by Michael J. Swanson

The New Year is a great time to reflect on the past year and determine what went well and what can be improved upon in your life, including your personal finances. Here are a few ideas to help you set your financial New Year’s resolutions for 2019.

Get organized.
It can be difficult and overwhelming to set your financial goals if you do not have an organizational system in place for your finances. It can be healthy to set aside some time at the end of the year to get yourself organized for the New Year. It is important to be able to locate your financial documents when you need them. Consider getting a filing cabinet or filing folders to place all your bills, receipts and other documents so you can find them when needed. You may also want to consider going paperless by scanning documents as soon as you receive them and filing them in a designated, secure place on your computer. If you are a person who occasionally forgets to make payments on time, set up automatic payments when you can and take some time to set reminders on your phone or mark on your calendar when bills are due for the entire year.

Analyze your spending choices from the year prior and determine if any changes should be made.
In order to set financial goals, it is important to evaluate what is going well and what is not. One of my favorite sayings is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Once you have your finances organized, go through your records to analyze your spending habits. For example, do you buy coffee from a coffee shop twice per day or have a TV subscription that you do not use? It can be helpful to look at the areas where you are spending the most to figure out where money could be saved. You may find that you can save money each month by making small adjustments like cancelling unused subscriptions or waking up earlier to prepare your coffee at home.

Create a budget.
After you have evaluated your spending habits, consider creating a realistic budget for the year. Write down your income and expenses, and create a plan for how you are going to spend your money. There are even smartphone apps that can help you stay on track throughout the year so your financial resolutions are not quickly forgotten. Apps like Mint and Clarity Money can assist you in creating a budget and staying on track.

Make a point to save money each month.
It is important to save money each month. Creating targeted savings accounts can be beneficial. You can create an emergency fund, vacation fund, new car fund, a retirement fund, or whatever fits best with your financial goals. Determine how much you want to put into your saving account and how frequently you want to do so. Your employer may be able to make direct deposits into the various accounts for you with each pay cycle. Having a savings plan can give you peace of mind and financial freedom and flexibility.

Set specific financial goals.
Set specific goals for what you want to accomplish financially. Make sure the goals you set are realistic. They should have a distinct timeline and can be long-term or short term. After you have thought about your goals, write them down and create a plan for how you are going to accomplish them. Then, set reminders so that you frequently check your performance against your goals. I hope these tips will help you make 2019 your best financial year yet!