A fresh start is only a few weeks away and I'm looking forward to it. This year, instead of all of us making a laundry list of things we'll likely lose interest in come Valentine's, let's come up with just a few thoughtful resolutions - and nail them. Putting away more money but in fewer pots, and being more efficient with managing money are at the top of my list. Here are a few other ideas to take you into a happier, wealthier and financially healthier new year.
Manage your money easier
I put a few nerd-alert gadgets on my holiday list, including a shredder and a receipt scanner. Seriously. You can see the full list here (in case you're feeling generous). Simple tools to help me stay organized and spend less time inputting, filing and searching is what 2011 is all about. Online tools like Money Strands will also help you streamline your finances and simplify. Next year, we should also follow the example of New York Time's columnist Ron Lieber and take a fiscal health day. You can see more of what this day entails here to get the idea. I'm going to schedule mine in February. I'll let you know how it goes.
Focus your financial goals
This year my financial goal was to max out my TFSA. I stopped funding my retirement account and other secondary savings accounts to achieve this goal. What should your top goal be this year? That depends on your life stage and your values. We all want to build wealth, but what we need or want, in what time frame, and for what reason, is different for all of us.
You might value a conservative savings account over travel, or travel over early retirement, or a home over something else. Taking on too many goals at once decreases focus, so focus on the most important. Trying to do too much can also be discouraging if your progress inches slowly rather than in leaps and bounds.
Stick to your 'Rather Factor'
What would you rather spend your money on? Your response will likely relate to your values and to what you care about most. Determine your rather factor and keep it top of mind and on the tip of your tongue, because this allows you to spend money on the things you love and dramatically cut costs on the things you don't. Sticking to your rather factor means attaching a "why" to your values.
You value being debt-free. Why? Because you'll have freedom, the chance to explore other opportunities when debt-repayment is off the table, the ability to finally save for financial security or a kitchen renovation or a vacation. When you attach an emotion to the reasoning, you're better be equipped to see the resolution through.
Automate some fun
While it's a great idea to automate your savings, don't forget to include a fun-money account just for you. Set one up for yourself in the New Year to cover unexpected splurges, the good stuff. It will take you less than 10 minutes to link your chequing and savings accounts online and have a certain amount automatically sent to your various saving pots each month. It's easy to do this on your banking institution's website or by calling your bank directly.
This year, I'm opening a sub-account entitled "Love," which will house money to spend on the things and the people I love. You don't have to put a lot away, but if you're saving a little bit each month toward something that's important to you, you'll be motivated to fund the account and watch it grow.
These are simple resolutions. They don't take much time to set up or maintain and they'll be easier than trying to tackle a lengthy list of goals. Focus your energy and resources on a few resolutions, see them through, and you'll be ahead of most other people before the snow's even melted.