keep in mind that this will also affect your credit score. Consolidating on your own (paying off smaller bills with a low APR credit card so they're in one place with a lower interest rate) is less damaging to your credit rating, while using a consolidation company can affect your score as negatively as filing bankruptcy.
Financial resolution #4
Automate savings payments to stay on track
We all mean to save more money in the new year, but many times that goal goes overlooked because of forgetfulness or temptation to spend those savings elsewhere. Setting up an automated payment that moves funds on a set day each month from a checking to a savings account is a a foolproof way to make sure that your savings stay on track and continue to build over the course of the year. If it works for paying bills on time, it'll work for paying yourself, too.
Financial resolution #5
Revamp shopping habits
In 2006, Americans were all about reckless consumerism, but after the wakeup call of 2008 we've hopefully become more financially aware of our spending habits and what affects them. Jumping on this trend are a wave of tech apps compatible with most smartphones that are designed to help consumers monitor and change their spending habits by allowing shoppers to compare pricing virtually from multiple stores in a specific location (like at a mall). There are also alerts that notify you when you're reached a certain pre-determined spending limit in a certain category, such as food and grocery spending or utilities.