That tight feeling around your eyes, the pounding in your temples, and the roiling sense of unease in your stomach can’t be blamed on the champagne. The fault lies with your spendthrift ways over the holidays. Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire month of December, you really let loose and spent more than you intended, despite knowing full well your finances couldn’t handle it.
If you’re tired of nursing another holiday hangover thanks to spending, it’s time for a change. Keep reading to learn the best way to tackle overspending and consumer debt in the New Year.
How to set goals
At the turn of the New Year, talk of resolutions will make its way into most conversations. It’s not unusual to hear people sharing their goals of losing weight, quitting smoking, or learning a new language. Saving money is another common resolution people make after they reflect on the purchases they made in the past 12 months and their resulting debts.
Though many of us start these resolutions feeling inspired and optimistic, few of us follow through with our goals. A recent study reveals 8 out of 10 resolutions fail by February. In just 2 months, most people lose motivation to hit the gym, put down the cigarette, or attend language classes.
With a success rate of 20 percent, generic resolutions aren’t a great way to transform your life. If you want to save more or spend less, you need to think of your goal as it relates to your finances. Specificity is an important feature of any goal, so when you want to save more, tell yourself the exact number you expect to put away. When you want to spend less, find expenses that you can cut out from your budget.
Write out your goal and give your reasons why it’s important you achieve it. If you’re saving more so you can contribute to a retirement plan or a summer holiday, jot it down. If you’re spending less, so you can pay your bill and avoid being broke, take note! Leave a message in your wallet to remind yourself of these reasons whenever you grab your debit or credit cards.
Stand out with a budget
If writing things down makes helps motivate you, then a creating budget makes it official. It also makes it unique. Roughly 2 out of 3 Americans fail to follow a household budget, preferring to leave their spending up to fate.
Winging your finances is the surest way to fail at your goal, so take the time to look at your budget and make healthy changes to your habits. Look back on your accounts and tally up fixed expenses, like your rent or mortgage payments, phone bills, and insurance. Compare it to your net income to see how much you have left over.
Then go through the “fun” purchases you made alongside your fixed expenses. Things like grabbing a latte at Starbucks, catching Thor: Ragnarok in theaters, or going to the beauty salon for highlights. Decide which ones you feel comfortable eliminating from your budget and set aside the money you earned by these concessions into debt payments or savings.
Start saving early
You know well enough by now that the shock of debt in the cold, harsh light of January 1 makes for a terrible start to your New Year. If it’s possible, use your budget to set aside savings for the holidays right away. Even just $20 a month will put you in a better position than last year, as you’ll have $240 to spend on the holidays.
Try to balance these savings with an emergency fund for unexpected repairs or necessary purchases. Don’t confuse these with “fun” goals, like saving up for the Xbox One X or buying a smart HomePod for your house. This fund should help cover expenses like an essential car repair, vet bill, or flooded basement.
Even after a thorough restructuring of their budget, this is easier said than done for those people with very little expendable income. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, a cash advance from a lender like MoneyKey may be the only way you can cover these emergencies. Quick and convenient though they may be, online loans at MoneyKey.com are only practical when facing emergencies at a time when extra savings aren’t a possibility. They shouldn’t make a regular appearance in your budget for reoccurring payments like rent.
Lock up your credit cards
Your wallet may be empty, but you can still hemorrhage cash like it were flush with Benjamins whenever something catches your eye. It’s easy to spend the money you don’t have with a credit card or two tucked away, but don’t let yourself be tempted. This isn’t free money; you’ll have to pay back every dollar that you use, plus interest.
Now, it’s not a simple case of removing the plastic from your wallet. Your phone, tablet, or laptop provides access to any store in the world. All you have to do is type in your credit card number and confirm your card security code, and you can buy a cartful of stuff without ever leaving your house.
In addition to taking the cards out of your wallet, place it somewhere it isn’t easy to access and delete any saved account you have online. This will remove the temptation to spend what you don’t have and bungle your resolution before you even start it.
The Bottom Line?
Our sense of urgency over debt reaches its peak in the New Year since it’s a popular time of self-reflection and self-improvement. Unfortunately, the inspiration to make positive change rarely lasts. Too often we make our resolutions without carefully thinking about how we expect to achieve them. Success relies on deliberate actions based on specific goals and behavior. Apply this way of thinking to your resolutions in the New Year or at any time you feel like you need to make a change, and you can avoid giving up before you see any progress