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As we say goodbye to last year, we get an opportunity to start fresh in the new year. New goals, new strategies, and new opportunities to win with our money.
For us, it was a rough year. We didn’t pay down as much debt as we did last year – but part of that is because we put $7,000+ into remodeling our bathroom. We also had a lot of unexpected repairs and other expenses that popped up.
If you’re like me, you want this year to be the best year yet. Some great goals going into the new year (and some of my personal goals!) are:
- have more in savings
- get more debt paid off
- spend more time having fun
To accomplish all that, here are the best tricks and tips to keep us motivated and on course!
Trick #1: Don’t get lost in the details
For all you perfectionists out there, this one is tough. Sometimes I get so caught up in tracking where every penny goes that I forget the true purpose of having a budget. Sure, part of our budgeting success comes from knowing where our money is going, but the real goal of a budget is to spend less and focus more on what matters most.
Whatever budget system you use – online, paper, envelope system, or spreadsheets – make sure it helps to control our spending so you can focus on your ultimate financial goals without getting lost in the details.
Trick #2: Save first
You’ve heard this before – paying yourself first isn’t a new idea. But it works! With our budget, we strive to spend less than we make to pay off our debt, save for big expenses (Christmas, summer camp, car and household repairs), and to end the living paycheck-to-paycheck cycle we’re in.
If you wait to see what’s left at the end of the month, you’ll never get anywhere. What we do is take a little off the top – and we do it first. We pay our “big” snowball payment to our debt at the beginning of the month so we’re not tempted to spend it later in the month, and we have a separate savings account that a portion of our paycheck is direct-deposited into so we never see it and never miss it.
Trick #3: Start small
If you’re new to budgeting or in the process of getting your spending habits back on track with your financial goals, it’s important to start small. Tackle one area at a time and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the big picture. This works for us – when I look at our big, long list of debts I easily get frustrated. Instead, I focus on one debt at a time and focus on each one individually.
It’s important to set small goals and work on them one at a time. Learning new habits and adjusting to a new lifestyle while you work on your financial goals isn’t easy, so cut yourself some slack. Pick a goal – whether it be cutting back on going out to eat, saving money at the grocery store, or eliminating your morning coffee run – and master that before moving on to the next one.
Now it’s your turn. What are your best tips and tricks for keeping your finances under control? Comment below and let me know!
Amy Beardsley is a wife, mom to a teenager and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She’s always on the lookout for new ways to cut costs and increase income, without sacrificing comfort. She’s also a freelance writer who specializes in credit reporting, FinTech, and probate and estate planning topics. When Amy isn’t perfecting her budget spreadsheet, you can find her curled up with a good book or watching Marvel movies with her husband and daughter.