By Laura Lifshitz
After losing my job when my company went bankrupt, I spent the majority of 2018 scrambling each month to keep it together. I’m proud to say that I did it, despite the obstacles, which changed my outlook about life and myself, greatly. Needless to say, it was a stressful year and so I was grateful to start 2019 with a new job and a commitment to get things on track, financially.
If you’re like me and ready to stay on top of your budget and finances this year and have made it a part of your resolution, there are concrete ways to put those resolutions to action in 2019. For some inspiration, I sought out the trusted advice of Savvy Ladies, a non-profit organization that provides personal finance education and resources for women to inspire them to plan for the future.
This isn’t the first time I’ve turned to this wonderful organization for guidance. When I first got divorced, I turned to them and then, when I lost my house in the divorce, I returned for more trusted advice. I can’t sing the organization’s praises more highly than I do!
So, with their advice and some tips that have proven to work for me time and again, let’s get our financial resolutions in motion, ladies!
Lisa Ernst, executive director shares:
“My New Year’s wish for women is for 2019 to be the year of money mindfulness. Understanding where you’re spending your money is an incredibly powerful exercise. Savvy Ladies provides this budget planning worksheet as a helpful tool to build a budget for the year. Seeing where your money is spent can help you discover what options you have for eliminating expenses (hint: how much are you spending on monthly subscriptions?).
I personally used Savvy Ladies’ budget planning worksheet to get my finances organized as 2018 started to wrap up, and have been updating my worksheet weekly. Seeing my expenses in writing is always eye-opening. Do you even know how much money you might be wasting on lunch, coffee or internet shopping? By tracking your expenses each month, it makes you accountable. Truly.
Realistic Savings Goal
I have to rebuild myself after a rough period. I can’t store away as much as I’d like, but I have to store away something. I’ve got a car that is old as heck and chugging along as best as she can, but that rotten auto expense will rear its ugly head sooner or later. And tax time is coming, who is not always friendly to me.
So, set aside monthly transfers from your paycheck regularly, or even change your direct deposit percentages to have some money go into your savings. It may only be 5% of your income or even 1%, but you have to start somewhere. But whatever you do, be realistic or most likely, you’ll end up saving nothing.
Savvy Ladies, once again, has a great idea for us: Find an accountability partner to help you keep on track with your goals. Pick a friend or family member who is also creating behavior changes with regard to their personal finances and develop a schedule of check-ins to support each other’s progress. Celebrate your achievements as you start to see results like your savings building or perhaps watching a credit card balance shrink.
Of course, don’t blow those financial achievements while celebrating.
Heck, I’ve already picked my accountability partner! If only finding a love mate was so easy. Wink.
Write & Set
When I see something I love in a store or online that might be a bit out of my budget, I write it down and set it away to think.
I did this with a new work bag I wanted. I waited 2-3 weeks after seeing a beautiful bag I wanted, and then went back to the store to buy it. I ended up not getting the identical bag, but I did get a better price and something more practical because I didn’t allow myself to impulse buy.
So, the next time you see something you want, write it down and set it away for a week at least.
Then, revisit and see if you still really “need” what you think you need.
Probably the best advice I got from Savvy Ladies is to always use the SMART system to establish specific financial goals for the upcoming year.
Make sure your goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
This is a great way to organize your actions around your goals. If the goal is to increase your emergency savings account, write down the specific amount to save. Is it realistic? How much do you need to save each week to meet your goal? Set up an auto transfer from your checking to your savings and follow up by setting quarterly check-ins to ensure you are on track.
Or, if perhaps the goal is to pay off a credit card by the end of the summer, right down the amount and recurring interest, and then break the payments down into a monthly, or even weekly payment. Use autopay to help you stay on top of payments.
Truly no matter what your financial goals are, using the SMART system will help you succeed.
Apps, Company Discounts & Financial Planners
To really head off the New Year right, you can also visit a financial planner to see how you can invest your money. You may want to even speak to Human Resources at your job to see if your company participates in any discount programs for your phone bill, auto insurance, and other potential opportunities. You can also test out popular finance apps like ClarityMoney and Mint.
And at the end of the day, the only person who can truly help you stay on top of your financial goals is you. You have to commit to staying financially healthy if you want to go the distance and truly have peace of mind as you and your children get older.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.