New Year’s resolutions often center around eating healthy and getting fit — but more people are focusing their wishes for the new year around money, seeking money-saving ideas each year. In fact, one 2020 survey found that 73% of Americans had a 2021 New Year’s resolution to get better at managing their money.
Some of the most common New Year’s money resolutions related include: creating and sticking to a budget, reducing or eliminating debt, setting aside money for an emergency fund and saving up for luxury purchases.
If any of these items are on your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2022, here are a few ways to get you there.
Creating and sticking to a budget
Many people tend to “budget” after the fact — meaning, they look at what they spend after the money has already left their account and try to do better the next month.
But real budgeting requires giving every dollar a job, or at the very least, allocating your money in line with your financial obligations and values. Budgeting can feel intimidating at first, but you don’t need to be a financial guru to get it right.
The best place to start is to track all your spending. You can do this on a spreadsheet, but it may be easier to use an app such as Pocketgaurd or Mint. All you have to do is securely link your debit or credit card(s) to the app, and you’ll have a real-time view of how much you spend and which categories (dining out, shopping, drinks, etc.) are the biggest offenders.
Once you have these insights, you then can realign your spending — choosing how much you’d like to allot to each category per month or week. This way, your spending becomes intentional, with forethought behind each swipe of your card.
Reducing or eliminating debt
Debt can take a long time to reduce or eliminate if you don’t have a game plan for tackling it.
As part of your budget, dedicate a line item to debt repayment. Depending on your income, you might not be able to put a huge amount of money toward your debt initially. But even putting an extra $50 a month toward a credit card bill or student loan payment can help you reduce your debt.
Some people put the most money toward paying down their highest-interest debt first, while others initially focus on getting rid of the smallest debt for fast wins. Whatever approach you choose is up to you, but as part of your debt repayment strategy, it’s also wise to come up with some other money-saving ideas to increase the amount of money you can push at your creditors each month.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Checking out books from the library instead of buying them online
- Purchasing clothes and accessories from secondhand stores or consignment shops
- Curbing how much you eat out
- Buying generic options instead of name brands
- Increasing your use of public transportation or biking to different places
Using the Coupons.com app can also help you save money. After rent or mortgage payments, food is often the next biggest monthly expense, and our app has hundreds of coupons and cash back offers you can use in the grocery store on products you love.
Growing an emergency fund
With the greater economic uncertainty over the last two years, people are saving more now than ever before. The U.S. personal savings rate rose to 33.8% in 2020 — the highest it’s ever been. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to increase your emergency fund, you’ll first need to decide how much you want to save.
While you don’t need to lock away every single dollar in a savings account, consider how big of an emergency fund you need to feel comfortable. For some people, this may be three months’ worth of expenses, while for others it may be 12 months.
Once you settle on a number, incorporate a line item for your emergency fund into your budget — perhaps you’re starting with $50. Then, take it one step further and set up automatic $50 transfers from your checking account to your savings account the day after you normally receive your paycheck. That way, you’re paying yourself first and consistently every month. Your emergency fund will grow — along with your peace of mind.
Saving for luxury purchases
Perhaps you already have a strong emergency fund and relatively low revolving debt. But getting there financially likely took a decent chunk of change, and now you want to save up for something nice, such as a vacation, new car or kitchen remodel.
Just as you would for anything else, create a line item in your budget for a dream purchase and calculate how much you need to save each month to pay for it. For example, let’s say you’d like to take a trip to Hawaii exactly a year from now and you know it’ll cost around $5,000. Divide that number by 12, and you’ll see you need to save roughly $420 a month to pay for the trip.
While you can cut back as much as possible to increase your savings for these big-ticket purchases, it’s also beneficial to find ways to boost your income. Maybe you could take on more hours at work or start a side hustle like writing online or selling homemade crafts. Maybe you could sell your old gently used designer clothing, bags or shoes or sell furniture you don’t use on upcycle sites, such as Facebook Marketplace.
Whether it’s accelerating your savings or improving your income, creating an action plan for bigger purchases and seeing it through will give you a great sense of accomplishment when you’re sitting on a plane to Hawaii, cruising down the highway in your new car or enjoying your morning coffee in your new kitchen.
Achieving your 2022 financial resolutions
Getting smarter about money is a worthwhile goal for anyone. And the new year always feels like a fresh start, so it’s the perfect time to reassess how you handle money and figure out how to make lasting changes.
Whether you want to finally pay off student loans or credit card bills, save for a dream vacation or just build more of a financial cushion, setting realistic goals and tweaking your spending habits can help you achieve your 2022 New Year’s money resolutions — and transform your relationship with money.