I wrote two weeks ago about setting goals instead of making resolutions. However, you might be having a hard time setting realistic financial goals. Being realistic is key to success. If you say you’re going to pay off all $10,000 of your credit card debt in 2017, you may be setting yourself up for failure. So here are three easy, yet important financial goals that you can set for yourself. These actions, in turn, can help you reach your more difficult financial goals later on.
1. Start tracking your spending
If you don’t track your spending weekly, you likely don’t know where most of your money is going. In order to stick to a budget, you need to know how much money you’re spending AS you’re spending it. You can do this through a budgeting program like Mint, LearnVest, or Personal Capital, through an app like EveryDollar, or you can create your own personalized spreadsheet.
Set a time every week to sit down and go through your bank or credit card statement. This way, you’ll know if you need to slow down your spending for the week, or if you have more wiggle room than you thought. You’ll start noticing your spending habits, and where you’d like to cut back.
And the best thing? You’ll feel more in control of your money.
2. Begin or increase retirement saving
Are you saving for retirement yet? If you are, you’re ahead of the game. If you’re not, you’re right there with 45% of Americans who have no retirement savings. But let me tell you, it’s very important for you to start saving for retirement. If you’re in your 20s, retirement age can seem too far away to matter, but the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be. Compound interest is your friend.
If you’re not already saving for retirement, reach out to your HR department and have them set up a 401k or 403b deduction. If your company provides a 401k match, that’s awesome! Take advantage of that free money, and contribute the same amount as the match. If your company doesn’t offer a retirement account, open an IRA.
If you have been contributing to your retirement account, congratulations! You’re ahead of the curve. But when was the last time you increased your investment amount? The older you get, the more you should invest. If you get a raise this year, consider increasing your contribution by one or two percent.
3. Automate savings deposits
I harp on this a lot, but that’s because it’s true. The easiest way to build your savings is to automate! It’s really hard to manually move money into your savings account. It’s much easier to spend it instead. So if you want to start building up your savings this year, set up direct deposit.
You can either set up automation through your company’s payroll department, or your bank can move the money for you every month. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your money will grow when you do this. Good luck!
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.