Many people start the new year with a financial resolution: to reduce debt, save money, spend money more wisely, increase their retirement savings or something similar. But despite good intentions, New Year’s resolutions often are abandoned. This coming week, Feb. 19-26, is Kentucky Saves Week. The 2012 theme is “Set a Goal, Make a Plan, Save Automatically.”
It is a great time to get back to that resolution. To stay on track, consider the following tips, which are designed to help you achieve your financial goals.
Write down the goals and post them in a visible place to serve as a daily reminder. The fridge, bedroom mirror or your computer are good places to keep your goals in sight.
Plan out step by step what you have to do to achieve your goals. This kind of planning forces you to visualize and then to realize the steps. For instance, if you want to save $2,000, you might open a savings account and have a set amount moved into the account each time you get a paycheck. That way, the money is gone before you can spend it and will accumulate in small increments, usually 26 or 12 “payments.” So you aren’t tempted to use the money for another reason, think of it as literally paying a debt to yourself.
Track your progress. Putting pen to paper, creating a spreadsheet, or filling in a ledger —these regular reminders help you remember your goals and how important they are.
Take pride in your accomplishments, even the small ones, because they add up quickly. Eating breakfast at home every morning could save you $3 to $5 dollars a day which, over a year’s time, adds up to a savings of $750 to $1250. Even forgoing just one breakfast out a week could put an extra $150 to $250 in your wallet.
Don’t get discouraged if you need to rethink your goals. Economic uncertainty is the new reality, so it’s important not to underestimate how things can change quickly. Unforeseen circumstances, such as a reduction in working hours or a large medical expense, could force you to change your savings plan. The best way to cope with these kinds of situations is to be fiscally fit, and if you are already following a plan, then you are working to achieve fiscal fitness.
Become a “Kentucky Saver” at www.kentuckysaves.org. This is part of a national campaign to encourage Americans to save money, reduce debt and build wealth. You will receive a free quarterly newsletter, free tips on saving online, email access to financial planning advice, and the motivation to save.
Find the money to save by saving 50 cents a day in loose change. This will be a monthly savings of $15 or an annual savings of $180. Take your lunch to work and save about $60 monthly or $720 yearly. If you buy store brands rather than name-brands at the grocery, you might save $100 monthly or $1200 yearly.
Make a pledge to take financial action. Savers can pledge to save regularly (as little as $10 a month) towards their own savings goal, such as making an emergency fund, debt repayment, home ownership and retirement. You choose the goal and then take action.
MARSHA O. PARKER is the Christian County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 886-6328.