New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be reserved for diets and exercise. Sometimes the area of your life that really needs attention is your finances. As 2021 ends and 2022 begins, this might be especially true if you have been impacted by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
The new year is the perfect time to give your finances a boost. Here are my top 15 financial New Year’s resolutions that can help improve your financial health.
I’m jumping in with the big ones first…
1. Start investing
While it may not be the easiest resolution on this list, investing is one of the best ways to build your wealth. If you don’t think that you have time to start investing, I get it. Investing can take time to understand. We’ve done our best to lay out the different investing methods in our article: How To Invest: Essential Advice To Help You Start Investing.
While it’s totally possible to invest without the help of an advisor, many of us are choosing the advisor route because, let’s be honest, it’s just so much easier. Remember that advisors also include robo-advisors, which can help you decide what to invest in including when to buy and sell.
Read more: The Best Robo-Advisors
2. Build your emergency fund
When emergencies happen, you don’t want to be stuck without an emergency fund. Emergency funds can be lifesavers when unexpected challenges make their way into your life, like losing your job or getting into an accident, or a global pandemic.
So, if your emergency fund is non-existent at the start of the new year, it is time to change that!
To start, decide how much money you need in your emergency fund by calculating your monthly expenses. This should include not only your rent or mortgage but also your utilities and your basic expenses. Many financial experts agree that this should be at least three to six months’ worth of expenses, but it can’t hurt to overestimate how much money you would need in times of emergency.
If you need help calculating how much money you should save in your emergency fund, check out MU30’s handy emergency fund calculator to help you find your perfect number.
My husband and I like to keep our emergency fund in a high-yield savings account. These accounts allow us to access our savings quickly. Even better, high-yield savings accounts accrue interest at a higher rate than a traditional savings account, letting our money grow while it lies in wait.
Read more: Best High Yield Savings Accounts Compared
3. Pay off your credit card debt
If credit card debt is bogging down your financial success, why not make it a goal to tackle it in the new year?
Paying off your credit card debt is an important step in becoming financially healthy. If you don’t pay it off, you are doing a serious disservice to your credit score.
When searching for ways to pay off your debt, I recommend opening a balance transfer credit card. While it may sound counterproductive on one hand, these cards can help you consolidate your debt and even stop it from collecting interest for some time. That’s a big incentive right there!
4. Start a budget and track your expenses
If you don’t already have one, you need a budget. Creating and sticking to one could be the single best thing that you do for your finances in the new year. Budgets force you to take a hard look at the money that you bring in, the money that you shell out, and the money that you may owe.
If you have never followed a budget before, the thought of starting one can be daunting. The truth is, budgets can be incredibly freeing. Once you get used to following your budget, you can begin finding ways to free up cash to put towards your future.
5. Pay off your student loans
Student loan debt is one of the nation’s largest consumer debts and if you have it, you know just how painful it can be. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get rid of your student loan debt altogether? Well, depending on how much you have, 2022 could be the year that you make it possible!
Making a plan to pay off your student loans is all about getting organized. Knowing who you owe, how much you owe, and how you will afford to pay off your loans should be your first priority.
If you are having trouble trying to fit your student loan payment into your budget, it’s worth it to give your lender a call. Often, you can work out income-driven repayment plans or deferments that can lessen the financial blow of your current loan payments.
Read more: Income-Based Repayment: Should You Do It?
6. Open a retirement account or fine-tune your existing one
When you are young, saving for your retirement probably sounds like the least exciting thing that you can do with your money. The truth is, the sooner that you start, the more secure you will be when your retirement comes. Investing in your retirement means that you are investing in your future.
If you’re employed, a quick conversation with your boss or human resources department can help you find out if your employer offers retirement accounts like 401(k)s or 403(b)s. Often, employers who have them will match a percentage of your annual contributions. This match is like an extra bonus from your employer that you don’t collect until retirement.
If your employer does not offer retirement accounts or you’re self-employed, you still have options for saving for your retirement. IRAs, or Individual Retirement Accounts can be opened by anyone.
7. Build your credit
If you are going into 2023 without any credit, it’s time to start building some. The credit system was put in place as a way to give future lenders and creditors information about potential borrowers. This allows them to make an informed decision and weigh the risks of loaning money to you.
If you haven’t built your credit, you could find yourself regretting it when you want to finance a car or even buy a house. Most lenders will not give out loans to people with poor credit and if you’re lucky enough to find one that does, your interest rates are often through the roof!
Taking out a loan with a cosigner or becoming an authorized user on your parent’s credit card can help you get started. Personally, I began building my credit with a secured credit card. When you get a secured credit card, you’ll need to put down a deposit, which then becomes your line of credit.
The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is unique among secured cards in that they won’t run your credit when you apply, giving even those with no credit the ability to qualify.
Read more: Best Secured Credit Cards
8. Create a will
Don’t be fooled into thinking that having a will is just for old people. If you don’t have a will already, making it one of your New Year’s resolutions could benefit you and your family. Without one, in the event of your death, your state’s laws will determine who takes ownership of your assets and property.
If you’re wondering if you really need a will, the answer is probably a resounding yes. Most importantly, wills are strongly recommended for those who have children, have a spouse, or have a positive net worth. Having a will protects your family and your assets, something that all of us can agree is important.
If you don’t have a will, don’t put it off!
9. Spend less money
Everyone wants to save money, right? One of the best ways to do that is to consciously spend less of it. While it is easier said than done, spending less money in 2022 is doable with a few tweaks to your spending habits.
To begin spending less money, I recommend this: take a hard look at your budget and try to find spending categories that you can cut back on. Lessening, or even getting rid of, spending categories allocated towards things like coffee runs and eating out could save you a significant amount of money each month.
Here are a couple more of my favorite ways to save:
- Find a better deal on cell phone service. Cell phone services can be expensive. If you haven’t shopped around lately, give it a try. Many cell phone service companies will work hard to beat their competitors and will often beat your current rate!
- Learn how to clip coupons. Clipping coupons is an easy way to save money at the grocery store and beyond. Often found in local circulars and newspapers, using coupons can add up to some significant savings.
- Make a grocery list. Grocery lists can keep you on track financially in the midst of temptation, saving you from overspending on snacks and unneeded ingredients.
- Make coffee at home. Coffee runs add up quickly, but it would be hard to get through the workweek without it. Instead of running to the coffee shop, try making coffee at home and bringing it to work in an insulated thermos.
- Bring lunch to work. If you are eating out for lunch every day, your finances are more than likely feeling the pressure. Why not try giving them a break and pack last night’s leftovers instead?
- Have date nights at home. Date nights can be an important part of staying connected with your partner and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice them. Finding alternative date night ideas, like cooking dinner together at home, can help you rack in the savings.
- Try a meal delivery service. Meal delivery services will deliver pre-portioned ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes straight to your door. Home Chef is just one option, offering meals that take as little as five minutes to prepare. Plus, whether you’re looking to cut back on meat, carbs, calories, or more, Home Chef has options for you.
- Cut back on subscriptions – We live in a world overrun by subscription services. It can be easy to sign up for a bunch and then never use half of them.
10. Save money on insurance
If 2021 has taught us anything, it is the importance of protecting the ones that you love. In 2022, why not make it a goal to do so, while also keeping more of your hard-earned money in your bank account? I’ve found that one of the best ways to do this is by saving money on insurance.
11. Define your long-term financial goals
Sometimes you get so caught up in your present financial situation that you forget to plan for the future. Setting long-term financial goals is an exciting way to keep yourself on track and to ensure that your money is working for you.
Long-term financial goals vary depending on the person and the state of their finances. These goals could include saving for retirement, a downpayment on your future home, or even saving for that trip that you have always wanted to take. After you have defined your financial goals, it is time to start planning for how and when you will reach them.
I like to organize my long-term financial goals into my monthly and yearly household budget. This allows me and my husband to aggressively work towards our goals.
12. Track your expenses
Implementing this habit in my household was easy. My husband and I decided to ask for receipts with every purchase, ensuring that we don’t miss any expenses. After making a purchase and returning home, we began recording the totals on our receipts into monthly spending categories. These include areas of spending like groceries, entertainment, and gas.
Knowing how much we spend each month allows us to not only make a more accurate budget but also plan for the future. Keeping track of your expenses gives you a reference to look back at when creating a budget, including utility bills that may change due to the seasons.
13. Make extra mortgage payments
If you have a mortgage, chances are that you would like to get rid of it. Well, making extra principal mortgage payments in 2022 could help you be free from it faster!
Those who can afford to put extra money towards their mortgage, but don’t, are missing out on some major savings. If you pay your mortgage for the life of your original loan, you could end up paying nearly as much in interest as you do for your home itself.
A $150,000, 30-year mortgage with an interest rate of 4.5% will cost a total of $273,610 by the end of thirty years. This means that $123,610 of your payments have been made towards interest.
If you take the same mortgage, but pay an extra $100 monthly, you would save $29,723.18 and shorten your loan by six years and four months.
If you want to make paying down your mortgage a priority in 2022, simple loan pay-off calculators can help you figure out how much extra money you would like to put towards your mortgage.
You could also consider refinancing your mortgage, which can provide you with a much better interest rate, which, in turn, can lower the total cost of your loan.
14. Save money with money-making and reward apps
What if I told you that you are throwing money out the window every time that you shop online? If you are shopping without a cash back app, this is most definitely true for you! And since most of us have resolved to online shopping, this extra money could be adding up quickly!
To remedy this, I like to use a cash back app. Not only do cash back apps help you save money, but they can help you make money, too!
If you are looking to save, or make, money, Swagbucks may be a great choice for you. In fact, it is the internet’s leading rewards site! For users who are hoping to save money, I recommend installing Swagbucks browser extension, the “SwagButton.”
15. Get your taxes done early
Tax season is coming and there is no need to stress about it. Getting your taxes done early in 2022 can help put your mind at ease and save you from taking an extra trip out of the house. You may even find yourself with your return in hand faster than if you wait until closer to the deadline!
Filing taxes can be complicated. Luckily, there are great tax preparation companies that can help make filing a breeze and answer many of your tax questions – you can find a list of our favorites here.
The end of 2021 is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking about the resolutions that you’ll make for 2022. While many of us – myself included – typically resolve to follow a healthier lifestyle, we sometimes forget to think about our financial health.
As 2021 comes to a close, start thinking about what you can do to make your finances stronger, because we never know when a financially challenging year will hit again.