We all know what happens to our New Year’s resolutions. We make them too vague or too unrealistic and then forget them. Remember last year when you resolved to live life to the fullest and eat only healthy foods? Did you do it? I didn’t either.
Perhaps your resolutions were concrete and realistic but you didn’t make them stick. Did you know how? Don’t wait for a new year to start making important resolutions and getting your financial house in order. Don’t wait until next payday or next month, either. Resolve to change RIGHT NOW.
Resolve to spend less.
Here’s how to make it stick. Track your spending. Track every dime. Make tracking a part of your daily routine. I do it before I go to bed because I am not a morning person.
Use your debit card. Don’t use cash because it is too hard to track. Yes, I know this goes against popular opinion. I know that million-dollar financial gurus advocate a cash-envelope system. I don’t know about you, but if I break a $20 bill, I may as well put the change in the garbage. The rest of that $20 bill will be gone and I won’t know where it went. All of those envelopes don’t fit in my wallet anyway. Sure, that same million-dollar financial guru can sell you a special envelope wallet, but you need to spend less, right? You can download my free printable check register at the bottom of this page to make tracking easier.
As you document your spending, ask yourself, “Was this purchase consistent with my goals?” If the answer to that question is no, don’t beat yourself up too badly. Life happens and you don’t have to be perfect. The habit of tracking your spending makes you accountable. When we are accountable we strive to do well. If you consistently track your spending, you will automatically begin to make better choices and start spending less.
Resolve to save more, or to start saving.
Here’s how to make it stick. Understand that your savings plan doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t need to know what an IRA is, at least not yet. You just need a simple savings account. Your bank probably has a free offering. If it doesn’t, change banks.
If you are employed and have your earnings deposited directly, it is usually really easy to add your savings account to your direct deposit set-up. Alternatively, you can set up an automatic transfer with your bank to occur once monthly, every payday or whatever works for you.
Now, you really need to be realistic with this. Really. It makes no sense to try and save too much. You’ll end up having to move the money back into your checking account and might incur fees.
The amount you save doesn’t matter, not right now. If it is only $10 per month, that’s something. Just do it. When you’ve developed the habits of spending less and saving, you’ll be able to go all in and start saving like a badass.
If you are already a habitual saver, it’s time for you to ramp things up. Are you spending less? You probably should be.
Resolve to plan your spending.
Here’s how to make it stick. Notice that I didn’t say develop a budget. I said plan your spending. Budgets are wonderful and everyone should have them and I absolutely hate them. Maybe one day I’ll be down with budgeting, but I’m not there yet.
Use the free printable that you can find down below or go grab a notebook or a legal pad or whatever you have on hand and start writing. At the top of the sheet, write down how much money you expect to receive, depending on how often you are paid. I get paid every two weeks, so I plan my spending in two-week increments. Under that, write down all of your regular bills and when they are due. This means rent, utilities, daycare, car insurance, and anything else that you have to pay. A lot of my stuff is on auto-pay, so I put those items under a “pending” subheading and check them off when they clear. Now do a little math.
Whatever you have left after your bills, that’s what you can spend or save. Essentially, you are paying your bills on paper, before you actually pay them. Planning your spending keeps you from overspending. Sometimes, I transfer whatever I have left in my checking account prior to my payday deposits to savings. Sometimes I don’t transfer anything.
Doing it this way helps me to keep from overspending and reminds me to save. I don’t have to stress about money anymore because I know what I have and where it needs to go.
Does that sound a little complicated?
These are actual numbers, but my handwriting is so terrible that I can’t show you my actual sheet. Disclaimer – I wasn’t trying to reduce my spending when I recorded these figures, but writing everything down REALLY made me think.
Ready to try it? Download the check register for free and start tracking!