If you’re like the rest of the universe, your goals for 2015 probably include weight loss, taking better care of yourself and something about saving or getting money. However, tackling the budget is a daunting task, even for the most seasoned of us. Check out a few tips to make your budget review a bit less scary, and a lot more productive.
- Re-Do Your Budget
A new year is a new reason to look over your old budget. You can evaluate it, see what needs to be adjusted and plan for upcoming expenses you may not have had the past year. A change in employment may mean that you need to change how you calculate your income – instead of a monthly household salary, maybe you need to break it down into a two-person income for the month.
2. Create a Roadmap
Since you’re taking a look at your yearly and monthly budgets, it’s important to know what your end goals are. What is your main priority for the next 10 or 20 years – college savings and retirement, or growing your fledgling business? You need to know what your long-term goals are, and then make a plan to get them accomplished. Even including regular goals like buying a car will help your financial roadmap get you to your goals.
- Set Solid Goals for Savings
Have an overall savings goal, and have that goal broken down so you know what you’re saving for. Maybe you want to save $5,000 for a rainy day fund, $3,000 for dental care or $2,000 for glasses. Maybe you want to save for all three. When you have kids, the last thing you want is to get taken by surprise for a big bill that you don’t have any money for. That’s why you need the rainy day fund, even with all the other expenses. You never know if the dog will suddenly need an emergency visit from eating grapes, or if the water heater dies for no apparent reason.
- Have a Plan to Reduce Expenses
If you have significant reasons to save – and pretty much all parents do – then one of the best things you can do is take a look at where you can shave a few dollars off. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have any fun; it’s still important to allow a small budget for buying whatever you want. It does mean that you don’t always have to buy name-brand ketchup or toothpaste, and your teenager may have to settle for the jeans that are on clearance instead of the ones that cost $300.
- Try Shopping Incentives
Reducing expenses has gotten a lot more adventurous with the Internet and online shopping incentives. A whole slew of companies are jumping on the bandwagon of offering more versatility than just coupons. Now, product reviews, testimonials and watching videos can earn you points, which can be exchanged for some kind of reward – usually cash or a gift card.
- Break Down Debt
Debt is a major, major strain on any household. Credit card debt is the worst, but almost everyone has car payments and a mortgage in addition to credit cards. A lot of really lucky people get to tack student loans onto that. Do what you can to reduce debt as quickly as possible.
- Check Out Your IRA
If you work somewhere that offers to match your IRA contribution, then do so. That is literally free money, and you should take as much advantage of it as you possibly can. Maximizing your IRA is an easy way to build up retirement savings, and let’s face it – retirement is getting more expensive every year. Planning for it early means you won’t have as much to worry about when you start saying a sad goodbye to your working years.
- Reevaluate Your Stocks
Every new year brings about new and unexpected swings in the stock market – gas prices, for example. Checking in with your stocks periodically helps to make sure that they’re working for you in the way you want. If you’re in it for the long haul, then you don’t need to be keeping a close eye on them every week, but they should still be trending generally upward at the year’s end.
Revamping your finances can make both your short-term and long-term goals more affordable, and make life more enjoyable, as well.