January is a month of financial strain for many who have spent beyond their means during the holiday season. This "financial hangover" makes money and budget top of mind as many consider New Year's resolutions. What better time to make changes that will lead to a brighter financial picture than at the start of the new year? The trick is to avoid setting unclear, overgeneralized goals that are difficult to measure or meet, like "save more" or "pay off my debt." Instead, identify a specific and measurable change you plan to make. The resolutions below may be small, but their impact can be remarkable over time. Resolve to:
Put $50 more per month toward retirement. If $50 is too much, make it $25. What better way to make your money work harder for you?
Pick store brands over name brands. From toiletries to food, selecting store brands (when possible) can deliver big monthly savings on groceries.
Ask your credit card issuer for a lower interest rate. A 10-minute call is often all it takes to secure a lower rate – a change that can lead to incredible savings over time.
Carpool one day a week. Ride sharing, walking, or taking public transportation instead of driving even once a week can save you on gas, tolls, and parking.
Cut one service you don't use. Peruse your bills, find a service you aren't using – from three-way calling to that premium cable channel – and call your service provider to have it canceled.
Eat in once more per week. Cook instead of eating out once more per week for monthly savings into the hundreds.
Buy in-season produce. Local, in-season fruits and veggies tend to be less expensive and fresher.
Think before buying. Vow to ask yourself before every purchase whether buying that item will really make a difference in your life.
Get moving. Exercising more regularly can improve your health and conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, leading to significant savings on health care.
Choose used. Next time you are about to buy new clothing, games, books, or sporting equipment, see if the item is available used instead.
Plan something fun and free. Instead of heading to a movie or dinner with a friend, try a hike, free reading, or a local event instead.
Invest in a reusable water bottle. Then fill it up and take it with you instead of buying bottled water on the go.
When it comes to debt, know your total debt. Add up any debt you have and look the total in the face. Then create a plan for paying it off.
Transfer $75 per month to savings. Automatic transfers to savings are a great way to set aside funds without missing them, whatever the amount.
Brown bag it. Bring lunch to work at least one day a week.
Choose one, two, or five of the above and see what that small change can do for you.
This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax, or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.