It's still not too late to make a New Year's resolution, and if you are hoping to get ahead financially in 2017, resolving to get a handle on your finances is a very worthy goal.
GreenPath Financial Wellness, a non-profit credit counseling and education organization, says a good way to start is to stop and think about what went right financially in 2016. Once you have an idea of where you made financial progress, try to think of the reasons you were successful. Did you take concrete action or were you just lucky?
Next, think of the things that made up your success. Were you able to reduce your debt load during the year? Were you able to increase your savings? Both are signs of financial progress. Another positive sign is if you were able to pay cash for a major purchase.
Be honest about what didn't go right
After reviewing the positives, take an honest look at the negatives. If you did not make as much financial progress as you would have liked, ask yourself what could have gone better. What are the areas of your financial life that need improvement?
Most importantly, think about changes you can make in your financial management that can produce better results.
The important thing is to learn from the past and apply those lessons to the future. If 2016 didn't turn out as well as you would have liked, look for ways to make changes.
"If you promised yourself you would save receipts and forgot half way through the first week, maybe try an app," said Katie Bossler, GreenPath financial wellness expert. "Or, if you have an app you never used, maybe try putting pen to paper and keeping a spending journal."
It's also important to think small as well as big. Chances are there are a number little changes you can make that will put you on a more sound financial footing.
"Maybe it means not getting that cup of coffee, or deciding against that online order," said Bossler. "Maybe it means deciding to cook something for dinner with food you already have, rather than eating out."
What to do
Here are five quick tips, courtesy of GreenPath, that might make you more successful in 2017:
- Open a separate savings account. Keeping money separate from your monthly cash flow can reduce unbudgeted spending.
- Educate yourself. Read books and blogs from credible personal finance experts
- Check your credit report and score. Keep up with where you stand financially.
- Plan meals. That cuts down on convenience food and restaurant meals
- Unsubscribe. Unsubscribing from promotional emails from retailers can cut down on impulse buys.