read all the New Year’s resolution money-advice
articles with their suggestions, sometimes trite,
"Skip your morning coffee and save a fortune!"
and sometimes vague, "Spend less than you
thanks for that.
you just need useful, specific suggestions to get a
money task done, cross it off your list and get on with
their money was a top New Year’s resolution, even
above weight loss, for people in a recent survey by
Charles Schwab. Three of four people ranked "get
your finances in check" as their first or second
choice, compared with losing weight, getting a new job
or volunteering more.
a recent survey from the National Endowment for
Financial Education found 64 percent of U.S. adults will
make a financially focused goal in 2015.
in making those goals, you should be specific and create
individual tasks so it doesn’t all seem so
where do you get the money to fund these goals? Most can
be paid for little by little over time. But many people
will soon be getting a windfall — a refund from the
IRS, which last year averaged around $3,000.
are money tasks to do this week that will help 2015 be
more prosperous. Most can be done in about an hour.
on what thrills you. Everyone should think about saving
money but not on the same things. Stop wasting money on
what you don’t care about so you can direct that cash
to what thrills you. When it comes to discretionary
money, buy less stuff and more experiences with other
people. You’ll be happier. Identify at least one
spending cut that will pay for an experience you will
remember for years.
help match financial decisions to your personal values,
take the LifeValues quiz at smartaboutmoney.org by the
National Endowment for Financial Education.
a credit union. Or consider whether a small bank or
online bank can serve your needs with fewer fees and
lower loan rates than the megabanks charge. It can be
worth the short-term hassle of changing over your
accounts. Resources: asmarterchoice.org,
mycreditunion.gov, culookup.com, findabetterbank.com,
out of debt. You can’t dig your way out of debt in an
hour, but you can develop a specific plan. Two schools
of thought: pay off debts from highest interest rate to
lowest to save money on finance charges, while paying
minimums on all of them. Or pay debts smallest to
largest to build debt-busting momentum. Creating and
executing a plan is more important than the method. In a
survey by Quizzle.com, more than half of respondents, 52
percent, said paying down debt was one of their
a better credit card. The Financial Industry Regulatory
Authority says 61 percent of consumers don’t shop for
their credit cards. Get a card that fits your needs
better, whether a low interest rate, better rewards or
valuable card features, such as extended manufacturer
warranties or no foreign transaction fees. Fortunately,
a number of websites can help you choose. Use several to
get multiple "opinions" on the best card for
you. Resources: cardhub.com, nerdwallet.com,
creditcards.com, cardratings.com, creditcardtuneup.com.
a college fund. Have school-age kids? Go to your state’s
college savings website and open a 529 college savings
account and set up a recurring contribution, even if it’s
$25 a month. Select an age-based plan as the investment
option. Later, you can worry about transferring the
money to a different state’s plan that’s slightly
better — you can use any state’s plan. But for now,
just get an account open for each child. Resources:
an emergency fund. Only 38 percent of Americans have
enough money in their savings accounts to pay for
unexpected expenses such as a $1,000 emergency room
visit or a $500 car repair, according to Bankrate.com.
And about 56 percent of Americans do not have a rainy
day fund at all, according to the Financial Industry
Regulatory Authority’s National Financial Capability
Study. An emergency fund not only helps pay for life’s
unexpected costs, but allows you to save money. For
example, you could say no to extended warranties because
you have the cash to pay for a repair. Or, you could
raise deductibles on insurance and pay lower premiums.
Set up a separate bank or credit union account to
squirrel away rainy day cash. "With emergency
savings, set a small goal like $500 dollars to show
yourself that you can actually achieve that goal, then
set the bar higher," said Paul Golden, spokesman
for the National Endowment for Financial Education.
your wireless plan. Does your traditional wireless phone
contract plan expire this year? Make sure you’re on
the right plan for you. One hour of examining plans
should give you a sense for whether you should switch.
Resources: wirefly.com, ConsumerReports.org,
your worth. Calculate your net worth by adding up the
value of everything you own and subtracting everything
you owe. Is the result at least positive?
your retirement contribution. Go online to your
retirement account and raise your contribution. Shoot
for at least 10 percent.
a will. Make an appointment this week with an
estate-planning attorney to create a will, durable power
of attorney and living will. Make sure all your
financial accounts have primary and secondary
an allowance system for kids. Whether allowance is tied
to chores or not, establish a system to get kids
thinking and handling money by themselves.
the cord. This is the year many channels traditionally
only available via cable or satellite, such as HBO and
ESPN, will be available for streaming. Is this the year
you can cut the cord from the cable company — or at
least reduce it to Internet service only?
off catalog lists. Impulse shopping temptations can
derail your other money goals. Get off junk mail lists
at dmachoice.org. Hit the "unsubscribe" link
at the bottom of retailer emails. Stop unwanted catalogs
your credit reports. Never got around to checking your
credit reports to look for mistakes that could be
costing you money? Take 15 minutes to finally do it at
insurance. Home, auto and life insurance premiums can
vary widely for the exact same coverage. Shopping around
is surprisingly likely to lead you to a better deal.
Resources: accuquote, insurance.com, insweb.com.
An American family of four spends about $3,800 per year
on dining out, according to the government’s Consumer
Expenditure Survey. Dine out because you want to, not
because you’re a lousy meal planner. Make a plan to
cook at home and cook in batches to freeze meals for
later. Grocery tip from Stephanie Nelson of
CouponMom.com: "Change your shopping mentality:
instead of buying items when you run out, watch for
bargain prices on products you want and buy them when
they are on sale."
a number. When’s the last time you did any retirement
planning? At least know what your nest-egg target is.
Resources: choosetosave.org/ballpark, dinkytown.net,